Q. Some rather flashy new neighbours of ours — I won’t mention their names as his will be familiar to a lot of your readers — asked my wife and me to lunch last week in their new barn as a dummy run for the cook they’ve employed for the shooting season. They were very enthusiastic about her cooking, but the steak and kidney pie was served with a perfect circle of puff pastry beside the meat on our plates. We agreed once back in the car and alone again that this was not the form, as a proper shoot lunch would have had it all cooked together. Were we mean not to mention it to them?
— Name and address withheld
A. You should bear in mind that this deviation from the traditional (and more tasty) norm may be linked to the preponderance of imaginary food intolerances. Those who believe they are allergic to wheat might resent being served a dish with the pastry unavoidable. Meanwhile, old-school guns tend not to be poncey about their diets and will always prefer the traditional presentation — pastry lid on and with sogginess integral, mashed potatoes and peas. Flashy or not, your duty was to give your neighbours helpful advice. It would have been correct to praise — if it was good — the dish you ate and then blink blandly while you pleasantly enquired whether she would also offer an ‘old-school version for old-school guns’. They would have been grateful for the subtlety of this signalling.
Q. I find eating my children’s leftovers at teatime simply irresistible. One, because I am hungry myself at around that time of day. Two, because I have been brought up not to waste food. I can’t get the quantities right.