You may have played this game before: the question is posed to each person in a group, “if you could invite any four people to dinner, living or dead, who would they be?”
The question used to pop up every now and then in those very cool and intellectual college days, and guest lists were hastily assembled to make the answerer look . . . deep. Interesting. Well educated. Placing Shakespeare with Pirandello, or Jesus with Martin Luther King. I never did like to answer because, really, there was no one I’d rather be having dinner with than my family and friends, but there was nothing particularly interesting about that.
Fast forward many years to this week. I was reading a discussion between Marion Cotillard and Penelope Cruz in Interview magazine where the question came up, and I was interested to see that in her answer, Cruz raised the stakes:
COTILLARD: Okay, now you have to organize a dinner: If you could have four guests, who would they be? The guests can be anybody – even Marilyn Monroe.
CRUZ: This is very interesting. I would take Federico Fellini, Billy Wilder, Woody Allen, and Pedro Almodóvar, and I would make broken eggs, which is a Spanish dish. It’s all fried, and it’s very fattening, with a lot of oil, salt, eggs, and potatoes. I know how to make it, and it’s so greasy, but there is a truth to it. Can you imagine this group?
I thought this was the best answer I ever heard. The list made sense to me but it was as much, maybe more, about the food as the guests. A hearty, comforting meal – a dish not chosen to dazzle or impress, but to level the playing field. A truth-filled plate. And yes, adding food to the mix did make the group easier to imagine.
So the question is now – what is your guest list and meal, for the ideal dinner party?
(Later on I asked each of the boys, independently of the other, who would be on their ideal dinner party list. They gave identical answers. First, “Can I include fictional characters?” Then, after several minutes’ thought, “I’d rather the four of us just have dinner together.” My boys.)