Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Next week, each Miss Demeanor will share her version of the literary dinner party she would throw in the tradition of the New York Times Sunday feature By the Book when they answer the Question of the Week. I decided I would answer the question today to give a taste of what’s to come. The question is: You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three authors, dead or alive, do you invite, in addition to your fellow Miss Demeanors, of course?

            I love to cook and I love books. The prospect of throwing a dinner party for people who write books thrills me. I’m a little overwhelmed that I can invite any author, dead or alive, to join me and the Miss Demeanors, but this is a challenge I can embrace. I will invite Jane Austen, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), and Elinor Lipman. Jane, because Pride and Prejudice is still my favorite book, and Mark because I will always treasure my journey on a raft with Huckleberry Finn. I want them both at the same table so Jane can confront Mark about his horrible comments about her work. Her “books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader, and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” Mark was born until after Jane’s death, so she’s never had the opportunity to kick Mark in his own shin. Both authors have sharp tongues or pens and I’m pretty sure that forks will fly across the table.

That’s why I want Elinor Lipman there with me. Although I have been a mediator for more than thirty years, having a modern author, who has written stories about human conflict with wit for as many years and who has recently dared to entertain her fans with political poetry on Facebook, join us will be invaluable. If nothing else, I am confident Elinor would make both Jane and Mark laugh.

What about the menu and the venue, you ask. I’ve given that a lot of thought. If Jane and Mark were to experience a new culinary experience together, wouldn’t they begin to relate to one another? Hot dogs, natural casing, on the grill. Top split rolls, New England style, also grilled, with a little butter. I’d top those dogs with chopped onions and my husband’s version of New Britain (Connecticut) Capitol Lunch chili, including the secret ingredient, which I will not divulge for the sake of a blog. For sides, I’d make my Nanna’s potato salad, which she made hot, but served cold. No one can shout fighting words over the oohs and ahs while eating it. I’d add my latest attempt to replicate the most delicious coleslaw I ever ate while barely a bride, which the creator declined to share the recipe for.

Since I live in a tiny tindominium, this feast would be outdoors in the garden where sound is easily transmitted, which may discourage Mark and Jane from raising their voices. Elinor and I would share glances as Jane and Mark eye the paper plates with wonder and distrust. Mark would begin to relax when we toast marshmallows over the fire pit for S’mores.

In the end, there would be laughter and Mark would agree to give Pride and Prejudice another go, if Jane would read his books. Elinor would pull out her laptop so we could watch the movie adaptation of her book, Then She Found Me. I would be so exhausted after the anticipation and preparation for my literary feast, I would nod off. When I would awaken, all that would be left would two large filled black plastic trash bags.









  1. Note to self: don’t read about literary feasts before lunch. I’m so hungry now. And I don’t think I have clam chowder or chili in the house.

  2. They say writers should always look for the conflict. You’ve got it in spades, Michele. I’d love to be a fly on the wall to witness the knife-throwing. And to take a stab at guessing that secret ingredient in the chili (I think I know what it is but won’t say). Looking forward to seeing the conversation next week.

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