Cookout culinary delights

There is a song from the Disney film Alice in Wonderland that begins with “I give myself very good advice but I very seldom follow it.” Frankly I think that’s going to be my epitaph. Take for example the New Year’s resolutions that we all set ourselves. I was determined to continue on my quest for fitness supremacy – everything in moderation etc… – and then the Cayman Cookout came along. I advised myself not to indulge and to be quiet and demure. The best laid plans…

I was hosting the wine auction on the Thursday night, which meant mingling at the cocktail party beforehand. I figured I would pace myself because there’s nothing better than the host getting up and demonstrating the ill-effects of too many fermented grapes on the human system. Anthony Bourdain was wandering around, and at one point I could have sworn he was winking at me but in the end I think it was just a mosquito in his eye. Hopefully he didn’t remember me as being the clumsy oaf who nearly stepped on his toddler at the beach function two years ago. It’s impossible to be graceful when walking on the sand. That would have been my court defence.

Luckily I didn’t have to run the auction, as what I know about wine could be stored in a Hobbit’s decanter. When you’re talking about the bottles that were on that list, my vague “It’s old and it’s tasty” probably wouldn’t really have cut the mustard (Grey Poupon that is.) A lady from Sotheby’s expertly teetering in six-inch heels had the honour of being the auctioneer. I bet she wouldn’t have trampled on M’sieur Bourdain’s daughter, even in those shoes. She was one of those effortlessly elegant types – they don’t walk; they glide.

The evening was a huge success, raising a great deal of money for the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman Culinary Scholarship. It was particularly interesting seeing the staff carrying the Magnums and Jeroboams from table to table. Could you imagine dropping such a thing? I don’t think “butterfingers” would cover it.

On the Friday night it was the Surf and Sandcastles event held on the Ritz-Carlton beach. Hold onto yourselves – I wore all white! That’s right! Not a stitch of black clothing! The top was so tight, I looked like I had been keenly bandaged, and not in a Herve Leger way – but thankfully there were high-top tables so I didn’t have to risk sitting down to test the strength of the stitching. The sand sculptures were something to behold, and many had theories of how they managed to keep them so pristine. The general agreement was that hairspray featured heavily. If it can keep sand together like that in a brisk wind it’s no wonder that women consider it a must-have in their beauty box.

Was the food delicious? Absolutely! Did I eat much of it? No I didn’t. For some reason I just wasn’t hungry, and so I socialized instead. Of course inevitably when the last lamb chop was put away and the final pork delicacy was consumed, I was suddenly starving. Beef patties here I come! It’s a miracle I didn’t need a shoehorn to extricate myself from my outfit after that little Hungry Tiger run. Typical isn’t it? Amazing cuisine all around me, yet I didn’t have an appetite until it was no longer there. Of course you simply cannot put a price on a late-night patty. Food of the gods my friends.

On the Sunday it was the Bon Vivant Champagne Brunch Cook-off. Two resident amateur chefs went head-to-head (and lobster tail-to-lobster tail) for the chance of winning an amazing prize. The judges were some of the best known names in the business, but the one who really stole the show was José Andrés – a famous Spanish chef with a personality that could barely be contained by the large ballroom. Now I say “famous” but I had honestly never heard of him. The only reason I ever watch any kind of food network or program is because my flatmate Lynne has hijacked the remote control. I tell you, you need to find this man on the dial somewhere. I have a very strong feeling that we were not privy to a rare display – he must be like this all the time, and if that’s the case, I suddenly feel all inspired – like that rat in Ratatouille. Before long I’ll be up to my neck in Paella.

So that was my weekend, less than two weeks after my New Year’s resolution began. I wasn’t as bad as I could have been (although I felt like the Tasmanian Devil at the dessert station on Sunday) but then I also could have been better. That being said, I remember when I was on a very restrictive diet a number of years ago and determined to stick to it, even on my birthday, I was eating Starkist tuna in brine with ketchup whilst everyone else dug into chicken wings, hamburgers and cake. Never again.

I’m still going to the gym on a regular basis, never fear, and this week I’m going to have to put in some serious effort. Why? Because by the time this column appears in the Observer I’ll be on a cruise with my mother in the Caribbean. The first stop is Grand Cayman. I can’t wait to see Stingray City!

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