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{09/12/2012}   How many cooks spoil the broth?

Last night, I had friends round for a Christmassy evening and planned a rather ludicrous number of dishes, nine (one being fancy mulled wine) which I could never have made myself, so I was relying somewhat on help from at least one person.  While I tidied Christmas wrapping chaos from my spare bedroom, my friend N set about peeling and chopping.  C, meanwhile, completely uncharacteristically, decorated the tree and the living room.  I then joined N in the kitchen, then C joined.  The three of us worked out that no more people could possibly help without there being a cooking related altercation.  Then F and A joined us, came into the kitchen and somehow, I really don’t know how, all five of us contributed to the creation of what ended up being a varied and enjoyable help-yourself meal with no incidents.  So after last night, I’m thinking six cooks, in answer to my question?!

It is very hard between friends to know whether it’s ok to send someone to work in the kitchen, whether they’re better dispatched to the lounge with a glass of wine or whether there will be snappy digs, jibes or rows if too many people are “helping” or standing around in the kitchen.  For probably a little less than  two hours there were five of us in the kitchen last night, all doing something useful towards dinner.  I am amazed it worked so well, even when we blew a fuse and couldn’t get the ovens to work (fortunately A and N got us back on track, merely by re-setting the cooker clock) and C turned off all the electricity for a moment!

For me, the whole preparation of the feast was part of the evening and I felt very festive.  F was put in charge of mulled wine, following something of a luxury mulled wine recipe including a vanilla pod and port, and that was where the alcoholic festivities largely commenced.  However, with a bit of hot-surfacing going on, as it were, quite a few people drank other people’s wine (sorry, F, for finishing off your mulled wine having thought my glass had miraculously refilled!) and N failed to pass her wine off in exchange for anyone else’s, having got quite a bit of grated potato in her mulled wine!

I genuinely enjoyed the kitchen experience, and indeed the meal and the evening, but I realise that there are some groups of five with whom that wouldn’t have worked.  I guess when you invite people round for dinner you shouldn’t expect them to help in the kitchen to prepare their food, but everyone last night knew they’d probably be doing something to help with dinner and it all worked out really well.

I have had some tense kitchen moments with too many cooks and there have been other occasions when help would have been great, but I do appreciate it’s hard to gauge whether to ask for help or, indeed, as a guest whether to offer to help or just keep out of the way with a glass of wine!

So, as for last night, five cooks didn’t spoil the proverbial broth, in fact we all made it, and toasted ourselves (mulled wine, champagne and wine!) many times in a celebratory manner for our massive joint effort, and I had a lovely evening; thank you all!

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