03 January, 2010

Loaves and Fishes

There is a strange phenomenon that occurs when you invite friends over for a New Year's Day barbecue. It's called the Loaves and Fishes effect. Ever since council workers in Jerusalem had to clean up after a picnic held a couple thousand years ago, mathematicians have been trying to determine the formula to calculate the volume of leftovers relative to the amount of food and drink you started with.

I am going to attempt to solve this mathematical mystery which has confounded some of the greatest minds in history: Why do you end up more food and drink after the party than you had at the start?

First you need the starting point - How much food and drink did you supply? I'm a glutton for punishment and a bit of a control freak so I decided that I would provide all the food and my guests could bring what ever they wanted to drink. I have country hospitality as part of my DNA and this dictates that the greatest failure when hosting a gathering is to run out of food. So, with the benefit of hindsight, I may have gone a little over the top on the food. True to my nature, on the day of the BBQ I was in a panic that I didn't have enough for everybody to eat and I was wondering where I could get extra lamb cutlets on New Years Day.

To make the formula easier to read I shall refer to the original supply of food and drink as Ridiculous Original Oversupply (ROO) . To determine the multiplier effect, next I have to look at the other variables in the formula.

The Guilt Multiplier (GM).
Nobody like to turn up to a party empty handed so, along with my original supply of food, some additional extra dishes managed to sneak their way in. I could have stuck these in the fridge and given them back to their owners as they were leaving, but they tasted better than what I had made.

Designated Driver Offset (DDO)
One of the problems in living miles from anywhere is everybody needs to have a designated driver. The excuse for a barbecue was a get together of girlfriends I had worked with for many years, so the ladies turned up with a couple bottles of wine each (a reasonable quantity given the amounts we have consumed over the years). Their husbands (aka designated driver) followed behind with a hang-dog look and a six pack of light beer. University tests have shown that nobody can drink a six-pack of light beer. After three light beers your brain creates a barrier that stops you for reaching for another one. The same tests showed that nobody is willing to take their un-drunk light beer home with them. The beers are happily abandoned for the host to deal with (ie take to the next party and dump there)

Dregs (D)
In the bottom of every bottle of wine is the last half a glass that nobody got around to drinking. This tradition can be traced back to ancient times when this portion was used as offering to the gods of boozy nights outs. In more recent times it can be more directly attributed to being a too pissed to remember what bottle you were drinking from. It's just easier to start another bottle.

Catering for Everybody Syndrome (CES)
This is linked to the Ridiculous Original Oversupply (ROO). Some of my guests were vegetarians, others don't eat spicy food, so the lumps of meat bathed with a chilli marinade was going to be a problem. Alternate dishes were provided and I needed to do enough for everybody just in case they were feeling like experimenting with an alternate life style on the day of my BBQ.

The Festive Hangover (FH)
The Festive Hangover introduces outside influences into the equation. This is used to calculate the effect of having guests who arrive already burdened with a hangover from parting a little too hard for New Year's Eve the previous night (is that glass of water a little too strong? You're still the odd shade of green). Add to this the no-shows who were still on Sing Star at 4am that morning (you know who you are).

Once you know all the variables and you just have to build the formula:

n being the number of guests
DDBHWPTDW being dregs drunk by host while packing the dishwasher.

143.54% is the magic number. Regardless of the number of people you invite and all the planning you put into your BBQ, you will always end up with 143.54% more food and drink than your started with.

I will win a Noble Prize for this.

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