How to eat ‘glamapés’ – and other Christmas party etiquette rules

Canapés are tricky terrain – however glamorous they sound - Angelika Mostova

Would you like a glamapé? Oh, don’t you know what that is? It’s a “glamorous canapé”, a portmanteau coined by Dame Joan Collins, who’s teamed up with Marks & Spencer this Christmas to offer her party tips. (Who hasn’t? What does one have to do to land a lucrative M&S contract for the party season? I would happily slap on some fuchsia lipstick and large dangly earrings if that helped?)

In a video Dame Joan popped on her Instagram profile, she says her “absolutely favourite” glamapé this year is the M&S Collection Mini Buttermilk Chicken Slider, which, on investigation, turns out to be a piece of breaded chicken in a burger roll, slathered in aioli. Dame Joan, I say this with all due respect, but might those dangly earrings have affected your brain? A mini chicken burger is a terrible glamapé, because you’d take one bite and garlicky aioli would spurt from the other side, either falling on your sparkly frock or sliding to the carpet, and you’d smell like a vampire slayer afterwards.

But then canapés, sorry, glamapés, are tricky terrain at this time of year. We’re talking the likes of pigs-in-blankets, stilton tartlets, baked camembert, soft-boiled quail eggs, salmon blinis and so on. Lovely, ostensibly. What’s not to like? Dive in. Except, careful! Because you’ll burn your mouth, drizzle camembert down your shirt, breathe cheesily over other guests, accidentally spit a little globule of bacon on whoever you’re talking to and probably overdo it on the prosecco.

The bacon thing happened to me once. I didn’t spit the little speck of bacon; he did. It landed on my bare arm (that’ll teach me to wear a sleeveless dress to a Christmas party), and if he’d noticed, he was too embarrassed to say anything, and I didn’t want to make him feel bad by wiping it away as if I was revolted. So we stood there, continuing to discuss the pros and cons of Midnight Mass, while the small piece of bacon slid its way down my arm in the manner of a tiny snail.

'Eating isn't impolite; much better to munch and be merry than to be famished and forlorn,' says Money-Coutts
'Eating isn't impolite; much better to munch and be merry than to be famished and forlorn,' says Money-Coutts - Andrew Crowley

Word of warning: Asian glamapés are apparently going to be big this year, according to the food buyers at various supermarkets. Sausage rolls and devilled eggs are out and sales of bao buns, sushi and gyoza have risen by a third. Now, I love a bao bun, as I do sushi and gyoza. But everything has its rightful place, and imagine this scenario at a Christmas party: there you are in your fancy outfit, talking to your partner’s boss. Suddenly a waiter appears with a steaming tray of pork gyozas. You haven’t eaten much all day because you wanted to fit into your outfit, and also because Christmas parties tend to be at that annoying time when you’d normally be fixing dinner.

By this point, you’re also a couple of glasses down. Mmm, the gyozas do smell delicious, and your partner’s boss reaches for one, so you think, “Why not? What’s the worst that can happen?” You take one and bite into it (how are we supposed to eat these, by the way? With our fingers? Will chopsticks be provided?), only for a boiling jet of porky water to squirt straight into your partner’s boss’s eye. I’m not saying this will happen to you, but it’s definitely the sort of thing that would happen to me. “Hello, 999? Yes, ambulance please. There’s been an incident with a pork snack.”

To avoid such drama and even perhaps enjoy yourself, there are a few party rules I would suggest following over the next few weeks. Consider eating something beforehand if you’re going to a party where the glamapés may be thin on the ground, or if you’re off to Dame Joan’s house, where she’s dishing out those chicken sliders. My housemistress at school used to trill that we should all have a glass of milk before going to a party – “line your stomachs, girls!” – and I don’t necessarily mean milk, but maybe a quick slice of toast so you don’t fall on the first tray of sausages you see like a hyena after a long winter.

Take an extra layer, because it might be chilly at other people’s houses this winter, depending on their attitude to the thermostat. And think about your feet in advance, because they may have a shoes-off rule (would your toes make a small child cry, or be mistaken for a pig-in-blanket?). If you want a glamapé when it’s offered, take one from the tray even if whoever you’re talking to doesn’t. Eating isn’t impolite, and it’s much jollier to eat and be merry than remain hungry and glum, forlornly watching the waiter retreat with his tray as if you’re witnessing the last lifeboat off the Titanic.

I tell you what can be impolite, and that’s getting your phone out to illustrate an anecdote with a YouTube video or a meme and surreptitiously checking your messages or emails before slipping the phone back into your pocket. You’re not the prime minister; you must be able to go 20 or 30 minutes at a social event without checking your phone. Unless you are the prime minister (hello, Rishi. What lovely feet you have!) – in which case, you’re allowed to make your apologies and slip away.

And if you can’t think of an excuse to get away, you could always deploy a useful line that someone once used on me. “Shall we mingle?” this lady suggested at a Christmas party some years ago, after we’d been talking for 10 minutes or so. Perhaps I was being particularly dull, but I’ve always remembered it as an elegant way of acknowledging that we’d spoken for long enough and should move on. Alternatively, it’s a kinder way of escaping and running to the bathroom if they’ve just spat a small piece of bacon on your arm. “Shall we mingle?” is much better than “Say it, don’t spray it!” We’ve all been there, after all.

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