Many months ago, amidst the stream of dull days where we pretended to watch pre-recorded lectures, a lightbulb graced the mind of my pseudonymous flatmate – to host a ‘Come Dine with Me’ extravaganza within the flat. Across five consecutive nights, each of us would culinarily compete for bragging rights and a free dinner out. At stake lay only our dignity and a faint risk of salmonella poisoning.
We all murmured in agreement at the time, unaware of the intense, crushing stress that comes with providing a three-course meal and entertainment. Sadly, this week reality struck – and I was first to be debilitated.
My flatmates, henceforth referred to as ‘Scones’, ‘Doodles’, ‘Camel’ and ‘H2O’, each carry frustratingly varied tastebuds, offering a level of restraint one could have done without. Thankfully, I knew I could hit the ground running with the great unifier of Garlic Bread. Flour. Yoghurt. Garlic. Butter. A natural winner. My following courses were seemingly edible, one a somewhat stressful homage to my mother’s cooking, the other an homage to my upcoming year abroad – which narrowly overstayed its welcome in the oven by 20 minutes. Nevertheless, with a stellar entertainment billing of a music quiz culminating in a Just Dance performance of Rasputin, I was confident of overwhelming victory, a seemingly unassailable score of 27 (out of 40) indicative of tremendous form.
But where my form was temporary, Scones’ indelible class appeared permanent. Her homemade pizzas were inspired, each tailored to our wretchedly different tastes. It ultimately more than compensated for the rawness of her brownies, and the blandness of her starter. Combined with a Kahoot quiz, testing our memory of the flat’s wackiest, most uncontextualised quotes from the last semester, she seemed unbeatable, racing into the lead with 30 points.
If there is one thing we have learnt however, it is my truly dreadful ability to predict results, with Scones’ lead subsequently usurped by Doodles’ offering (stuffed peppers, tacos and tart au citron). Only her entertainment disappointed, our playing of Spoons (card game, not instrument) lacking in the originality or ambition that Scones or I extended to. Had we marketed this week as an entertainment-driven format, I can optimistically imagine the scoreboard appearing in reverse.
Perhaps a performance of the instrument rather than the card game would have drawn Doodles an even higher score, a potential buffer against the efforts of Camel and H20. Not that Camel ever felt threatened by our scores. Operating in a culinary class of her own, we were treated to savoury muffins, crepes (once again with a wide choice of fillings) and a most joyous of apple crumbles. Our entertainment was a specially tailored edition of Time’s Up, a game combining all our collective shortcomings in Articulate, Word Association, and Charades into various words in a hat. The evening was a triumph.
H2O’s efforts were admirable, but somewhat resigned by the task of attempting to emulate or surpass Camel’s magnificent trek the day before, rightfully earning her free dinner for one more night. You could even say that he was relatively dehydrated of aptitude, though that would do a disservice to his three courses. His soup, lasagne and rocky road were all rich and flavoursome – that his eventual score matched mine heartened my performance somewhat.
Where do these culinary shenanigans leave me? Nutritionally sustained, for sure, but also heartened by the performance and comradery we all showed. Was one day of stress worth four subsequent three-course meals? With enough forward planning, for sure. So long as said planning doesn’t coincide with exams, deadlines, or indeed other stresses of the day-to-day. In other words, this week has been a privilege, one I would encourage anyone who can, to fulfil at least once in their life with those they hold dear. Not something to ever take for granted, or to do with the people who don’t matter in your life. Otherwise, at the very least, you’ll find yourself faced with a rather begrudging restaurant bill.
All images courtesy of ‘Scones’