Christmas comes but once a year... and when it does, the consumer electronics companies take it upon themselves to torture the tech press with champagne and canapés. Now, you might think there are worse things than spending your evenings sipping cocktails in upmarket bars -- and of course, you're absolutely right. I could have been sat at home last night, watching yet another repeat of CSI: Small Town in a Previously Unremarkable State, but instead I was pondering the nature of canapés -- because after two weeks of hors d'oeuvres, you do find yourself obsessing about these small morsels that are almost, but not quite, entirely unlike actual food. And thus I spent the journey home drawing up the Rules of Canapés:
Rule 1: Small food is good
Miniature burgers, micro hotdogs and tiny servings of fish and chips in newspaper cones all come impressively close to being actual food. You can tell what they are, which is good, and you feel like you've eaten something afterwards, which is better.
Rule 2: Unidentifiable gloop on circles of bread is bad
For starters, anything involving bread is basically a sandwich, and you probably had a sandwich at lunchtime, so a second helping is hardly likely to get you in the party mood. Second, whether the stuff on top is beige or pink or green, it's invariably nasty. Avoid.
Rule 3: Unidentifiable flesh on a stick is chicken
Being a vegetarian (or more accurately, a vegeaquarium, because I do eat fish) can make parties difficult. You can eat the cherry tomato canapés (see Rule 4, below), but they won't fill you up. This means you'll still be hungry when the tray of unidentifiable white flesh on sticks comes round, and you'll want it to be fish. In a semi-darkened room, you may even convince yourself it is fish. Sadly, it will always be chicken. Always. And the room will never be dark enough for you to dispose of it in a pot plant without anyone noticing.
Rule 4: Cherry tomatoes have no nutritional value
If you've avoided the gloop on bread and the flesh on sticks, you'll be left with the cherry tomato canapés. These come in various forms, including raw on sticks, cooked on sticks, cooked in miniature pies, stuffed, flattened and skewered. It's possible they contain vitamins or minerals or some such healthy nonsense, but they do not count as actual food. In combination with alcohol, they may in fact function as negative food, since the more cherry tomato canapés you eat, the more you'll want to go home and have proper meal.
Rule 5: Chocolate can be your salvation
Sweet canapés are usually a mistake, but I have fond memories of the party that ended with kebabs made from three small chocolates melted on to a stick. It's possible, though, that the warm feelings relate not so much to the canapés, but to the way the evening segued smoothly from chocolate on a stick to a taxi home. Christmas parties are a lot of fun, but they do make you appreciate the special pleasures of a square meal and an evening on your sofa.