A Guest’s Place Is Not In The Kitchen

Entertaining is all well and good as long as your guests know their place…which is not in the kitchen.


I’m not certain if the protocol (in terms of entertaining) has changed in the UK since we left thirteen years ago – a time in our life when our social life was constrained by the needs of young children, hence fulfilled by a monthly rotation of dinner parties with roughly the same people – but I quite liked the unwritten rules of ownership when it came to the distinction between guest and host. 

In those days, the onus on guests was to bring flowers, booze, and interesting conversation, and the responsibility of the host was to provide everything else. Admittedly, if you weren’t Donna Hay, that premise did add some pressure, but what kept you going as you marinated the Coq Au Vin in your tears, devilled your eggs, and began your relationship with Valium, was the knowledge that all your hard work would be recompensed by four of five reciprocal dinner invitations, where you could be the one stuck to your seat, getting lairy, and talking about stuff that only comes out of your mouth after a bottle of fortified wine.

Indeed, the only time you relaxed the rules was towards the end of the evening, when Mrs. Perfect came into the kitchen and offered to clear up, releasing you from your servitude to pop out to the back garden for a furtive joint.

Social etiquette is a little different in Australia. For a start, people offer to bring food with them. And when I say “food”,  I don’t mean that moldy piece of Cheddar that’s sat in the fridge since Christmas with a few Aldi olives. They bring plates of the type of gourmet food that wouldn’t look out of place on a Heston Blumenthal menu.

And while that generosity lifts the burden of the host to provide all three courses and canapes, it also adds more pressure to the quality of the food that you are serving.

The other differences are – and this may have something to do with the open-plan style of the homes here – there is more of a hands-on vibe, where guests mill around the kitchen offering assistance and trying to get involved, which makes it much harder to conceal what I like to call my natural cooking disasters.

And then there’s that new breed of men that like to cook and make your mother’s tried and tested home cooking recipes appear amateurish. Personally-speaking, there’s nothing more intimidating to me than a man who knows his way around a sous-vide and who brings his latest cooking appliance with him to knock up the appetizers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that men are starting to take on their share of domesticity, but I’d prefer to see more of them voluntarily clean the toilets beforehand than show off their version of the “Snow Egg.”

And all this camaraderie in the kitchen means that you have to clean it properly, ahead of the event, because people will be in your kitchen. That caked potato on the roof of the microwave (since the time it exploded) and all those tiny scraps of food that inhabit the cutlery drawer (because your dishwasher is still going after twenty years), have to go. You even have to wipe down the door fronts – not exactly what you bargained for when you had that crazy idea of a relaxing lunch.

How To House Train Your Teenagers

bringing my towel along
bringing my towel along (Photo credit: hufse)

So the adjustment to apartment-living might have been a little more painful than I envisaged, although it’s not necessarily the reduced square metreage that is affecting my usually joyful disposition, but having teenagers 24/7 in my face.


My timing has never been great. NC is still on uni break and Kurt went back to school today for a mere three hours of minimal pain relief.


Meanwhile I have been trying to work, appease clients, and sort through all of the shit I missed last week – difficult with Foxtel blaring through my eardrums at a forbidden level-twenty-eight on the volume button, and although my clients may well be interested in who is shagging who in Primevel, it just doesn’t sound professional as background noise.


I guess it must be hard for the teens to crunch their way through a 2kg box of cereal and a crusty loaf of bread and listen to the tv at the same time, poor lambs.


Added to which, one of the usual teenage dossers showed up at Dysfunctional Hostel last night looking for board and lodging. He ate all of my food shop in one sitting, slept on the sofa (which required more clean sheets to add to the dirty laundry pile of ski-wear) and then fucked off out the minute the dishwasher needed unloading. I know he takes advantage of the fact that I have a soft spot for him.


Bitter much?


I’m not sure what I resent most about the seemingly impossible task of house-training my particular brand of teenager – the fact that they have no short-term memory when it comes to domestic rules and chores and yet can remember the start time of every mindless show on Foxtel; their ability to live comfortably in their own filth without catching some horrible, terminal disease that might teach them a lesson or the fact that they can eat their way through my week’s food shop in one night without putting on an ounce of weight.


Call me bitterly and dangerously psychotic but these are the unforgiveable teenage behaviours that are getting my vagina in a very dangerous twist at the moment, as if effects of peri-menopause weren’t bad enough.


Breakfast of Champions?
Breakfast of Champions? Courtesy of James at http://www.flickr.com

I had a nightmare about the half-finished, discarded bowls of cereal that are permanently putrefying in my sink and the wet towels last night.


I could write a thesis about wet towels. If the tv programme Mastermind still existed, wet towels would be my specialist subject; although the kids say that I’d be just as knowledgable on ‘nagging’ in the general category.


Then there are the fruit stickers I find stuck to my beautiful painted coffee table and the warm milk that is never returned to the fridge…


I could go on and on but then that would mean that I am letting it get to me.


How do I house-train my teenagers without them hating me?