Dinner parties are one of life’s greatest pleasures and I absolutely love having friends at home. I always try to make them feel warm and welcomed, and although I generally feel quite nervous because I want everything to be perfect, I try to have everything ready before they come so I can enjoy a relaxed evening.
Something I've discovered recently is how different dinner parties are in Spain from the ones I've been invited in the UK.
In Spain, you would never know when people is going to arrive to your home. You may say "dinner starts at 9.00 pm", and people will start arriving around 10.30. If someone dares to arrive on time, they will probably find you in the shower, starting to prepare the dinner or watching TV in your pyjamas because you have completely forgotten about it.
In the UK you will let your guests know when the whole thing starts and finishes. And they will come and leave punctually. Even if the party is a success and everyone is having fun, they will disappear when told. In Spain you will probably end up going to bed leaving a few drunk friends in your sofa.
If you are invited to someone's home for a party in Spain, you will be more than welcome to bring other friends along with you. In the UK, you will be sent an invite and just whoever's is named on it will be allowed to attend. Only if you have replied religiously by post accepting the invite with a RSVP card.
In Spain, if you haven't been invited to a party you will go anyway presuming they have just forgotten.
The thing is that, in Spain, we don't really need much to organise a dinner with friends. Is even quite common that one of your friends invites everyone to a dinner party in your home. Without telling you in advance. The same day. We are more than happy to cook on the fly, and just a Spanish omelette with cured ham and cold beer will do.
All your guest in the UK will bring a present, mainly flowers, wine and chocolate. In Spain you will call your guests 5 minutes before starting to see if they can buy ice cubes, drinks, crisps or any other thing you've just realised you forgotten to buy.
In the UK, your guests will be mindful of the party dress code. If the invitation states semi-formal, nobody will show up in jeans and a T-shirt, as this will be seen as disrespectful of the host’ request. If there is nothing stated in the invite, you will make them feel confused and uncomfortable for weeks.
In Spain nobody would care about what you are wearing. Or not wearing.
During a Spanish dinner, it's OK to hold 3 or 4 conversations simultaneously. And to move from one group to another if you want to take part in a particular discussion. Or to start talking even if someone else has not finished yet. Or to change subject every 2 minutes without actually finishing any conversation. Even if they are quite controversial topics. And if anything is true about Spanish people is that we are quite loud-mouthed. If you see a group of Spaniards yelling heatedly, they are probably having a perfectly mundane conversation.
In the UK everyone will respect everyone else's turn, and nobody will move subject until the previous one is formally closed and an agreement has been reached. Nobody will talk about religion, politics, or salary. If someone is drunk enough to say something inconvenient, start speaking about the weather will help most people to get the hint and move on to another topic.
When offering a dinner party to your friends in Spain, you would need to be ready to go to the nearer petrol station to buy more alcohol at 3.00am or to cook spaghetti bolognese at 5.00am.
In the UK as soon as someone pick their coat, everyone else will follow. Everything will be over, washed up and tidy by 8.30pm at the very latest. And a glittery thank you card will be lovingly posted a week later for you.
This week recipe is an Indian inspired chocolate Tiffin that will make a great addition to any dinner party. Tiffin is an Indian term generally used to mean small snack offered as a courtesy to your guests, so why not preparing this Mango, Coconut and Curry Tiffing next time you invite friends for dinner?
WHAT YOU NEED
250gr Extra Dark Chocolate
70ml Soured Cream
100gr Dried Mango
100gr Dried Coconut
2tsp Curry Mix (the one I've used is a medium hot curry powder with coriander, ginger, cinnamon, coriander and cardamom).
WHAT YOU DO
Melt the chocolate in the microwave, stirring slowly from time to time. Add the soured cream and the curry and mix together. Add the dried mango chunks and the coconut and put in a silicone mould.
Leave to room temperature until cold and well set.
Cut into small pieces (or big ones) and enjoy!