I’ve always been dubious about food in disguise. A whole poached salmon with overlapping scales of sliced cucumber and a reproachful stuffed olive for an eye is more taxidermy than dinner. And a plump brown mound of chicken liver pate dressed up to look like a Christmas pudding with a sprig of holly on top is plain bad taste. But when my friend Chrissie published a book about knitting I took a deep breath and threw her a dinner party with wool-themed recipes. I died spaghetti with blue food colouring and, even worse, served balls of mozzarella speared with pairs of knitting-needle bread sticks. So I’m not completely immune to the temptations of food in fancy dress.
My new butter dish, impersonating a character from a Georgette Heyer novel, has softened me up just a little bit more for food in drag. And, as of yesterday, I’m a reluctant devotee. Egg Dressed As Mouse did the trick. I took my daughter and my oldest friend Ali out for a posh lunch at Raymond Blanc’s Oxfordshire restaurant Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons. As soon as we sat down, Ali and I were treated to delicate teacups of frothy wild garlic soup. But my 11 year old daughter was presented with a mouse. Egg Dressed As Mouse. And she was completely and utterly charmed by its chive tail, its cheeky almond ears, its mayonnaise coat and its poppy seed eyes. From now on, EDAM isn’t a questionable Dutch cheese in our house, but an acronym for a perky little hors d’oeuvre.
I’ve just been flicking through a photo album from my undergraduate days. I couldn’t find any food in disguise — just me. There I was, at a Hollywood-themed fancy dress party, wearing a giant cardboard box with my head and feet sticking out top and bottom. Since all the other women there were cutting a dash as Marilyn, Greta or Judy, why did I think it was a good idea to go as one of the Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with String from The Sound of Music? I have absolutely no idea.