Posts Tagged 'hosting'

Barbecue Etiquette

BarbecueThe British summer is well underway and this can only mean one thing – the barbecues have been wheeled out from storage and are taking pride of place in we Brits’ gardens. I shall be honest now and say that I loathe a barbecue and think they should be outlawed in Britain, or other countries where the weather is not regularly conducive to outdoor dining.

The only type of barbecue I can just about tolerate is a sit-down with cutlery affair. If there’s proper napkins to hand then all the better. Barbecues where you have to stand up and wolf a hot dog or chicken kebab down are ghastly affairs. I like food and wish to enjoy it at leisure.

My parents have lovely barbecues (if indeed that is not an oxymoron). We all sit on the terrace at their Gloster outdoor furniture (that has been properly washed down before use), under the often-superfluous parasol, food is placed in serving dishes down the middle of the table, and we all sit with blue gingham napkins on our laps to protect the chinos. It’s very civilized and we all look like we’ve been lifted off the page from the John Lewis catalogue. It has much more relaxed atmosphere than an indoor meal in a dining room, yet one can enjoy the breeze and gentle heat. These ordeals where you have to stand up and find an unclaimed piece of patio in which to stand are so tense. You have to worry about whether you have salsa running down your chin, focus on making sure your burger doesn’t fly out the other side, and then find where you left your glass so you can have a much needed drink.

The secret of successful dining (indoor or out) is to think about your guests’ every need. I have found with stand-up barbecues that hosts are much more laid back about everything and often overlook the most basic of details. It’s only good manners to think about your fellow diners when you are hosting.

Here are our tips for ensuring that whatever style of barbecue you do this summer you get the etiquette right. (The cooking is down to you.)

Barbecue dos and don’ts…

- If you opt for a stand-up affair, consider a service table where you can place the dishes of food as well as cutlery, glasses, jugs of water, juice and the like, as well as napkins…

- …Ensure that you have put out sufficient napkins for your guests. Even if they are paper ones, make sure that they have something to wipe those sticky hands

- Men: however good you think your barbecue skills are, don’t start giving the cook unwanted advice

- Beer should always be served in glasses and not drunk from the bottle. The last time I drank out of a bottle I was 18 months old

- If knives and forks are not put out you have permission to use your fingers

- Kebabs: if eating sitting down with cutlery then hold the top of the kebab stick and using your fork slide each chunk of meat onto the plate. If eating with the fingers then hold both ends and gnaw away (inelegant but acceptable)

- Burgers: watch how much sauce you put in the middle of your burger as when picking up and biting in to it the sauce could shoot out and give your fellow diners a nasty squirt

- Peas: often seen at barbecues and quite hard to eat at the best of times. Hopefully a host would only serve these at a sit-down affair. Don’t turn your fork over in the right hand, keep it in the left and push the peas onto the tines. Or, use some of the other food as ‘glue’ (mashed potato is excellent for this)

- Whilst the men traditionally will cook the meat and often taken all of the credit, don’t forget to thank the ladies or those who prepared the salad, vegetables or puddings!


William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner 

Picnic in style at Royal Ascot

Whilst the last few days have seen us enjoying some early summer warmth and sunshine, our thoughts will be turning to the Season and the annual Royal Ascot Meeting in June.

For those who will arrive at the Racecourse by car and want to follow the traditions of this world famous fixture, a picnic, preferably in Number 1 car park, is a must!  But what to eat, let alone what to wear?

There is something very special about a picnic, although in this country the weather can put a serious dampener on the spirits.  Not many of us are lucky enough to have a Butler who will lay everything out, prepared by Cook in advance, but there is much one can do to tailor this to location, guests and budget.

I always advocate keeping it stylish but simple, and they key is always good organisation.  Prepare as much as possible in advance and look for the varied accessories to make the day – both stylish and practical.  John Lewis have some fabulous ideas, as do The White Company and Ikea.

The great thing about a picnic is the informality they impart.  Picnics were the first ‘rule-free’ meals remembered by generations of children.  A relief from constraint, but not entirely free from the essentials of table manners.

Whatever your budget, make sure your guests have plenty to eat and drink, but ensure what you have on offer is easy to eat too.  The last thing one wants to worry about with a pretty silk dress and floaty hat is drips of mayonnaise or squirting peach juice!

A rather nice summer menu could comprise of seasonal asparagus (just coming to the end but should still be nice in mid June) steamed and served at room temperature with a softly boiled shelled egg (quails eggs work too but are a nuisance to shell), snipped garden chives and a drizzle of vinaigrette, with shavings of good English cheese such as Caerphilly or Cheshire.  Serve with good unsalted butter and fabulous bread and you have a wonderful first course. An alternative might be roasted peaches or nectarines (easy to do in the oven with a little water and a dot of butter and sugar), served with slices of top quality prosciutto and slivers of creamy goats cheese.

For main course, you cannot beat a rare cold fillet of beef with horseradish mayonnaise, and a new potato red onion and flat leafed parsley salad, served with rocket leaves, pea shoots and seasonal lettuce.  For the vegetarian, perhaps a good frittata.

Try your hand at a vanilla pannacotta made with greek yoghurt, served with the freshest of English strawberries in individual moulds, or perhaps a timeless favourite, a flourless rich chocolate cake with crème fraiche or clotted cream.  All easy to transport, and serve – essential if you do not have a bank of staff to help you!

Ensure some lovely crisp napkins, tablecloths and comfortable cushions on folding chairs and tables, with perhaps a Bellini made with fresh peach puree and a good Prosecco to set the scene and you have the makings of a perfect day!

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner



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