Monday, September 10, 2012

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

I'm having an old friend for dinner.

Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs

Okay, it's a creepy quote to top a non-creepy blog post, but it was in my head and it sort of fit the topic. Also, I just read the Wikipedia article on The Silence of the Lambs last week, because I was bored and I'd never seen it and don't really plan to. (I do, after all, bike to work by myself in the dead of night. After that book on Jack the Ripper, I've promised myself I will keep my reading upbeat, positive, and serial-killer-free for a while.)

Aaaaaanyway, I'm trying to keep up with the blogging assignments I give my students, just to play fair. And this week's prompt was the following: if I could invite one person to dinner, what would I serve?

When I was first introduced to this prompt, someone suggested having bbq ribs with Jesus, which is, I admit, a great idea. (Better have a backup, though, in case he's still keeping kosher.) As interesting as it would be to see our Lord and Savior get bbq sauce all over his face, I've decided, upon reflection, that I'd like to serve chicken in Thai peanut sauce to Queen Elizabeth I.

This . . .
Plus This . . .
Equals This? I think so.

I chose Good Queen Bess because she's such a complicated, fascinating character, and in many ways the kind of woman I want to be when I grow up. (In other ways not, of course.) I'd like to have a young QEI over . . . just after she'd taken the throne, maybe a couple of weeks after her royal progress through London, when she laughed and chatted with all her subjects lining the road and wore her hair unbound, wife to no one but her nation. This Elizabeth has her head full of one of the best educations ever given to a woman, because sister Mary had to give her something to do to keep her out of the way, and was just starting to develop the ideas that made her such a remarkable ruler: country before king, prosperity before conquest, peace before dogma. And the radical, unthinkable idea that she was actually never going to marry anybody at all was fermenting in her brain, although no one was taking her assertions seriously yet (and wouldn't until she was nearly dead, like sixty years later). What would I not give for two hours' conversation with that woman? To know the books she'd read and what she thought of them, what she was worrying about as she took over the throne, how she managed to be so darn gutsy in the face of so many powerful and predatory people . . . wow.

So why chicken in Thai peanut sauce? First, because I think I can cook it fairly well, and Her Majesty might have high standards when it comes to food. Peanuts, as far as I know, weren't really a thing in England yet, English New World exploration still being in its infancy. And sauces made with peanuts are just so darn good. I'd like to find out if she liked spicy food . . . peppers weren't really a staple in England just then. And the Far East was so exotic and yet so important . . . the libraries of the Muslim world, the trade routes from China. So many southeast Asian countries have no better cultural emissary than their food. Maybe that one dish could alter the whole course of English/Thai relations. Or maybe it would just be really tasty.

Cheesecake for dessert. Cheesecake should always be for dessert.


  1. I just assumed they were beef ribs. Can't go wrong with beef ribs. Although I'm not good queen bess, I wouldn't mind trying your Thai Chicken :)

    Mmm, who would I invite over? Mary Magdalene. I'd love to know the truth about her and Jesus. I sure hope they were married (men tend not to talk about these things). And even if they weren't, I'd love to hear her version of things as they were. Also, Rebekah. She's my favorite person in the Old Testament. Brandon Sanderson - but not until the last Wheel of Time book is out, so we can talk about spoilers.

    As far as food goes, probably Ratatouille. Because I love it. And lamb. Because I also love it. And since I don't know what they would like, I might as well make sure I'm enjoying the food. Either that or a middle eastern Mazza spread, with Hummous, and Baba Ghanoush and Muhammara, and lamb. Of course.

  2. That's a good one!

    I think I'd invite Ina May Gaskin, the Queen of Midwives. And because she's probably a vegetarian, I'd cook my stuffed eggplant.

    The problem is that a lot of the people I greatly admire share the same flaw: vegetarianism. I'd love to cook my kale and sausage soup for Albert Schweitzer, but would he eat it? Would Madeleine L'Engle be totally unimpressed by my out-of-this-world spaghetti? Eve Ensler might just pick at my veal cordon bleu.

    But I agree: cheesecake should always be for dessert.

  3. Love this idea! Of course, if I wanted to be impish, I would invite Ghandi during one of his times of fasting and not have to serve anything at all... (although, truly, I would love to have a discussion with a soul like his).