Among the more civilised and talented of senior journalists is Jeremy Langmead, editor of the resurgent British Esquire. His love of white, cleanliness, clean lines, no clutter – does he, I wonder, stalk his offices in pink Marigolds? – holds a certain fascination for it suggests a little eccentricity tacked to the talent: you can never be too eccentric in my brain and there’s not nearly enough of it – eccentricity, that is.
But in an interview yesterday, in the glam-loving Indy, there was this passage: “When Esquire spread word of its new higher-brow era, by hosting a party for key contacts, Langmead sent out an email to staff telling them they weren't to eat any of the food. Things aren't so bad at the National Magazine Company that the grub had to be rationed, Langmead had other concerns. ‘If you're entertaining [on behalf of the] magazine and you have an advertising client or a writer coming up to you and you have a huge prawn canapé sticking out of your mouth it's not a good look is it, – you know, excuse me, hang on – so I just think: No food in public.'"
This is very odd indeed and I would ask him to think again. An integral part of effective socialising is the ritualised sharing of an experience - and eating and drinking at parties are staples of this activity. The Queen is perfectly capable of nibbling at canapés while making enquiries into your excuses for living; and, for people of a certain class, seasons are dedicated to the joys of synchronised mastication in stylish settings. Friendly sentiments usually flow from such congress. Business empires may collude successfully in price-fixing after something as trifling as a heartily shared breakfast of grapefruit and runny egg-yoked toast to the hotel strains of Michael Bublé.
So, I’m at a loss to understand Mr Langmead. Is it, perhaps, that, though he edits an upmarket magazine, he does not trust his staff to handle finger food inconspicuously while engaged in business-driven badinage? A clue lies in that “huge prawn canapé sticking out of your mouth” statement of his. Is it that his staff do not know how to consume a huge prawn adroitly while talking?
If, so, I should advise him at job interview stage to place an important hurdle before candidates. After asking them which university they attended, whether they are related to anyone famous and (indirectly) who they like to cock or cunt, they should then be presented with a big steaming dead prawn on a silver plate and invited to eat it while continuing to answer quasi-legal questions about ancestor worship. Those who allowed prawn shell to accrete around the mouth, or permitted spindly pink prawn legs to plummet (alliteration!) to the floor, would be plainly unsuitable.
For you see, I can’t think of anything more off-putting than eating at a party while my hosts stand about glaring at me hungrily and voyeuristically. It seems faintly creepy, like guzzling in front of a TV while images of starving kids devour you, and in such a situation I should surely make my excuses after a few minutes and depart.
Listen to Madame Arcati, Jeremy. Prawns are the way.