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Presenter and author Mel Giedroyc casts her mind back to a glorious Cornish get-together
Going somewhere fancy to eat is lovely if you’re being taken out, but otherwise I don’t like anywhere too grand. We like to cook for other people and we like our local joints – we live on the outskirts of west London and have lots of good places nearby in Wembley and Southall, especially handy if we fancy a curry. I would go so far as to say I have a bit of a fear of ridiculously expensive, uber-pretentious restaurants.
I’ve even taken a bit of a pop at them in my new book; two of the characters go to the most expensive, posey restaurant, where there’s a year-long waiting list, the menu costs £895 – and the starter is a stone, but everyone is loving it, photographing it and Instagramming it… so simple is my preferred way. A few years ago, we went camping with a load of mates in Cornwall, near Penzance. We have all been friends a long time and our kids have all grown up together – those are the best kind of holidays, where there is a good mixture of ages.
One day we decided to have a big meal together down on the beach. It was quite tricky to get to, and we all had to carry one part of our moveable feast – sausages, glasses, barbecue, burgers, big bowls of salad, loads of beer and wine. You can’t go too fancy-schmancy with camping food. There must have been 20 of us, everyone with their own little job to do, and it all came together. Eating in the fresh air is gorgeous, and in Britain it is extra special because it is never a given that the weather will be on your side.
It helps, too, if people know what they are doing with food. Our friend James is a great cook and the king of spatchcock – give him an outdoor setting and a chicken, and he is in his element. He’d been off on his bike to find the best bird he possibly could and then marinated it in something delicious before putting it over the coals. He gets very territorial cooking over fire – I think men do that. And another mate Simon used to manage restaurants in his youth and is also an amazing cook. He made us the best salads, and then put together these things that I think are called ‘dumpers’. Basically it is a Twix on a stick, wrapped in dough and roasted on the fire. Special!
We had another beach treat that I am pretty sure Mary Berry told me about. You scoop out oranges, so you are left with a globe with a hole in the top, which you fill with an orange sponge. Before the picnic we had managed to commandeer a friend-of-afriend’s cottage to make the sponge, ready to fill the orange skins.
Down on the beach, we baked them in the barbecue fire and they were lovely. They took blooming forever, mind you. But worth it. It was the end of August and a very hot day. I have loads of photos of the occasion; everyone is roaring with laughter, everyone has a glass in their hand. My brother-in-law gets very talkative when he has had a couple of beers, so there was a lot of chat from him – a very tall guy on a tiny camping stool.
There was a lot of storytelling, a lot of reminiscing and fairly relentless, goodnatured teasing. Most of the day, it was just us out there having a wonderful time, and then some magic happened. The sky turned an extraordinary, blazing pink-orange and we sat and watched a sublime sunset together. When you have wonderful weather, in a special place with lovely company, it can’t help but stay with you.
The sun went down quickly, so then there was all the comedy of trying to get back to the campsite in the pitch black. Had I had a Bacardi and Diet Coke by then? Not sure.
One half of the presenting duo Mel and Sue, Mel Giedroyc has written two non-fiction books; her new novel, The Best Things, is out now (Headline, £12.99)