Saturday, 22 May 2010

How was the Waitrose party?

Last Thursday night Waitrose held a summer party at RIBA in central London. Getting invited to stuff like this is one of the perks of being a food blogger. Despite a guest list of 300, it's doubtful that anyone will blog this. But hey, every lig deserves to be recorded doesn't it?
The whole place was filled with suits or 'partners'. Suits have a certain effect on me, my behaviour gets worse in inverse proportion to how posh the event is. I get very drunk and very loud. I could have sucked up to the foodie c list like this year's Masterchef finalists who attended (and fair enough in the absence of Delia and Heston they were the nearest to slebs) but having siphoned four cocktails (rhubarb Bellini and vodka & passion fruit) simultaneously from the tray holder standing at the entrance, I don't rightly recall their presence.
The canapes, a Siamese twinning of food styles, were part Delia, part Heston: surburban dinner party fare or cutting edge experimentation. For instance we had Delia's asparagus spears with little cheffy hats served in shot glasses filled with a lemony buttery sauce. It was hard to jam my tongue down the bottom of the shot glass though. I can't bear waste. On the other hand we were given...slugs on a spoon. I kid you not. White porcelain spoons (sick to death of pretentious spoon presentation) with little black bodies on them, snails without shells.
Another weirdy thing about the whole evening is that they were quite parsimonious with the food at first. Caterers normally calculate eight canapés per guest. Frankly I can eat eight just to accompany my first drink. This all leads to a terrible condition, which I've written about before, called 'canape stress' whereby you spend the whole party in a state of anxiety, no doubt a throwback to hunter-gatherer times when famine was a regular problem. You suddenly find yourself cravenly becoming smiley new best friends with the waiters and waitresses, in case they might swerve around you with the tray, insufficiently taking on board your need for a constant supply of substances that occupy your mouth. Freudians! I think I must be stuck in the oral phase. As are all foodies I suppose.
(To be honest I'd rather eat than have sex. Not at first of course, when the oxytocin is pumping and an insanity called being 'in love' reigns for six months. But afterwards.)
I'm not sure what the Waitrose party was about: what were they trying to say? One suit said to me:
"We want you to love us".
"But I do love you"
"Then love us more"
he said slurpily. I guess he was drunk too.
And that's the thing: everybody loves Waitrose don't they? Part of the John Lewis Partnership, which my mother positively reveres, they tick all the boxes: luxury food, dependable quality, innovative ingredients....and they are practically communists!
Every employee is a share holder. The success of the company is down to the workers, it's a cooperative. The original John Lewis was born in Shepton Mallet. If he'd been alive today he probably would have been rocking out at Glasto! He worked his way up from the shop floor and maybe that's why he realised that the best way of running a business is to involve everybody. Despite being around for over 100 years, the John Lewis cooperative business model is the future.
Still, having inadvertently become a kind of event planner with The Underground Restaurant, I find myself perusing all parties with a semi-professional critical eye nowadays.
The opera singer, though charming, beautiful and talented, singing a bit of opera, a bit of Subo and a strange operatic version of an Elvis song, was just wrong. Why? Well you felt like you had to stop and listen, interrupting the important work of drinking, eating and networking. And what were Waitrose trying to prove by hiring her? We already know they are posh and classy. Much better to have something backgroundy or raucous (such as a kletzmer or gypsy band) so that you don't feel, as a guest, like you are crushing the fragile musical hopes of a young girl while you greedily attempt to carouse.
Also onstage was a acrobatic woman wearing a skin tight leopard skin all in one outfit. A photographer from the Daily Mail lurched over to me while she was on, sighing
"I'd love to be gripped by her thighs".
Then everybody left apart from a couple of farmers who looked like a different species, tanned, fit, stuffed into posh suits and floral ties, from all of us pale townies. One supplied a product called 'Steve's Leaves" consisting of red rocket, very spicy rocket, and something else. Why didn't Waitrose have a table with invited suppliers products displayed?
Once most people had left, trays and trays of canapes arrived; tea smoked salmon on dry crispbreads (boring and couldn't taste the tea) mixed with salted caramel lolly pops and white chocolate coated pretzel sticks (good) and scallops in spoons (the soy sauce overwhelmed the delicate scallops).
Yes I'm reviewing canapés here. I'll review anything given time.
But I did wonder, where were you lot when everybody was here?
Downstairs many female 'partners' were leaving with armfuls of tall white flowers.
"Where did you get those from?" I asked.
"In that room" one said pointing "we don't want them to be wasted"
On the way home in the tube, blooms sweetly scenting the sweaty carriage, commuters smiled at me, one asked if they could help control the unwieldy bouquet, another struck up conversation, I realised that flowers really do make people happy. Perhaps London Transport should try a little aromatherapy at rush hour?


  1. No mention I note of the charming blogger & fashionisto you spent much of the evening gossiping, bitching and dissecting other guests' outfits with. Pah!

    Loved meeting you at said party, it was the highlight of my evening. You'll be delighted to know I'm sure that Heston's vanilla mayonnaise does not stain silk McQueen scarves...


  2. Meeting you was the highlight for me too, but I'm afraid you hit the cutting room floor!
    Was that scarf made of silk?
    I scraped a bunch of food off my left bosom I seem to remember.
    I forgot to twitpic your silver shoes...xx

  3. I don't normally read something so long without pictures, but I loved this! You made me wish I was there, misbehaving along side you. Thanks!

  4. That was wonderful. I felt like I was there!

  5. I think I was going to say something about canapes, then I got distracted by cake.

    Nice post though!

  6. Thanks Jane, I just whipped this off for Catalan cooking who was supposed to come but was PRed out for that week.
    F&T:I am very interested in canapes, much more so than cake.

  7. Usually I'd be more interested in canapes - I prefer savoury to sweet. But this was an amaretti and chocolate cake that my flatmate made for my birthday!

  8. I had to say no to this as we'd already booked our long weekend in Dorset... looks like a reasonably fun night was had?

    I couldn't work out for the life of me the point of the do, though. Just generic Waitrose love, by the sounds of it!

  9. Kavey: I really didn't have time to go but I felt that turning down an invitation from Waitrose was like turning down an invitation from the queen... unthinkable!

  10. I didn't go, but from what I heard it seemed like everyone was booted out quite roughly come curfew...

    I really enjoyed your write-up.

  11. ooh how sad am I now that I was on holiday during this particular par-tay?


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