A Dinner Party to Remember: Reflections on Food + Connection
BY JACQUELYN DUGGAN
If you could host anyone for a dinner party, who would you invite?
That’s the question that Dawn Davis of Bon Appetit asked renowned author Margaret Atwood in this month’s issue of Bon Appetit.
Margaret shares, “I’ll stick to dead people. If I fail to invite some living people, they’d be very annoyed. (Not to say other dead people wouldn’t be. I’d expect to hear from Samuel Johnson and Oscar Wilde, who prided themselves on dinner conversation.)”
She goes on to say that she would invite Toni Morrison and Charlotte Bronte and serve “a salad that involves oranges, avocados, and endive,” and a “chicken dish that involves putting a lot of legs and thighs, a huge amount of garlic, onion and a bouquet of garni, and some cloves into a big Le Creuset.” That’s quite a table of women and a delightful menu!
Her response really got me thinking: who would I invite to a special dinner party? What would I make? What would it taste like? The feeling to evoke? What atmosphere would I want to create?
It reminds me of the scene in Julie & Julia, one of my very favorite movies, where Julie is offered the opportunity to host Judith Jones, Julia Child’s esteemed book editor. Julie chooses to make Julia Child’s infamous Boeuf Bourguignon and says, “I almost feel as if Julia and I are communicating over space and time on a deep spiritual, mystical level.” I love how connected Julie feels to Julia here!
Notice that while both Margaret and Julie’s dishes of choice are involved, they’re not extremely complex. Neither dinner party occurs (since Margaret’s is fictional, and spoiler alert: Julie’s dinner with Judith didn’t pan out), but I’m interested in their intentions. It’s easy to guess that Julie chose Boeuf Bourguignon as an homage to Julia, and I’m sure Margaret’s dish is equally delicious and special in its own way, but are those dishes the real focus of this meal? Important, yes, but focus? I’m not sure.
My revelation here about this dinner party is less about the menu I’d curate and more about the people who would be there and the memory we’d share together. It’s a deep reminder to me that it’s less about the food, wine, and setting being perfect and more about connecting and enjoying the people around me.
And at the end of the day, isn’t that the deep, unique loveliness of food? It brings together people, regardless of what’s served. A meal brings forth laughter, tears, stories and debates – evoking joy, sometimes sorrow, and lovely connection all at once.
Now don’t get me wrong, a curated menu is the cherry on top of this experience, and I’m a sucker for planning and curating an experience, so I guess if I really had to choose, here’s who I would have at my table and what I would serve:
Julia Child, Ina Garten, my grandmothers, my mother-in-law, and my mom. I’m picturing this really incredible table of women who love food and have experienced the joy of cooking in so many different ways across several generations. The table would have a simple linen, flowers from our garden, and a few tea-lit candles. I’d serve something simple, like my “pretty great” whole roasted chicken, risotto and a light salad with my favorite rose. For dessert, I’ve always wanted to make Ina’s fruit salad with limoncello. Afterwards, a cup of coffee and homemade toffee would round out the meal.
The conversation, though? That would be the highlight. We’d talk about everything from life and loss to love and fun. They would share with me their favorite experiences and what it’s meant to them to lead the lives they live. I’d listen intently and keep their words close to my heart. I think it would be pretty incredible.
As I close here, I’ll extend the question to you: who would you invite to a special dinner party? What would you serve? What would it taste like? What feelings would it evoke? What atmosphere would you want to create? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
If you enjoyed this post, read 4 Simple Principles To Refresh Your Pantry
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