Monday 7 March 2016

I don't put on dinners to make speeches

I don’t put on dinners because I want to make speeches. I hate making speeches. Even talking. Publicly that is, I don’t mind talking to the person next to me, though I find I’m a better talker (i.e., I talk) when the number of people next to me isn’t much more than three.

I know, I know, people just assume you’re going to do a good job. They want you to do a good job. In fact they’ve probably got their fingers, toes and eyes crossed hoping that you’re gonna do a good job, that you won’t fuck up. No one likes a fuck up, especially if the one fucking up is doing the talk. That’s just awkward.

Once I was given a book called How to bluff your way through public speaking. And I’ve been told that being on stage talking is one of the few moments in your life where you control everything. Plus there’s always what Steven Spielberg said, namely that people will sit through 20 minutes of anything. But this is a) next level advice and b) assumes you like control. It also assumes you’ve passed the bluffing stage and have 19 more minutes to go. It assumes you’ve read the book. And I haven’t. 

You’d think you’d be able to talk about something you made up. You’d think you’d be able to talk about something you want to do. Well, maybe you can. Certainly everyone speaking at TED can. But I can’t. I can hardly squeak out that tonight’s menu will be and say toe-curlingly excruciating things like ‘We cooked you some nice food’. Nice food?!

Yes, I said that.

And for as long as I’m squeaking, I’m hardly able to warn anyone ‘that the wine’s natural so it might taste a bit funky, some of it even bad, but hang in there: you can always try another bottle’. Y’know, to make it fun. Easy going. To make my audience love me, or at least appreciate that I wasn’t fucking up. But no. Because I’m only seeing black fuzzies swarm in front of my eyes, I’m unable to throw in the super fun snippy-wippies of trivia like, ‘If your wine’s really too sour for you try squeezing a bit of lemon in it. We tried this at home and it sounds crazy, and if I let this slip to the wrong people I’ll probably be shot, but it works. Way mellows it out. Makes it sweet, even’. 

This is simple stuff and, yeah I’ll say it — even semi-rehearsed. Cus you see, I semi-rehearsed it as I rolled out the pizza dough I’d made for the first time ever approximately three hours ago. Semi-rehearsed as I learned that flour + water = glue and glue gets in your hair surprisingly easily. 

I’d, of course, be leaving the big talking to Alex. He likes to talk and at times like this, I like when he talks. It was therefore his job to explain that we were putting on a dinner to celebrate the fact there was an extra day to the year; to explain that this, even though a purely mathematical occurrence, had, at least for me — someone he describes as having a pre-scientific approach to the world, a regular pagan — a strong association to magic and therefore also moons. Yeah. Moons. Whereas I just call it artistic licence. Creative direction if I’m drunk.

So why do we put on dinners? To make an event of something we love: food. To have a reason to have to go out and find the right wine, and a reason to have people we don't know come and meet us. It means we can get out the glue, paint and you never know — maybe one day the glitter — and somewhat justifies the fact we’re keeping alive five big jars of water kefir. It means I can boss Alex around Alex and I can work together in perfect harmony as we come up with wonderful themes and drawings to match, and go through relationship-building exercises like grilling pigs in a (very) makeshift fire pit in Noord in the snow at 3 a.m. It means I have a reason to come up with menus (fun) and fuss around with decorations (funner) and constantly be making lists and crossing them out (funnest). And it means Alex had a reason to buy a spit and stick a whole animal on it and drive around the grachten in a car that’s way too big and sounds bigger. It means we drink more cocktails than we used to (trials) and that we go through astonishing amounts of salt and garlic (yes). And last time we got to hire a magician: one should never underestimate the draw of having an excuse to hire a magician. Or the fact people actually come to our dinners. Thanks guys.

Photo by Sophia van den HoekPig is a fifth generation relation to another pig we know.

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