Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Friday 16 January 2009

I see from Mrs Pouncer's recent comment that there may be some misperception about my cooking for my book club (by the way, Mrs P, where is that speech?).

We're all neighbours on the same estate and all get along like a house on fire (you understand of course that I'm breaking the first rule of Book Club, which is not to talk about...), but not only is each meeting an opportunity to check out other people's layout, furnishings and decor, it's also a hotbed of competitive snackmanship.

If one host has salt and vinegar crisps, the next has M&S parsnip chips in honey. Nuts'n'raisins are countered with salted almonds. Plain chocolate cake? The riposte is a cream-filled chocolate cake with Smarties on top, or butterfly fairy cakes with a strawberry/mascarpone topping. Pork scratchings? Forget it.

The danger is, of course, that we tend to over-provide: olives and stale Cheesy Wotsits tend to pall as a breakfast after a couple of days. This time, I got the quantities about right: and now that I've learnt not to over-cook them. I seem to have been given a commission for mini-pizzas for someone's birthday do (very simple, pizza base dough, finely-chopped and sweated shallots on a little tomato purée with an olive on top - no cheese, so I could almost be very Waitrose and call them mini-pissaladières, if that didn't sound unfortunate).

Drink is another matter. It's amazing how so many people bring a bottle and then drink tea. One always makes a profit - and many a bottle makes a tour from meeting to meeting.

What's that? Books? Well, those of us who've read the book do find a few words to say about it. But what with all the gossip on the estate - not to mention chocolate cake - somehow the evening flies by on a wave of convivial gluttony.

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