Mark Palmer

In defence of dinner parties

My wife prefers restaurants. She’s wrong

In or out? Almost two months on and I’m afraid the great debate shows no sign of abating, certainly not in our divided household. And while we’ve had several referendums over the matter, the result is always a stalemate.

The only upside is that this argument has nothing to do with Brussels. It’s far more rudimentary.

The battle in Palmer Towers is whether we eat in or out when wanting to see friends. My wife Joanna — who, as it happens, was for In over the country’s EU membership — is a firm outer, while I, who voted Out on 23 June, am a determined inner.

As with the EU conundrum, there are good points to be made on both sides. Joanna thinks that conversation is more focused when seated at a restaurant table, ideally one that is round rather than rectangular. She particularly insists on eating out whenever our children agree to meet up with us, but the problem is that we have four twenty-something offspring between us — and if they all bring boyfriends, girlfriends or, in one case, a wife, I can expect to pick up the bill for ten hungry people.

Joanna also likes the idea of there being a finite period for any get-together, especially when it involves people whom we need to see rather than ones we expressly wish to see. While ‘Can I get the bill, please?’ is for me a phrase full of foreboding, for her it spells liberation. It means she’ll be home and tucked up in bed within the hour.

I am an ‘inner’ primarily because it means we can drink wines of far better calibre than anything I can afford in a posh restaurant. At our local Italian, even the cheapest white — an indifferent pinot grigio with a silly label — is £21.50.

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