In the orange placeholder image that sits proudly atop this blog you will notice some choice words, most of which are singular descriptions relating to the MICE industry. Among them is the word ‘canapés’. During a trip to the pub with my friends over the weekend, one plucked up the courage to ask me why on earth canapés were ‘a thing’ with me.
Believing that others may want to know more about this particular bone of contention, I shall explain.
With the greatest of respect to those who make them, I do not enjoy canapés. More specifically, I do not enjoy the associated complications that they bring to the fore.
Firstly, and most trivially, there is a matter of hygiene. A plate of salmon and squid ink pastry cups on a tray may look lovely, but how do I know that the guy who has been picking his nose all evening hasn’t manhandled the unfortunate delicacy that I end up choosing?
Unless the tray is fresh, or a UV light is provided to aid inspection, I will be deeply suspicious.
Next, we have the rather grave issue of size. To my mind, the purpose of food is to sustain oneself. You eat to stay alive. If it tastes good, then great – it’s a bonus. In order to be properly fortified, your meal portion has to be of a certain size. A Big Mac and chips, for example, is ample and will fill you up nicely. A square centimetre of fois gras on a herb cracker and garnished with a lemon jus will do no such thing. You will still be hungry afterwards, so what’s the point?
However, the biggest issue I have with canapés is the sheer complexity of them and how they have the ability to completely destroy your ‘moment’.
Picture the scene: you’re at a networking event and, after weeks of trying to get hold of Mr. Business, you finally catch him next to the ice sculpture of the swan. The rapport is instant, the conversation is flowing, and a new relationship is in bloom. Mr. Business likes the cut of your jib, he likes your dynamism; all in all he likes what he sees: a smart, sharp networker. Cultured, intelligent, nonchalant.
Things are going well but then, emerging from the jungle of people and Prosecco, a shadowy figure in a waistcoat appears. Balanced perilously on their fingertips is a silver platter. You’ve already made eye contact and that, the waistcoat-wearer believes, is a way in. They approach you and Mr. Business, and without uttering a word, the tray is forced under your nose…
This is the problem. You have no idea what is in the tiny foods, and that is a cause for concern. What if you don’t like shark ear on egg white or goat eye on pigeon feathers? What if you’re allergic to nuts, are lactose intolerant, or just a child?
‘What is it,’ you ask. And right there, at the moment, you are socially dead. Mr. Business sees you for who you really are: a fraud. You’re not cultured or dynamic at all; how were you not able to tell that it was salmon and feta? The shame of it.
At this point the only thing you can do to save face is to eat one, after saying something like ‘of course! Mmm they’re lovely,’ as you pull an expression similar to that you’d make if you were eating dog muck.
Chowing down with reckless abandon, however, does cause an issue, especially if, like me, you hate salmon. In the most British way possible, you’re forced to say ‘oh no thank you, I ate before I came.’ This is utter folly. First of all, you must now go through the entire evening hungry purely to validate the lie, and secondly the tiny canapé was easily manageable owing to its minute size, so you also look mad.
At this point Mr. Business will walk away. To him, you are an uncultured Neanderthal. The networking is over.
Why do they all have to be so mad and pretentious? Whatever happened to the staples of such occasions? If the waiter had turned up with a tray of sausage rolls or cheese and pineapple on sticks, you wouldn’t have batted an eyelid.
If you wanted to impress Mr. Business, then when the scotch eggs turned up a shared insulting of the food would have been a great way to connect and build a relationship.
Like weather, rubbish food is a great way of bonding and building relationships. It has served the British well for hundreds of years. Misery loves company after all and we all find it easier to connect when we’re moaning. Going in hard and saying how amazing something is will have you marked as a ghastly sycophant immediately.
‘My god, they haven’t gone to much trouble for us, have they? Economy cheddar and pineapple chunks on a stick? What is this, a six-year-olds’ birthday party?’
You can’t do this when each canapé costs £1m and comes from an animal you thought only existed in Narnia.
I admit, trying to locate a caterer who would willingly make bad food just so stereotypical British joshing can be drawn upon to foster new relations is a bit of a tall order, but the paradox is that it would be quite easy and cheap to do.
I haven’t compared the cost of caviar with tinned pineapples, but I’m sure the difference is staggering.
My problem with canapés, then, is that good ones ruin your chances of creating a false impression.