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Dinner for Four

Recently, I have begun easing my son into bedtime by lying with him in my bed, and “interviewing” him for a bit. I ask him about his day, his preferences, and pretty much anything that pops into my head. He likes being taken seriously, and I like having a window into his mind as he hurtles inexorably towards Teenage Stonewalling.

A day or so ago, I asked him what four people he would have to dinner. I offered the usual rules for this game, including the fact that the invitees could be living or dead. His first three choices were fairly quick: Ben Franklin, Hitler, and Jesus. I was contemplating the problem of preparing a kosher meal for Jesus without offending Hitler while Sam struggled with how to fill the final seat. First it was given to Chauncey Billups, who plays for the Pistons. Then, almost immediately, he changed his mind and awarded the last spot to Barack Obama, although he qualified this choice by informing me that he, Sam, “is a Republican, like Daddy.” (And unlike me). I guess Obama’s invitation is therefore even more valuable.

Long after I had inquired more deeply into the reasons for his choices, I was thinking about what my own would be. I have played the “Dinner Party Game” literally hundreds of times over the years, but I rarely give it much thought, and I often fudge, giving a guest list that suits my current interests or amuses my companions. I have also, in the interest of impressing someone, been known to reel off a list of French existentialists, composers of atonal music and/or authors of New York Times bestsellers I have never actually read and have no intention of reading. It makes me feel very smart in a deceptive and unethical sort of way.

So, really, who would I ask? Do I go all sentimental and invite long-dead ancestors? Do I go for the kind of personality mix I might go for in planning a dinner party at which all of the guests were actually among the living? (I might not, for example, invite both Hitler and Jesus, or if I had to, I would also invite someone for each of them to hang out with – maybe Eva Braun and St. Paul).

I know that would invite Laurie Colwin, who was (and is) one of my favorite novelists, as well as being a very astute foodie. She died unexpectedly when she was only a bit older than I am now, and I consider the world to have been seriously diminished by that loss. I would like to ask her about several of her novels, particularly Family Happiness which may be my favorite modern novel, but I would also love to talk food and cooking and motherhood and personal philosophy with her. I also tend to think that she was the kind of person who would be charming, friendly and amusing, and help me with the dishes.

I think I’d also invite Louisa May Alcott. I have read and re-read all of her books, and I still re-read Little Women every single fall. I have always, privately, believed that I really am Jo March. In addition to writing fine novels that I have always loved, and having grown up knowing Emerson and Hawthorne (among others), Ms. Alcott was both an abolitionist and a feminist. I imagine her as being opinionated, but also friendly and well-mannered, and I easily see her holding her own and fitting in nicely with Laurie Colwin and me.

Oh, well, and Jane Austen. I considered Salinger, because he and Jane are neck and neck on my bookshelves and in my heart, but I think Jane is probably the better choice in terms of social compatibility. I have lots of questions for Mr. Salinger, but somehow a man who has been in seclusion for most of my life seems like a poor bet for lively post-prandial chatting.

Am I really so single-minded that all of my choices are women and writers? Apparently I am. There’s one slot left, and it goes to Sophia Coppola who is actually alive. She is responsible for writing and producing my favorite modern movie, “Lost in Translation,” and her other films aren’t too shabby, either. I have lots of questions about “Lost in Translation” that she might be willing to answer, and I’d also enjoy talking music with her, since the soundtrack to Marie Antoinette is one of the most interesting collections of music I’ve come across in ages.

I do like men, I really do, and I have other interests…I guess. Right now, this just really is the list I find most compelling. If I can cheat a tiny bit, maybe I could have Anthony Bourdain cook with Michael Ruhlman as his sous chef, and that way I work in two more people, both of whom are attractive and male. Is that cheating? Or would I rather cook with Laurie while Jane, Sophia and Louisa May sipped PomTinis in the living room? Hmmmm. This could all change tomorrow, but for right now, I like the idea of my own, literate, spirited and intellectual version of “Sex and the City.” Who would you invite?


About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

7 responses »

  1. i would invite helen and scott nearing because i really do want to be them when i grow up! i would invite sue hubble (another favorite author of mine), my mother who was cheeky enough to dance barefoot with president kennedy at his inaugural ball and YOU! because i know you’d hold up the conversation when i got tongue tied and flustered and started to babble!
    michael symon, of course, would cook and for hunk appeal, sam talbot of top chef season 2 fame, would be his sous chef

  2. Well, I guess I must pick your brain because I watched Lost in Translation…well, part of it, until I gave up out of sheer boredom. You’ll have to tell me what I was missing. *yawn*

    My four: probably too tough to call. Let’s go weirdly musical:
    Sondheim (still alive and just an incredibly unique voice in musical theatre) — Bernstein (better composer or conductor? Prefer classical or musical? He’d be great conversation — Stravinsky (lived a hella long time and wrote in every style imaginable) — Mozart (life of the party).
    Or even better: Callas, Battle, Norman, Marilyn Horne. I think the first three could battle it out while Marilyn Horne and I sat in the corner and chatted whilst singing “C is for Cookie…that’s good enough for me.” How SWEET is that?

  3. jayedee, I would LOVE to meet the Nearings, and your mother. I haven’t read and Hubbell yet, but my mom has, and tells me I would love her writing. I am honored to be invited, and I accept. I am even more geeked about it if Michael Symon is cooking, and Sam…oh, Sam is VERY tasty….

    greentuna, I think I’d prefer your composer party – that would be a great conversation and a good mix of personalities. The Diva Dinner sounds too jarring for me. Okay, I wouldn’t probably want to eat with Callas by herself, let alone with competition. Some day I will try to explain why I love “Lost in Translation.” I guess I am attracted to ambiguity and yearning.

  4. ok. that’s it. this is weird. lost in translation is my favorite movie. but favorite movie. i don’t buy movies and i bought it. i don’t rewatch movies – i saw it twice IN THE THEATRE and since have watched it 4 more times at least.

    1. bill murray
    2. james taylor
    3. tony bourdain
    4. jon stewart

    off the bat, that’ll do me
    man – that sounds like one helluva fun night

  5. oh and then they’d all tell me how beautiful and fascinating i am…

  6. Your post inspired me to write about this fantasy dinner on my blog. I credit you as my catalyst but alas cannot figure out how to properly link your site in the post so I just name your blog the old fashioned way. Anywho. Thank you for inspiring me to think about such a dinner with such guests. If my wish is ever granted, I hope I could call on you to help me to craft a menu deserving of such a momentous event. junemoon

  7. claudia, okay, I’m coming to your party instead. Two of the men I’m in love with (Bill and Tony), one I was in love with when I was a teenager (James) and one I’ve never been in love with, but it could happen. They will tell you that you are beautiful and fascinating (you are, actually, to my knowledge) and I will simply pass trays of canapes and melt into the woodwork. Its your party; I just want to be there. As for “Lost,” I remember just sitting when it was over. I sat for ages, thinking about what it meant, how it made me feel, and the fact that it reflects my world view in many ways which is very rare in entertain-y stuff. I’d like to see it right now.

    junemoon, I’m off to your blog to check out your party. I would be happy to help you with your party – once I see who you’re inviting, I’ll start planning….


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