Endless media space is dedicated to nutrition, weight loss, eating plans, exercise, fad diets and diet pills. Each proponent argues his or her plan with religious fervour but very few look at one of food’s greatest pleasures – the social aspect.
While I enjoy reading the millionth crossfit anecdote or how your plan to live like a caveman will help you lose weight, I sometimes think that very little attention is given to actual dining experience. For me, there is little better than having friends around and talking rubbish while eating good food and sipping on great wine.
If I were to pick my three favourite toss-the-diet-aside dinner parties, they would be …
How to: Raclette is a type of cheese and a Swiss dish. The cooker is a dual-layer table-top griller that comes with small pans. Each guest gets a pan and can heat up ingredients on the hot plate and melt cheese over snacks under the grill.
The verdict: cook chicken, sausages, potatoes and mushrooms and smother them all in cheese. What could be better?
Cost: a small grill will set you back about R540
Where to buy: Kalahari.com
Pro tip: items that take a bit more time to cook, such as potatoes, should be cooked in advance and merely heated up on the raclette.
How to: there are a few options here. Heat up oil and deep fry everything from vegetables to chicken nuggets; melt cheese and dip bread and sausages; or melt chocolate and dip marshmallows and fruit.
The verdict: if you are hoping to win a “slimmer of the month” prize you’d best not have friends round for a fondue before weigh-in.
Cost: from about R300. If you have a bigger budget you can buy an electric pot. These allow for better oil control, but may necessitate the running of extension cords.
Where to buy: almost all homeware stores
Pro tip: try not to spill methylated spirits when pouring this highly flammable liquid into the burner. And always place the burner on a board, not directly on your table or table cloth (unless you want to test the house fire clause of your homeowner’s insurance).
How to: the set consists of a pot, a burner (similar to the ones used in fondue sets) and rack that fits over the pot. Mull wine in the pot then soak a sugar cone in rum, place it on the rack and light it. Once a fair amount of the cone has melted into the gluhwein, your winter dinner party is set to liven up.
The verdict: after two glasses of punch you won’t even notice that it’s winter. In fact, you could probably be talked into streaking.
Cost: you will have to order a set from Europe. Expect to cough up R1 000 or more. It’s probably a good idea to order a shipment of sugar cones too.
Where to buy: a good place to start would be Amazon.
Pro tip: use Stroh rum and cancel any plans you have for the next day.