Prunella teaches you how to cook like a toff!
You know there is something seriously wrong when the Hon Rodney comes home with the following: flowers, champers, chocs, and a guilty grin. If it isn’t April he probably doesn’t want you to do your wifely duty in the bedchamber, so you should be prepared for the worst.
The silly ass will have volunteered for something that he knows you are not going to like. It could be any one of many things, but my particular bête noir is the fundraiser in the garden.
My garden is my pride and joy, and it is famous across three counties for the wonderful collection of camellias, and, later in the year, my cherished roses. And then himself comes home, all pink jowls and pinky ring and only bloody well wants to host a garden party in June. Not unnaturally, one’s first reaction is profane in the extreme. However when one digs beneath the belly fat and the little vanities, the Hon. Rodney isn’t such a bad spouse so one is obliged to make the best of a bad job. As our daughter, Caroline, once said: ‘Taken by and large men are at best unsatisfactory and at worst complete wastes of oxygen. On that scale the Pater wasn’t such a bad bargain.’ But I digress. The garden party.
Having firmly established that there is zero chance of anyone setting foot in the rose garden, one needs to make a plan. Not anywhere near as simple as it sounds. I have known women whose gardens have been so far decimated as to be unrecognisable.
I have been through so many incarnations of this horrible possibility that I feel qualified to offer the following advice. If you have a room that opens out onto the lawns, so much the better (if not a marquee on the tennis court is your only viable option). Fortunately for me, the Hon. Rodney’s billiards room has a wall of roll-back glass doors (erected in the roaring twenties for his sun-mad grandmother – who ended her days looking like a walnut with dyspepsia and was living proof that you can be too rich and too thin). Be that as it may the room is ideal, and it has a wide terrace which commands views of my precious roses. Note: do not provide chairs otherwise the assembled company is likely to remain until the sun goes down. Indoors, the billiards tables can be moved to the sides of the room and covered with plywood and large cloths to serve as buffet tables. He doesn’t like it a bit, but a certain sense of justice makes him admit the fault lies with himself and the hypnotic appeal of the bosom of the yummy mummy whose fundraiser we are suddenly supporting.
So far so good. Now to the food and the drink.
You could spend three weeks concocting pretty finger food. Or. Go to your nearest supermarket and grab a very large trolley full of ‘Party Food’ plus olives, cheese, and an assortment of potato-based snacks – I will leave it to you to decide what my plan of action might be. While you are shopping don’t forget paper plates, disposable serving dishes, and paper napkins. Never mind the environmental objections to disposables. Look at it this way. The amount of power and water the dishwasher would use to clear up after a hundred middle-class oiks will more than offset the throwaways.
This is not the occasion for cocktails or punch. Send the Hon Rodney to Oddbins (other purveyors of wine and beer can be found dotted across our fair country) with a shopping list and instructions to hand same to the employee who offers to help him. If left to his own resources the booze would cost thousands of pounds. While he is there he gets to hire wine glasses by the box. Do not risk the Waterford crystal on fundraisers; some will get broken and it’s all but irreplaceable. When the HR arrives home, a little worried that ‘nothing over a tenner a bottle’ may mean undrinkable, open a random bottle and drink it between you. He has no palate, and as far as most women are concerned, a glass of wine is a glass of wine.
And that is how it’s done.
Important notes: One – this is a very good time to obtain a nice new diamond, or that good looking hunter you’ve been pining for. Two – do not forget to place Mellors in the entrance to the rose garden with a shotgun and instructions to repel boarders (there is no need to insist that he puts in his false teeth).
Look out for more tips on how to cook like a toff!