One new thing a month: that’s the task I set myself when I took the career break. The year out turned into two and I’m thrilled to say that come mid-August this summer, instead of dragging myself back to the chalk face, I’m heading to Spain on hols instead. So as my third year out approaches I’ve stayed loyal to my resolution of doing new things. And this month it was an ambitious one, to host a supper club, from the SWB residence, no less.
Broaching this with LSB (My husband, Long Suffering Bastard for any new readers) required some tactical manoeuvring. I sneakily waited until he was at a wedding in Liverpool and rang him the day after, when he was feeling less than sprightly. His resistance was lowered, and I could sense him shaking his head and acquiescing into his hair-of-the-dog pint. The last time he went away he ended up taking me for a slap-up lunch in Balloo House, followed by a visit to a woman who re-homes cats in Killyleagh. He came home with a lighter wallet and small tortoiseshell cat. An evening in the company of randomers sounded perhaps less daunting, and certainly required less commitment.
“You’re doing what? A nutter, that’s what you are.” That was the reaction from most of my friends and acquaintances when I told them. “That’s a bit strange, isn’t it?” said another. “Like how many, ten strangers, sitting in your own house?” He shook his head in disbelief. “Wouldn’t catch me doing that.” “Look,” I wish I’d replied, “I’m not lying naked on a table and letting them eat sushi from my less than perfect form. I’m roping a couple of friends in and cooking a meal for some people to come and hopefully enjoy.” So we planned it, did it, and you know what, we’d do it again. It was brilliant craic and no one got poisoned or got hammered and wrecked the joint or was insulted or offended (I think). People came on their own but left in twos and threes to walk down the road together or share lifts. Everyone laughed. A lot. Not enough laugher these days.
Mind you I wasn’t laughing mid-week when, distracted listening to my hyper off-spring I burnt my rice and fucked up the main course entirely. My friends, (valiant guinea pigs that they were) tried to be supportive about the bland chicken they were fed. “What made you choose a Lebanese theme?” they enquired, tactfully. “You know,when you’ll admit yourself that it’s not your forte?” Well I blame the Guardian weekend magazine. There are only so many Ottelenghi recipes you can read before you start getting z’atar and pomegranate molasses on the brain. I had a fine cauliflower salad in Kaffe O one day and I thought to myself, I have to get into this Middle Eastern Cookery lark. So a plan started to form and between a few of us we made it happen.
My mum raided her cupboards for extra tablecloths and napkins and provided matching glasses. (You see Marie Kondo? This is why you dn’t go fecking everything in the bin). Claire (the other half of Supper Club) took her children to Botanic Rose Garden and collected a selection of rose petals to dress the table. There were trial runs and and more trial runs.
On the night itself LSB was roped in to keep the children off side and the French au pair did something special with potatoes. Once we’d removed the rice (and the children) from the equation it was grand. But the real star of the show is my friend Claire, one half of Harper’s Yard. I post about Claire and Martina often on my Facebook page because I have the greatest respect for them. Being a self-deprecating Irish woman I think “Ooooh, that would be a good idea,” then I think of everything that could go wrong with the plan and talk myself out of it sharpish. But these two are different. Claire’s English and Martina’s from the Czech Republic. They have a quiet confidence about them and are happy to give something their best shot. Must importantly, their gift for doing things well is infectious. On the night itself, my chicken was neither bland nor stringy.
So, we had eleven people round our table on Saturday evening, and what a diverse and international group we got. A Greek, an American, an English girl, a Chilean, and one brave man who came with his wife and had the best of craic. Two of my friends came which was lovely because it gave me a bit of encouragement to see two familiar faces, but to be honest, even had they not it still would have been fine.
One guest, the lovely Lyn who runs Hola Muchachos Spanish club, arrived with a basket of veg from her partner’s allotment. (orange beetroot if you please and it was cracker). Others who weren’t even drinking still brought a bottle, and everyone was hugely complementary.
Something we often forget, is that people are generally kind. I think if you’re a curmudgeonly old bastard you probably wouldn’t put yourself through a night with strangers in someone else’s living room. A few weeks ago I went along to Haypark Supper Club for an evening of Thai cuisine. The food was restaurant standard and the hosts were incredible, welcoming us with a G&T Far Eastern style (Thai basil I think) and feeding us until we were almost ready to expire. I’d go again tomorrow except they’re nearly always booked out. Everyone there was lovely too, and do you know, even if the food was a bit shit, I wouldn’t have minded. If there’s openness, laughter and hospitality, that’s already a lot on the table.
So to those who came, thank you, and maybe we’ll do another in the autumn. In the meantime, I have to get thinking what my new thing this August is going to be….. any suggestions welcome (but I am NOT doing the naked sushi thing).
- Thanks to The Vineyard and Kaffe O on the Ormeau Road for putting up posters
- Check out Haypark Supper Club (posters can be found in Bread and Banjo on the Ormeau.)