Before attracting the ire of the moral majority, I would like to stress that I advocate cheating in one arena only: the kitchen.
In all other testing situations – exams, tax returns, relationships and so on – fraudulent behaviour is to be frowned upon. Cheating, when it comes to cooking, is a situation where everybody wins.
If, like me, culinary creations are not your speciality, then save your guests the chore of having to perform an Oscar-winning show of appreciation as they slip a broken tooth into their napkin or surreptitiously feed the dog under the table. Cheat wherever possible. Leave nothing to skill. Isn't this what high-end supermarket ranges were created for?
In recent years there has been an almost militant move towards creating elaborate menus for guests and cooking them from scratch. Call it the Come Dine With Me effect. Forget about how it tastes, as long as you slaved over every ingredient yourself that's all that matters.
This is nonsense, if you want fine dining eat out. It's not that I pride myself on serving up inedible food, but I do struggle with multi-tasking in the kitchen. So when my victims, sorry friends, come for dinner, my main concern is chatting, not showing off creative cooking.
The other night I invited a friend over and I served up a pasta bake, that staple of students everywhere, albeit a "fancy" one with fresh herbs and black pudding and sun-dried tomatoes. So distracted was I with the chat I forgot to add water. A short time later we sat down to a meal of slightly warmed but essentially raw pasta before dissolving into hysterical laughter. By the time it was cooked, appetites had been unwittingly sated with red wine and a mountain of bread. Next time, it's takeaways all round.
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