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Sunday
Jun242012

Countdown to The Freedom Dinner: everyone welcome, including vegetarians

It's our long-awaited Freedom Dinner on Tuesday.

I say long-awaited because we've wanted to do something like this ever since our Revolt In Style dinner at the Savoy Hotel in London in 2007.

That event was rather easier to sell because it was an historic occasion. The introduction of the smoking ban in England was just six days away and people were keen to express their opposition and experience a final (?) opportunity to eat, drink and smoke in an enclosed public space. In the UK, at least.

According to the Telegraph, which ran a special feature (Huffing and puffing):

The event, titled 'Revolt in Style: A Freedom Dinner', was not unlike an urban version of a pro-hunting Countryside Alliance demonstration. It was an opportunity for an angry, articulate minority to have "a jolly" while putting across their political message ...

It was a room of smoke-filled rebellion. For it was both a last hurrah and a demonstration of disgust at legislation banning smoking in public buildings that comes into force on Sunday.

Principal guest speaker was broadcaster and journalist Andrew Neil who warned us in advance that because of his BBC contract he couldn't be political.

In fact, he gave an outstandingly libertarian speech that drew a standing ovation. The Telegraph reported:

"Never has so much human conduct been criminalised in this life," said the television presenter and former editor Andrew Neil, an enthusiastic cigar smoker. "We are being run by puritans who are determined to squeeze any fun out of life unless it is officially sanctioned," he added.

Writing in The Times, former Radio 4 Today editor Rod Liddle, who was a guest on the Forest table, declared:

Spent a wonderful valedictory evening chain-smoking at a bash organised by Forest on Monday night. There were some fine speeches - pugnacious and rabble-rousing from Anthony Worrall-Thompson; politically-loaded and sharp from Andrew Neill; counter-intuitive from the excellent Clare Fox.

There were film crews from a dozen countries including Russia, France, Germany, Greece and Japan. BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders was there too, filming for Newsnight.

The Freedom Dinner will be low-key by comparison because the event lacks that all important news angle or what Jeremy Vine, in his entertaining new book It's All News To Me, calls a "narrative".

Nevertheless around 150 guests are expected to join us at Boisdale of Canary Wharf and I am currently working on the table plan.

This is not as easy as you might think. Here are just a few of the requests/instructions we have received in the past few days:

"My hearing's not very good. I'd like to be on a table near the speakers."

"I trust you to put me with the party people."

"Can I sit next to ...?"

"If you put me on the same table as ... I'll kill you."

And so on.

Then there's the issue of food.

"My wife hates venison," said one guest, when asked.

"No risotto," pleaded another (a vegetarian).

The vegetarian issue has drawn several barbed comments. In answer to the question 'Are you a vegetarian?' we received the following replies:

"Christ no. Save a cow, eat a vegetarian."

"We eat only raw meat which has been cruelly slaughtered."

"My only dietary requirement is that I have a large appetite and that meat must comprise part of any meal I consume."

And finally:

"I am very concerned that you feel the need to check whether I am a vegetarian in advance of a Boisdale dinner. I didn’t think they were allowed through the door?!"

I am tempted to publish the menu in full because I know how much it will annoy some people. Then again, that would be a bit childish.

Oh, to hell with it. Here's a taste (I have omitted the wine, canapes and vegetarian options):

Pressed terrine of Dunkeld smoked salmon, eel & horseradish
Asparagus, quails eggs & salmon caviar

Whole roast Aberdeenshire dry aged
sirloin of beef
Béarnaise sauce & watercress
Served with nage of Spring vegetables & Jersey royal potatoes

Strawberries & cream
Kentish Strawberries with Sauternes Chantilly

Coffee & petit fours

Finally, I won't name them but I can reveal that guests include MPs, peers, parliamentary researchers, journalists and bloggers. Leading think tanks and pressure groups will be represented too.

Tickets are available until midday tomorrow (Monday). Click here for details.

Full report on Wednesday.

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Reader Comments (3)

So as a smoker I'm not welcome anywhere much, and as a vegetarian I'm not welcome in the company of fellow smokers?

Terrific. Thanks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 11:10 | Unregistered CommenterNoodlebug

I should point out that one famous vegetarian smoker took on the government and won. That would be Joanna Lumley. Would these boys give her a hard time about her life choices if she showed up?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 11:22 | Unregistered CommenterNoodlebug

@noodlebug

Touché!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 4:56 | Unregistered CommenterMark Butcher

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