Remember that scene from 'Curb your enthusiasm' where comedian Larry David is at a party hosted by Ben Stiller and he picks up a snack that's on a skewer, and manages to eat it, but then doesn't know what the hell to do with the damn thing afterwards? So he carries it around the party the whole night and right at the end it winds up in Ben the birthday boy's eye.
I identified with that, being fairly adept myself at the art of the social faux pas. And also because my pet hate is snacks that come on skewers. I never know whether to deep throat them, gnaw the (usually tough) meat off the skewer like a dog dealing with a bone, or try to find somewhere to put them down. The skewers always seem to end up in ashtrays along with the olive pips, or back in the snack tray.
The ideal party snack is a one-bite thing, which you can pick up with your finger without bits falling off, and which involves no debris. It should be tasty, salty enough to satisfy, involve minimal chewing, and be consumed in one swift and graceful move that leaves nothing behind in your teeth.
It shouldn't interrupt conversation. You should, in other words, be able to correctly identify the snack, introduce yourself to someone, pick it up, consume it and then continue talking after they've told you their name. If more party snacks fitted that profile, we'd have fewer hungover casualties waking up after events saying "I wish I'd eaten more."
sushi. It's bite-sized. It's tasty. But it has invariably lost it's fishy sheen after being arranged on platters an hour before the first guests arrive and two hours after the rest rock up. It also tends to get blamed for "food poisoning" the next day, which is why it's never served at staff functions.
Some things should work, but don't, like
Likewise oysters, although the Loeries party people pulled that off at Charley's Bakery by serving them freshly shucked on ice beds surrounding a gorgeous reclining model dressed up as a mermaid.
Click here to see the awesome Loerie awards gallery on Channel24.co.za!
Other things go well with dip, but are the wrong size. There's nothing more annoying than dipping celery in some mayonaise, and then realising you have no idea what you're supposed to do with the rest of the celery. You can't dip it again, can you? Or can you? And what if you have a disease? What if other people have diseases and they've been double-dipping and even though you only dipped once, now you have one too? Maybe you may as well just dip again? It's just confusing.
Snacks should also be identifiable to most of the guests. When I was a kid, my brother and I accompanied my father to one of his rich clients' houses to a party in a marquee. It was very exciting because they had a big house with a pool, and there was so much food, my little brother and I went nuts at the buffet. We were having a great time. At some point, one of us spotted a pile of pancakes with jam next to them. It looked like berry jam. So we each filled a few pancakes full of jam – pretty much all of it when into our pancakes, and we sat down on the floor to eat them.
The first bite brought anticipation, then disbelief, as we instinctively both spat our food back onto our plates and screamed "Yuk!" I adore caviar now. But it's not suitable for children's parties. And I hate the way those little fish nugget things look exactly like chicken nuggets. By the time you start chewing, there's no way back unless you can find a serviette and somewhere to hide the evidence.
And I think that's why it's ultimately the humble chip and dip that wins the prize. Open a packet, stick in a bowl, and let people feed themselves... provided the chips are strong enough to pick up the dip – because there's nothing less appetising than bits of Willards left behind in a bowl of liver pate – except perhaps a bloody skewer sticking out of your host's eye.
What's your favourite party snack?