Name: The dinner party.
Oh, I’m sorry. That’s OK. It was kind of past it, to be honest.
This isn’t about The Dinner Party, the epic feminist installation artwork by Judy Chicago, is it? Nope. Nor the 2020 movie. Though they would be – sorry, would have been – good topics for discussion at a lower-case dinner party.
We’re talking about those things that happen in Islington, then? Mostly north London, it’s true, although they have been known to occur in other places.
Where you go round to someone else’s house for tea? Well, yes, dinner, or supper. Two or possibly even three courses.
While engaging in repartee? You can talk about anything – politics, football, art, Matt Hancock …
Sounds like a nightmare. But they’re over, you say? Dying, certainly. A survey of 2,000 Brits found that 80% considered even the term “dinner party” to be passé.
Can I not go round to a mate’s house to eat? You can, but don’t bother dressing up; Seventy per cent 70% say they wouldn’t make any special effort.
Trackie bottoms? Fine.
Bring a bottle? Unnecessary, say 80%.
What about food? Lower those expectations. Nine in 10 say a host shouldn’t slave away in the kitchen and they’d be fine with a ready meal. A spokesperson for Stoves, the firm that commissioned the poll, suggests: starter of olives, hummus and pitta; a microwaved main; and ice-cream and berries for pudding. A few minutes to prepare and as little as £20 for four.
Oh, the glamour. Still, tough times and everything – sounds good to me. What does Stoves do? Stoves, in a word. Plus, other kitchen appliances.
Isn’t that a bit self-sacrificing, a kitchen appliance firm finding you shouldn’t bother spending time in the kitchen? A bit turkeys voting for Christmas? It does microwaves, too. And, you know, trends come and go. Just a couple of years ago, another survey by Stoves found pretty much the opposite: that dinner parties were on the rise.
Anyway, back to the current demise. Any reasons why we’re making less of an effort? Well, economics has certainly got a lot to do with it. But one food writer, Rose Prince, has also suggested that Come Dine With Me might be to blame.
The long-running TV series? Yes. She reckons it has turned everyone into a critic, and would-be hosts are simply “too frightened of what others will think”.
Is that why I can’t even boil myself an egg without hearing Dave Lamb in my ear, mocking? Yes it is.
Do say: “I’ve got pizza in the freezer – come over whenever. We’ll have it in front of the telly.”
Don’t say: “More ossobuco, anyone? Pass the polenta will you dear, but save a tiny bit of room for pud, I’ve made Cointreau souffle. Did you all see Newsnight, OMG …”