Fes­tive din­ner more than just a meal

In her new book, Set A Ta­ble, Karen Dud­ley shares care­fully se­lected recipes, and con­sid­ers the im­por­tance of bond­ing with guests around the ta­ble. She chats more about this with Latoya New­man

Post - - RECIPES -

GONE are the days of slav­ing over hot pots in the kitchen a few days be­fore – and even on the day at Christ­mas.

Karen Dud­ley be­lieves en­ter­tain­ing guests at home is all about sim­plic­ity, be­ing pre­pared and pay­ing at­ten­tion to de­tail.

“When you have peo­ple com­ing for din­ner, what you’re ac­tu­ally do­ing is nur­tur­ing cul­ture and nur­tur­ing the so­cial glue, you’re nur­tur­ing con­ver­sa­tion.

“When you host peo­ple, you go to some kind of trou­ble… you hon­our your guests by think­ing about it and con­sid­er­ing them – who will not eat what, who would not likely talk to another per­son, for ex­am­ple.

“You’re en­gi­neer­ing a space for con­ver­sa­tion and con­vivi­al­ity. You hon­our your guests by pre­par­ing and your guests’ hon­our you by com­ing through,” she ex­plained.

“And es­pe­cially for new en­ter­tain­ers, it is also im­por­tant for peo­ple to see that you are ac­tu­ally ac­com­plish­ing some­thing. And, it is about the food, of course, but it is also about the so­cial space that you are cre­at­ing.”

Dud­ley said of­ten peo­ple say “we’ll just go out” or “we’ll just have a braai”.

“Go­ing out is fun, but there’s a cer­tain kind of in­ti­macy about be­ing around the ta­ble that you only get when you go to some­body’s home and sit around their ta­ble.”

When it comes to cater­ing for your fam­ily and friends, Dud­ley ad­vised that sim­plic­ity was best: “A lit­tle bit of com­fort and fa­mil­iar­ity, es­pe­cially over Christ­mas, and one or two other ex­cit­ing and in­ter­est­ing items.

“When you’re slap­ping off a Christ­mas lunch that is too big and stress­ful, ev­ery­one is stress­ing and no-one is ac­tu­ally en­joy­ing the spirit of hav­ing ev­ery­one over.

“Of­ten, and es­pe­cially as South Africans, I feel we don’t want any­body to lose out or to be of­fended in some way.

“For ex­am­ple my granny would make sure ev­ery­body had their pre­ferred dishes – so this one needed beans and that one got a breyani and this one needed a curry and that one must have pasta…

“What hap­pens when we try to do too much, is we lose the im­pact of what we are ac­tu­ally try­ing to do,” said Dud­ley.

She said it was im­por­tant to set the en­vi­ron­ment right: “Make the ta­ble big­ger so that ev­ery­one is sit­ting at the ta­ble at the same time to eat. Have that mo­ment of look­ing at each other and say­ing “here we are, it’s been another year, but here we are to­gether as a fam­ily”.

“It is im­por­tant for our chil­dren to be an­chored in this way. That, this is what it is about.

“This is where you be­long, with your fam­ily.”

Dud­ley has lived and honed her culi­nary skills in Wash­ing­ton DC and in Lon­don, but now lives in Wood­stock, Cape Town, down the road from The Kitchen, with her hus­band and two chil­dren. Her pre­vi­ous books, A Week in The Kitchen and Another Week in The Kitchen, have col­lec­tively sold 29 000 copies.

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