Friends came around to dinner this weekend. Since we moved to the apartment we entertain less and to be honest I was feeling out of practice when it comes to cooking for the masses from our matchbox of kitchen.
When I researched what to cook on the Internet – keywords being “easy” and “quick” – I noticed a distinct return to the sort of food we used to dish up in the eighties, and it made me feel strangely melancholic because it was towards the end of that decade that I first began hosting dinner parties; around the time I first considered myself a grown up, I suppose. Needless to say, I’ve regressed since then. In those days we didn’t worry about carbs and calories and felt no shame about chucking a vat of Lasagna, Coq au Vin or Moussaka on the middle of the table.
I got away with a posh Mac and Cheese once, although I did gentrify it with some bacon, leeks and a sprinkling of paprika.
Reinventing Coq au Vin this weekend crossed my mind, but the old man poo-pooed it, so instead I opted for a new recipe, some slow-cooked lamb shanks, which turned out to be another cooking disaster to add to my extensive list. After three hours of cooking we needed a hammer and chisel to get the meat off the bone.
Fortunately they were good friends and The Princess has been in bone-heaven ever since and completely forgotten about when I forgot her sixth birthday.
One of the recipes I spotted on the Internet that appears to be making a comeback is “Devilled Eggs”, which made me realize just how far we’ve come with food over the past thirty years.
There are obviously a lot of eighties recipes that seriously prompt the bile to rush straight to the back of my throat – “Stuffed Marrow Rings”, anyone? – but I still can’t part with this Hamlyn cookbook from that period. I dip into it for old family favourites like Refrigerator Cake – which the kids always insist on for their birthdays – and bread and butter pudding. Most of the recipes are far more conducive to the cooler UK climate rather than the one we live in now – even though we persist with turkey and gravy on Christmas Day, because I believe in maintaining your culture even if it does mean filling your belly with hot, crispy roast potatoes in a sweltering thirty-five degree heat.
I’m no food snob – if anything I’m more against the newfound need for small portions and perfectionism in the kitchen that we’re continually indoctrinated with, and I remain a staunch fan of the simplicity of the egg – particularly now that scientists have undone the Fatwa for eating them, which means that after my twenty-year purge I’m able to make up for lost time on scramblies and omlettes – but as with stuffed tomatoes and stuffed peppers, stuffed eggs do reek slightly of grandma’s bedroom.
Perhaps current food trends like ‘deconstruction’, smashed food, foams and smears etc will go out of fashion in the same way stuffed tomatoes and eggs did and then we’ll start heralding back to the recipes of bygone years and make it a trend to go vintage. To be fair, there’s a soft place in my heart for the stuffed tomato, because it was the first recipe with more than two ingredients that I learned to cook in my home economics class in school.
These days, I pimp my Bread and Butter Pudding with raspberries and white chocolate to bring it up to millennium standards, although in truth it’s because the kids gag on sultanas. I shall be cooking Shepherds Pie at my next dinner party.