Talk of Parties

“ANY FOOL CAN COOK ” – a certain party stopper. We were entertaining old friends to dinner, we had all eaten and drunk well, the conversation was slowing and some guests started to eulogise the meal and others felt left out if they didn’t – we all knew my wife Sophie’s excellent cooking capabilities. I said, ‘Any fool can cook’ just for something to liven the evening.

Alcohol had something to do with it. The fact I believed it to be true and was prepared to prove it, made no difference, heads turned with such speed, some were in danger of dislocation. All the women round the table were up in arms, their skills, had been denigrated, it was like the terraces on a Saturday when the ref has made a boo boo. The men were laughing, enjoying the lashing I was getting. I tried to explain my thesis which asserts that most people think cooking is so easy they don’t read the small print – the really important details – they read the ingredients and the first few lines, then, as they have seen that bit before, they think the rest is also all the same and skip it. I tried further to add that one was allowed one mistake and then success should be assured, but the hub-bub was such that no ‘lady’ was listening, they were all shouting abuse.

A few weeks later an Aunt, a reasonably intelligent woman, was in Ireland staying with us and I brought the subject up again, with the same reaction, she was very incensed, to the extent she reminded me of the Worthy Master of the Loyal Orange Lodge who had said he would ‘like to stick a deacon pole into me so far he would have to put his boot on me to pull it out’ – there was that level of vindictiveness. She insisted I take on a challenge and make a ‘knocked-up’ pie as proof of my theory. The trouble was none of us knew what a knocked-up pie was and she was too cross to tell us. In the end it transpired that the K-U pie was the sort of pork pie people eat in pubs. To me the answer was simple, use a jam jar as a former for shaping the bottom, make and cook the bottom bit, make and cook a fancy lid, fill the pie with pre-cooked meat, put on the lid and then pour in the hot jelly through a hole in the lid. The Aunt said I was a mile off, but not why. Sophie, ever helpful, even though I had insulted her with my theory, was forgiving enough to discover in her library of cook-books that I was right. I think QED would be a suitable way to close the matter for all time.

PUNCH – manipulated. I used to make wine out of Spanish grapes – 54 gallons per year, and this enabled me to make a lot of punch. In wintertime, the norm was four bowlfuls as a pipe opener for our parties. The recipe, consisted of wine, with a mixture of chopped up oranges boiled in brown sugar and sieved, brandy, Orange Curacao, and Cointreau; the last three being added after the heating process was over to ensure none of the alcohol leached away into the atmosphere. This potion was relatively innocuous in that there was no in-built hangover but it did set the standard for the night. One evening, a close friend, stood beside me and remarked I was playing tunes on my guest’s alcohol blood level. I claimed ignorance, he insisted, and I capitulated, he was right and very astute to notice. To avoid the parties getting out of hand, I replaced the three liqueurs with only essences and orange lacing the wine, and when the decibels came down to a nearly reasonable level, normal service was resumed, and only one had discovered the ploy.

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