I don’t see my friends as much any more, and I blame Jamie Oliver.
I used to adore him. That naughty smile, the Essex accent, all wrapped up in a funky t-shirt. What’s not to love? I bought his books and I bought into his ethos – stylishly presented home cooked meals are where it’s at, innit?
The Make The Time Report, commissioned by Baileys and presented by researcher and author Dr Rebecca Huntley suggests not. It’s not about the food, it’s more about the friends.
My girlfriends and I used to get together regularly for ‘curry nights’. Every few months we’d rock up to the designated hostess’s home, each slap ten bucks on the bench and order a vindaloo, rogan josh, palak paneer and a whoa of poppadoms. Someone would be nominated to pick it up and the lot would be washed down with a favourite beverage or two, and lots of laughs. It was great.
Then Jamie came along and told us, ‘It’s just as easy, just as quick and loads cheaper to knock together a curry paste with your mortar and pestle and bingo! Your own kinda korma. Luvvly jubbly.’
I’m sorry, but it just isn’t easier or quicker. Taj Bengal up the road from me takes 20 minutes on a busy night; there’s an ice cream shop next door and no one has to wash up the mortar and pestle.
Jamie’s intentions are pure, but the inference was: takeaway suggests you can’t be bothered. No one wanted to be thought of as slack or second-rate, so for a while the curries became homemade. But then, after a while the curry nights … just sort of stopped.
It wasn’t all Jamie’s fault. Our lives got busier, diaries became tougher to align and it was all a bit too hard. We want to entertain elegantly and generously like they do in the magazines…. so we don’t do it at all.
I think we’ve set the bar a bit high and we need to drop it a little – get back to simply getting together. One of the happiest times I can remember is sitting sandy-footed on the deck of a beach house with pals who were driving past when the spied us and dropped in. We were at the end of our holiday and supplies were down to supermarket cheese slices, cold sausages and Sao biscuits. There were beers in the Esky and Paddle Pops in the freezer. I remember late-night scrabble eating blocks of (extremely non-couveture) chocolate; scrabbling round the bottom of the pantry for a packet of scotch fingers when a toasted-sandwich lunch turned into afternoon tea.