13 AUGUST 1994, Page 36



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Lake's lunch


IN COMPETITION NO. 1842 you were invited to describe, as one of the guests, a lunch party given by a person called Lake, which proves to be socially and gastronom- ically disastrous.

One of you asked me why I chose the name of Lake as the horrible host, so I put a spade into my subconscious, with this result. Last month I was given an excep- tionally pleasant lunch in Oxford by a friend called Loake. Nearly 50 years ago, in the same city, I maliciously planned a lunch in my 'digs' (the landlord, who was to be one guest, was a Mr Squelch) to which half a dozen utterly incompatible people were to be invited, to be faced by some revolting food and drink and an apologetic note from myself, regretting that I was unable to be there and entreating them to enjoy themselves in my absence. While this social and gastronomic disaster took place, my intention was to hide in a cupboard and enjoy the embarrassment as an ecouteur, if not a voyeur. I drew up a guest list and practised crouching in the cupboard, but in the end my nerve failed me. Does that answer your question, Dr Freud?

The prizewinners, printed below, get £25 each, and the bonus bottle of Isle of Jura Single Malt Scotch whisky goes, in a photo finish, to Mike Morrison.

Araminta Lake's alfresco lunch parties are so de trop nowadays. Now, I'm all for social eclecti- cism, but to mix baron with bartender, cabinet- maker with Cabinet minister, is rather overdoing things. Not to mention the de rigueur troupette of silvering luvvies, the recycled 1960s bass gui-

tarist and the half-remembered toupee-topped magician.

I tremble to describe the fare. Ms Lake trilled out the names of the removes: whitebait in mar- malade fondue and an hors d'oeuvre which, according to the purpling bishop seated on my left, contained real horse. 'Arlde without the sparkle,' he quipped urbanely. I passed on the hedgehog pizza, likewise the Manx kipper soufflé.

Lunch over, compulsory games. Nobody understood the Byzantine rules governing Dukes and Dykes'; and when dear Araminta gleefully announced a blind tasting of fruit- flavoured pessaries, guests demurred and went scuttling severally in search of their Daihatsus, Discoverys and Daimlers. (Mike Morrison) Was it the heat? Partly. The life-size ice sculp- ture of Lake — and compared to him Robert Maxwell looked svelte and sylph-like — melted in minutes, flooding the prawn meringues. Guests wilted: I saw a major-general sagging on to the shining shoulders of a Covent Garden hairdresser, both oily as Lake's langoustine lasagne. Lake may like mixing his friends, but this was an emulsion. Military wives have little conversational overlap with a Doc-Martened les- bian rock band, but they tried, bless them, slog- ging through the social niceties like sumo wrestlers. The ambassador's wife kept muttering about the Beverley Sisters before she lost her teeth in a squid vol-au-vent. I'd warned Lake Mrs Fryer uses mortar-mix, but you know his penchant for patisserie. Luckily the local Scouts built a cairn from the worst — over a recumbent archbishop, unfortunately.

Oysters are always chancy devils; I'll be out in a few days, (D.A. Prince) It was Rose who persuaded me to attend that fool Lake's waterside luncheon: the Collis- Brownes would be there, she said. We began with a sort of gazpacho which creamed and man- tled like a standing pond. My wife asked what it was. 'A moat point!' he wittily replied. Next, smoked salmon: 'Lochs,' he joked. I pass over the duck (done to a tam!) and the ghastly `Special Reservoir' he served with it. Collis- Brown asked about Lake's trip to Canada unwisely, as his host considered himself one of the Great Lakes, and gushed accordingly.

Dessert was an overwrought confection, chiefly ice-cream. 'A mere trifle!' cried the wag. Unfortunately it reminded Mrs Collis-Browne of the celebrated American chain. She groped for the name.

'Masters and Johnson?' ventured my wife.

Result: a crimson Lake. And when I endeav- oured to explain her mistake as we beat a retreat, it only made Rose madder.

(Martin Woodhead) As so often with Bunny Lake, the trouble began with an act of kindness on his part. Instead of leaving his Aunt Laetitia to pickle all summer in her own Malmesbury vinegar, he invited her to lunch. Even inert she dominated the table, much as a recently unearthed landmine would have done in her place. And when she was activated, the effect was explosive.

Connie Pouncet has just done a flute volun- tary on the wonderful creaminess of the celery soup. 'And isn't it amazing', added Aunt Laetitia in a cracked parody of Connie's swoopings, 'that it tastes so remarkably like hyenas' semen?'

It might all have ended there in titters if some- one down the table hadn't murmured, not quite quietly enough, 'How does she know?'

Aunt Laetitia's reply was very detailed. One by one around the table soup spoons were laid to rest. The lunch never recovered.

(W.J. Webster)