Monday, 7 March 2016
A RATHER QUAINT HABIT
As I have pointed out previously, when I first arrived in sunny New Zealand all those years ago, it really was still an outpost of the British Empire incorporating all the usual embarrassing behaviours of the English abroad. The first thing I noticed was what a convivial society I now resided in, the second thing was the extraordinary amount of alcohol consumed and how the consequent outcome of driving whilst drunk was mostly overlooked by the community, including the Police. All and sundry threw weekend parties and just as the novice attendee was emerging from last Saturday’s binge, another bender seemed to be looming up. Life became pretty much a blur. Then there were the memorable dinner parties where young hostesses in long dresses served banquets so impressive that they featured large in my letters home to London. One of the common sense reasons for home dining on such a scale was the sad lack of restaurants. There were smart hotel dining rooms of course where oysters and champagne were certainly available at a price but no such thing as little ethnic restaurants in every suburb. I had to hastily sharpen my kitchen skills because those New Zealand matrons of the early nineteen seventies concocted meals on a scale that these days would deem them serious contenders for Masterchef Downunder. The culinary capability of the average housewife hovered on a level unimagined in the Northern Hemisphere. These were stay at home mothers before the term was invented, women with time on their hands, who managed to keep themselves very busy with curtain and cake making, and collections for good causes whilst also studying art history or child development part time at the local university. Inevitably times changed and now of course there are restaurants of every possible ethnicity on every corner together with cafes that will serve Chardonnay with your poached eggs if you so desire. And as all modern mothers work full time they no longer seem to make cakes, let alone curtains. There is now absolutely no excuse for the frenetic hosting of formal dinner parties though strangely there are a few who are reluctant to relinquish this quaint habit and consequently from time to time you might be fortunate enough to find yourself invited to one. Your hostess will no longer wear a long dress of course and overall the affair will lack the glorious formality of those earlier days but nevertheless it will still be easily recognizable as a Genuine Old Fashioned Dinner Party. It’s good to know that not everything has gone to the dogs!