Competition - Win a bottle of champagne

No 3595 Set by John Crick
According to Matthew Fort in the Observer, food is "a way of nailing the contemporary zeitgeist". We asked for a description of a modern dinner party.

Report by Grace Elegy
Hon menshes to Basil Ransome-Davies for his "sweet and sour Spam", Adrian Fry for his "qualified gourmands" and Will Bellenger for his bacon, which came "from a Happy Pig". £15 to the winners; the bottle goes to D A Prince.

"Ready to order, Mr Blair?"

"Yes, I'll have antipasto carvallo, hors d'oeuvres au viande de cheval and Vorspeise Pferdefleisch, please."

"Three starters, darling? You won't be able to put your hands into the pockets of your Levi's."

"No es problema, Cherie! It's all courtesy of the Italian taxpayer, so I won't have to."

"But we're in Islington, Tony!"

"That's one of the benefits of the single market."

"And all that dead horse!"

"With the cuts in the GCSE syllabuses that Blunkett's waved through, the sentimental punters will hardly suss I'm eating Shergar and Sefton steaks. Gordon?"

"Jist an oatcake wi' a scrape o' Flora. I'm savin' up for the third course."


"I don't hold with foreign muck. I'll have lobster thermidor with bread and butter and a cup of tea. And go easy on the thermidor: I'd rather have Kraft Thousand Island if they've got it."

"Your order, George?"

"Biscuits brown and ration pack B, Sir!"

"Spare us the Nato crap, Robertson. It's lucky the papers haven't cottoned on to the real reason you were elevated to the House of Lords. We'd never have got this table if you hadn't made the reservations in the name of Lord Port Ellen."
Nick MacKinnon

When Pierre and I arrived an hour late (my wife and I never attend the same dinner parties - she's in Tibet anyway) we were the first there - horrible. Clearly I am not nearly busy enough. Even Lulu, our hostess, had left a note saying that she had to stop off to take over a small American multinational on the way back from yoga. Eventually our host arrived with dinner - brawn and mushy peas flown in by Lulu's corporate helicopter from a distressed former pit village in Yorkshire. So altruistic. The usual crowd arrived: seven lawyers, an interior designer, a Namibian minister and some odious little man who said that he owned a factory that made things. Clearly he'd come to the wrong house. We all talked animatedly about how exhausted we were, until an enormous cake was wheeled in and out leapt Lulu wearing nothing but a chewed bark hat and handcuffs. It was a gesture in solidarity with oppressed Ecuadorian womanhood, well obviously, but poor Pierre whistled enthusiastically. He's hopeless at subtexts. Mortifying. After dinner we all tarred and feathered the au pair who we caught having a crafty cigarette in the greenhouse.
N Syrett

"Hi. I'm at a dinner party . . . No sweat. Everyone else is . . ."

"Hi . . . We've just finished the soup. Spinach. Weightwatcher's delight . . . The kids? They had pot noodles and baked beans in front of the box. Now they're surfing the . . . Pornography, I expect . . . "

"Hi. It's me . . . Camilla's place . . . Second course. Amazing low-fat mahi mahi. A Gary Rhodes recipe, apparently . . . God, no! She's got all the books, but she knows an obliging little woman in Knightsbridge. Come to think of it, does any hostess cook in these stressful times?"

"Hi. Great to hear from you. How's Granada? . . . Maravilloso! . . . Ostrich steak. Very lean. Minimal cholesterol, of course . . . "

"Hi. It's pudding time . . . Absolutely not! Only virtuous granitas. I had to be firm with my little treasure . . . Yes, very gratifying. I wasn't sure they'd get on, but they're all chattering away like mad . . . "

"Hi. Guess what's next? Goat's cheese and de-caff. Camilla's on a health jag, sod it! . . . "

"Hi! Camilla again. It occurred to me you might like to trawl through the leftovers. Some people are into rissoles and suchlike . . . Frankly, no, I flush it down the waste-disposal thing. Make room for the next gastronomic experience . . . "
Watson Weeks

No, the salmon mousse's M&S - nobody does it like them - but the bread, that's Romano's, the new Tuscan paneteria - we support new ventures, but not Burger-whatever-it's-called or anything like that, and we don't let the children near - and the lamb, Sainsbury's, they've come out for hill farmers and raising animals properly, and even though it's a second mortgage we think it's worth it, although sometimes we drive into Wales and bring back a carcass, but it's not environmentally sound, all that petrol, so Sainsbury's had to be our ideological compromise - not that that's a word we use too often - then the veggies are Asda, they're so good on organics, and clean, not scrubby like the real organics you get in some shops, with salad from Waitrose, such dainty leaves, even though I'm not sure what they are any more - do you remember when it was only lettuce, so easy - and all our cheese comes from, you'll never believe it, Tesco, they've tapped into les choses francaises and then dear old M&S again for the tarte aux cerises - well, shopping's the way you really show love for your family, isn't it?
D A Prince

No 3598 Set by Dipak Ghosh

The second edition of Richie Benaud's autobiography Anything But . . . claims to be "fully revised and updated". We want the updated and revised version of an autobiography of your choice, with the revisions clearly detectable. Max 200 words and in by 30 September.


This article first appeared in the 20 September 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Men vanish from the universities