The Oldie

Dining rooms

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We were invited to a kitchen supper the other night. It’s an outdated phrase – where else do you entertain these days?

The occupants of every single household near us in London have smashed down walls to create an open-plan eat-in kitchen with a vast island. It’s called modern living: you want to cook, eat

and relax in the same space – which is all very well until you have guests over and you have no choice but to perform in front of them as if you’re on a cooking show. Then you have to dine in a war zone of splattered recipe books and washing-up.

I find it all a bit much. When our own version of the kitchen-living-dining space arrived last year, my husband and five children settled straight in – but I felt exposed. The nightmare of open plan is that there is nowhere to hide. The kitchen can serve as a reception room only if it’s spotlessly tidy – impossible when your children leave their things all over the island.

When, as a child, I had lunch with my great-aunt

Eleanor, she’d pass a perfect roast through the serving hatch. We weren’t exposed to the process. Now, though, guests are part of it. For a shy cook, this can be terrifying. I cower behind the island, dreading the moment someone peers over my shoulder to look in my pan. ‘Can I help?’ they ask, meaning, ‘I’m starving – how long until we get fed?’

Guests, too, are sick of kitchen suppers. It was all jolly to begin with – the drinks at the island sports bar; helping yourself from the stove. But who wants to spend the evening watching their host incinerate the steaks?

I teased my parents mercilessl­y when they downsized and planned to have both their kitchen table and their dining table in their new open-plan kitchen, assuring them it would look like a restaurant. At least their generation understand­s, though, that dining is an art that can’t be pulled off at the kitchen table.

Bring back the dining room now. ANNA TYZACK

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