How to recreate Cambridge formals in your own home

Get tipsy with your parents

Cambridge cambridge students Formal

While in lockdown, the glorious times of formals can seem pretty far away. Some of us attended religiously, others reluctantly, and many of us just so that you could brag about living the full Cambridge experience to your family and friends.

Of course, there’s the pain of standing in heels whilst the Warden recites Latin gibberish. Then, you question why you spent more than 10 quid on shitty food… again, and, last but not least, stuffing your face with bread rolls to compensate for whatever that starter was supposed to be.

Despite their shortcomings, formals were still, for many of us, a lovely way to spend the evening. And even though the food may not always have been that great, let’s be honest, it was usually better than our own.

Now that the world has fallen on its head, there is no better time to recreate formals in your own home. In our household, Friday and Saturday evenings are for fancy dress and sipping a glass (or several glasses) of wine, and this is how it goes for my family and I.

Side-note: we have been crowned formal royalty by many-a-friend.

1) Before you begin, swap your 10-day-old smelly quarantine pyjama outfit with something… relatively socially appropriate

Why not embody those gown-wearing evenings through a nice outfit?

Don’t lie, you’ve contemplated not taking a shower every day of this quarantine. Take time to practice some self-loving. You’ll be doing yourself and your whole family a favour. My parents are a bit extra, but brushing your hair and putting on actual underwear will do a great deal for your self-esteem.

I told you they were extra… (Photo credit: Sophia Kjeldbjerg)

2) It starts with what the french call the “apéritif”

Featuring my sister (Photo credit: Sophia Kjeldbjerg)

Yes, that is a cheese platter. I live in France, what did you expect?

But the “apéritif”, or the pre-starter if you will, can be anything from bowls of crisps and nuts, to toasted goat’s cheese. Whatever tickles your fancy.

Just make sure you don’t forget the alcohol. (Or go alcohol-free, for my responsible readers out there.)

3) Next up, after stumbling around from that one glass of wine, comes the table.

While you’re laying the table for the formal meal, try to resist the urge to giggle uncontrollably. I know my alcohol tolerance has certainly plummeted since quarantine. On the bright side, once we return to our fancy Cambridge lives and trashy nights out, I’ll be a cheap date.

I had to ask my mum what side of the plate the fork and knife went, but feel free to skip that step. Laying the cutlery on the table correctly is vital and gives the appearance of elegance to the evening.

I won’t lie, my mother did this table (Photo credit: Sophia Kjeldbjerg)

While you’re at it, keep those drinks coming, and make our lovely college formal waiters proud.

4) Finally, you can enjoy the food that you most likely didn’t cook by yourself.

I tried cooking in my parents’ kitchen once and melted a plastic dish in the oven. It literally collapsed into itself. Thus, I leave the cooking to the experts. Namely: mother Kjeldbjerg, the absolute queen of food. I would like to say that I have reached her skill of cooking at Cambridge, but I would be lying.

Home-made salmon tartare and feta-walnut-cranberry-butternut squash salad (Photo credit: Sophia Kjeldbjerg)

I am usually about three glasses of wine down at this point, most likely over-sharing uni drama to my family. Or having a heated debate about the social construct of gender. It varies.

But the best thing about having formals at home, for those pet-lovers out there, is obviously being able to cuddle your furry friends.

Do host your own formals to spice up your family dinners and unlock all of your deepest, darkest, alcohol-induced secrets. You’ll be in for a hell of a time.

Cover photo credit: Sophia Kjeldbjerg