August 16, 2002
Pity the poor modern host or hostess.
It used to be that all you had to do was
call up a few friends, put out some food and booze, and let the good
times roll. Now throwing a simple dinner party has become more
complicated than a meeting of the UN Security Council. Setting a
menu that will appeal to more than three people is pretty much
First of all, you have to contend with all
the people on weirdo diets. You know - the ones where you can eat
all you want, as long as it's cauliflower. They spend the whole
dinner sullenly picking at their food and making lascivious noises
in the direction of everyone else's.
Then there are the organics, who will only
eat vegetables grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Essentially, they only want the fruit and vegetables that the bugs
refused to eat. Either that or it's so fiendishly expensive because
the growers had to hire a hundred people with flyswatters to guard
The newest group are the dinner guests who
examine everything to make sure you're not serving any food that's
been genetically modified. Like there's anything wrong with a
glowing ten kilo tomato in your salad. These people will spend the
dinner party explaining how the dinner rolls are made from an unholy
union of wheat and salamander genes, and how eating them may cause
gills to sprout. On the positive side, if your tail falls off you
can grow a new one.
Some of these people make the vegetarians
look positively easy to cook for, although you have to be careful to
find out if they are egg, dairy, or fish-eating veggies. I've never
understood "vegetarians" who still are able to eat fish.
Maybe they should go all the way and declare cows to be vegetables
There was an article in the paper a few
weeks ago about someone in Maine having a backyard lobster dinner
when a neighbour jumped the fence and grabbed the live lobsters
before they could go into the pot. After "rescuing" them,
she drove them ten kilometres where she "set them free" in
the ocean. It's a good thing they weren't having shark steaks.
On the whole meat issue, I freely admit I'm
a hypocrite. I've rarely been called on to kill my own dinner, but
like Tony Soprano I'm quite prepared to let someone else do it and
deliver it to me wrapped in plastic.
We haven't even got to the food allergies
yet. I have various friends who are allergic to nuts, milk, garlic,
strawberries, olives, lemons, and shellfish. The last time we threw
a party at our house we had a buffet covered in little flags and
warning signs. It looked more like a minefield than dinner.
Then there are the political sensibilities
of your dinner guests. A town in California is going to have a
referendum on whether businesses should be banned from selling
coffee that isn't eco-friendly and non-exploitative. You have to get
out your world almanac to see whether your wine is from a country we
still like, or if they're on the political outs.
With all these challenges, we've pretty much
given up on throwing any more dinner parties. From now on we're
going to be serving our guests nothing but water and toothpicks, as
long as the water is filtered and the toothpicks weren't made from
the Amazon rain forest.