I’m not going to lie to you: I know how to work a food table at a party. It’s one of my core skills, finely honed during the two years I spent in Japan attending “English Teaching Conferences” (also known as “a waste of valuable government funds” and “large scale piss-ups”).
Legend has it that I worked one buffet dinner so adroitly that I’d had two servings of the mains and had moved onto dessert before some people had even finished queuing for their first serve.
How did I do it? Well, without giving away too many of my secrets, it’s all in where you position yourself. You need to be hovering near the end of the table with the plates. I can’t stress that enough. If you’re standing at the non-plate end, you may as well be in another room all together.
Now, it’s good practice to be working with a friend so you can give the impression of being engaged in lively conversation. But all the time, you are both just watching the table in a state of active readiness (your body turned ever so slightly away from the table, so as not to make people nervous) so that you can pivot quickly and easily and walk purposely (never run!) towards the food when it is ready.
Serve your food quickly and join the growing queue. Start eating. Do not chat. You’ll be back at the head of the queue with an empty plate before the people still gabbing away at the other end of the conference room have even realised the food’s ready. And by the time they do realise and start lining up, you’ll be ready for chocolate cake.
All that said, I have to admit that lately I’ve lost my touch.
I recently had three party tables to work in less than 24 hours.
With the first, I was too busy chatting with the Fabulous Miss Jones and so was late to join the queue and almost missed out on the last slice of margherita pizza. And then later got caught in a holding pattern around the dessert table feeling obliged to eat slices of those cakes that hadn’t been touched. SLOPPY TECHNIQUE.
With the second, I was heavily handicapped by a small child who decided that the Parent Helper morning tea at the school was as good a place as any to stage a tantrum – you know, in front of the School Principal and half the School Council. And as a direct result of this, I missed out on the last piece of deep-fried prawn toast. FAIL.
And with the third one (of the “bring a plate” variety), I found myself entering some kind of “plate-off” with friend (and now plate rival) “MotherOfCrankyPants” where we competed to see whose contribution to the table got eaten first. My plate consisted of Black pepper and parmesan puff pastry cheese straws, lovingly hand-twisted by Yours Truly from a recipe personally recommended to me by the truly gorgeous Alejandra Ramos who, like, works for Cosmopolitan in New York. NEW YORK, PEOPLE!
And MotherOfCrankyPants’ plate? Sliced oranges. I mean, not to be rude or anything, but oranges? C’mon! How can they compete with Alejandra’s cheese straws? Even if they are sliced.
It is understandable, therefore, that I got so carried away with this competition that I missed out on trying virtually everything else on the table. For one thing, I was too busy stuffing parmesan and black pepper cheese straws in my mouth to get anything else in there. SUB-OPTIMAL.
I guess, I’m feeling a bit disappointed that I’m not in better form going into the Christmas season. My one consolation is best said by Jim Henson Workshop Creation “Yoda”: “There is another!”
Just last weekend, I found myself standing in front of a party table laden with delicious food alongside Mr Justice. There we were, mother and son, working that table like a couple of pros.
I asked him if he’d tried one of the chicken drumsticks, which were particularly good.
“Tried them? I’ve had three!” was his reply.
That’s my boy.