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Consider This Party Thrown

by Stephen Lautens


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 impossible.

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 their crops.

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 too.

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.

© Stephen Lautens 2002

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