I read recently a rather snooty article on the subject of dinner parties. Apparently, those of a superior class no longer give ‘Dinner parties’ seeing it as something the middle classes do in their desire to copy their betters. They give ‘Kitchen suppers’ instead, and they’re not talking about sitting on barstools in tiny kitchens sucking a sausage roll. To offer a kitchen supper you need a very large kitchen, a long rustic table, Aga of course, and perhaps one or two mud-splattered spaniels owned or if necessary, hired. And God help those who get it wrong. Rebekah Brookes, former Editor of one of Rupert Murdock’s newspapers and a confidant of David Cameron, referred to them as ‘Country suppers,’ which apparently marked her down. Dinner parties, so middle class, so last year. Country suppers? Tee hee hee. Oh dear. Not quite one of us.
Well, I love dinner parties, and it is one of the things I miss most in the current pandemic. Food and wine are a bonus, but I miss the laughter, the conversation; I miss people’s faces.
A few weeks ago, we attended a funeral, all of us looking somehow diminished beneath masks that covered each and everyone’s face. By contrast, a few days later we bumped into two friends we hadn’t seen for a time, in a country lane and without masks. Throughout a long conversation, I found myself avidly searching their faces and expressions, their tone, and sensed they were doing the same as we talked. The novelty of conversation, the human face.
Something I regret in my past is one misplaced decision. It occurred on my once-in-a lifetime forty-day tour of America. I was so obsessed with the purity of landscape and sky – the big skies of Wyoming, the great Salt Desert, Grand Canyon et al I wanted nothing human to obscure, taint or dilute what I hoped to capture for ever on film. Accordingly, I took no photos of the small and increasingly intimate group I was travelling with. A sensible person would have realised it wasn’t a case of one or the other. A sensible person would have taken photos of both. But sense comes with time and experience. Landscape and parties – kitchen suppers – country suppers, dinner or a Kentucky fry, it’s always the people that count.
I plan a year of feasts, to eat, drink, and visually cannibalise faces. I might not say very much, which will be a blessing for many, especially when the novelty wears off and my tongue once again gets the better of my brain.