A blogging friend of mine, nrhatch,  http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/ , has a wonderful entry today about fantasizing your idea of a perfect meal.  This idea was initially given to writers, but it can apply to anyone who might like to drift off into “Fantasy Land.”  Writers (or anyone) are to invite 12 guests (plus themselves) to any setting on the planet (or even in a galaxy far, far away) to share fabulous food, laughter and love, and convivial conversation. Can you imagine who would be on your guest list (of 12), what would be served, where the dinner would be, etc?  Give it I try – I have!

The Perfect Company, The Perfect Food, The Perfect Location:  My Fantasy Dinner

1. Location:  It would be in my own dining room, with all the guests seated around the dining room table that I inherited from my Mom.  There will be candlelight, but the room will be light enough so that each guest’s face can be clearly seen, and the room will be quiet enough that each person can be heard.  The weather will be a perfect 72° F, a light breeze, and low humidity, just the right weather for taking a walk after our meal.  The dinner will start before sunset, and as it will be early summer, the twilight will last for several hours, before yielding to a beautiful, starlit night with the moon riding, full, low, and golden.  OK – can you see it now?

2.  My Guests:  Needless to say, all twelve gave me their positive “R.S.V.P.” well in advance, so that I know exactly how much food will be needed, so that nothing will be wasted.  I must make the following disclaimer – since most of my family (extended) would automatically be my first choice as guests (we always have SO MUCH FUN when we are all together) – I am not including them at this particular party.  I couldn’t choose just one or two, so they will all have to settle for either quietly listening at the door, (an impossible task for many of my family), or waiting for my word-for-word description the day after!

On my list (in no particular order) will be St. Luke (writer of the Gospel):  I can imagine no one whose presence, conversation, comments, observations and compassion would be more welcome.  He was not an eye-witness to the earthly life of Christ, but through his total commitment, he had first-hand knowledge of Christ. As a gifted literary artist, he produced what many, including myself, consider the most beautiful book in the world.  Some of you who know me will be surprised that Jesus Himself is not first on my list.  We have a sign posted in our home between the kitchen and dining room that says:  “Christ is the Head of this house;  the unseen Guest at every meal; the silent Listener to every conversation.”  Christ is always present with us, and since we invited Him in long ago, He needs no further invitation!

Next:  Albert Einstein.  After reading his biography by Walter Isaacson, I have become fascinated with the complete man.  Flawed and brilliant; awed in the presence of God, yet often agnostic; deep lover of music and his favorite violin (though not greatly accomplished at playing it); he was also a great wit and enjoyed  good conversation, good company, and friendly argument while at the same time standing firm on his wide variety of convictions.  What a guest!

Eleanor Roosevelt:  A brilliant, well-spoken woman, who enjoyed her life in the midst of her own suffering.  She was betrayed, yet triumphed; tolerant and compassionate; and she enjoyed the company of many people from diverse backgrounds.  She became for me the standard against which I measure every other First Lady, both before her time, and since.

Maeve Binchy:  She is one of the still living I will invite.  She is a favorite novelist of mine.  Her novels are completely character-driven, and often revolve around a group of people who may or may not be related (by blood or friendship), but whose lives intersect in some fashion or another.  Since she is Irish, her novels are set in Ireland primarily.  I am always sorry to reach the end of her books – I feel like I’ve made friends, and that our relationship has ended too soon.  Besides, what a book she could write about my dinner!

Father Francis Chisholm:  Yes, he’s a fictional character, but this is my fantasy, remember? If you haven’t seen Gregory Peck’s portrayal of this man in the wonderful movie, or better yet, read A. J. Cronin’s beautiful novel, “The Keys of the Kingdom,” then I highly recommend this beautiful story of a Scottish priest who becomes a missionary in China.  Of course, he will look exactly like Gregory Peck – I can see him in no other way, and as I said, this is my fantasy!  Father Chisholm had all the character traits that one could ever wish for in a clergyman:  he was familiar with the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, adopted a simple way of life, and advocated ecumenical cooperation between all Christians. His tolerance was viewed with suspicion within the institutional Church by his superiors, as most prophets in their own time are, but he remained a genuinely happy man.

Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi:  Brilliant, gifted, compassionate; a blessed peace-maker; in spite of his flaws, he was a man who lived his faith instead of merely preaching it.  Here are a few of his memorable quotes below, that speak so well of his life:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love.”
“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
“There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever”
“Nonviolence is a weapon of the strong”
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Who wouldn’t want such a person in their midst?  Besides, I could introduce him to the true Christians at my table!

Jim Henson:  His character and creativity delighted me from the very first Muppet I saw, and his legacy continues to delight and inspire me.  My understanding is that in his private life, he rarely spoke in the voice of the beloved “Kermit the Frog,” or any of his other creations, but he was a wonderful conversationalist, and was able to impart his imagination and inspire it in others.

Rachel Carson:  Who could resist, especially in this day and age, having a passionate conservationist and ecologist as their guest?  I am looking forward to hearing her comments on and recommendations for the Gulf Oil Disaster.  I am certain she would have a few choice words, and her passion for the natural earth would be wonderful to be around!

Jane Goodall:  Oh, the places she’s been, and the people (and animals) she’s seen!  I hope she brings along her scrapbook!

Maya Angelou:  Writer, poet, activist, actress, teacher – so many talents all rolled up into one, she is sure to be an equal among all at this gathering.  I want a copy of the poem she will write for, on, and about the occasion.  She never fails to inspire and enrich.

Amy Tan:  A superb novelist, her novels are peopled with wonderful Chinese characters, both historical and present-day.  As a woman of Chinese descent, she has great insights into the life of her characters, and she has given me so much pleasure, brought forth countless tears, and elicited so many smiles, provoked so much thought, I cannot wait for her arrival.

Ella Fitzgerald:  The quintessential American musician, my desire is to not have her perform, but to relax, enjoy the company, and to talk about her life and times, her struggles and triumphs.  Of course, if she wants to scat a bit, who am I to stop her?

It seems I  leaned more heavily on the living than I thought I would, (1/3), but fantasies being what they are, the mind wanders around a bit.  My guest list tomorrow might be completely different! Now, on to the menu:

Although they were definitely asked not to bring anything, they will of course each bring along their favorite wine or beverage of choice, which will be deanted, if necessary, and served with the meal – if they so choose.

Appetizers: I will serve a few assorted favorite hors d’oeuvres, among which are mushroom turnovers – small, flaky cream cheese pastry crescents wrapped around a filling made of seasoned portabella mushrooms, shallots, wine and olive oil; bite-size quiche Lorraine; and the perfect pimiento cheese, made with a deliciously sharp Vermont white cheddar cheese, and served on waffle toast points.  (Waffle toast, an invention of my Mom’s, is buttered bread, the best available, in any or several varieties, that is toasted in a waffle iron, then each square cut diagonally into fourths.  Besides wine, iced darjeeling tea with mint and lemon will also be available.

Starter:  A very light fruit salad, cool and refreshing to the palate after eating the appetizers.  Made with the very freshest of local organic fruits, all in season (in my fantasy, all fruits are available, locally grown, year-round!).  Crisp Red Delicious apples, perfectly sectioned oranges and grapefruit, green and red grapes, and a perfectly ripe cantaloupe – all combined with a tiny splash of cointreau.or Grand Marnier.

Main Dish:  Moving more in an ethnic direction, and using my father’s recipe, handed down to me, I will prepare and serve Seafood Gumbo – rich, thick, and loaded with shrimp, oysters, crab, and scallops.  It will be spicy hot, but not too hot, but dried peppers and Tabasco sauce will be available, along with extra filé on the side.  This will all be served over rice – good old Louisiana white rice, a bit sticky, but thoroughly cooked.  There will be oyster crackers at each place, to put a finishing touch on the gumbo, if desired. Also, there will be a beautiful side salad, made with several lettuces (no iceberg), fresh non-refrigerated firm, ripe tomatoes, sliced and seeded cucumbers, scallions, sliced sweet peppers, shredded carrots, fresh green peas, (uncooked), and garnished with a bit of chopped egg.  All served with freshly-prepared, slightly sweetened balsamic vinaigrette.

Dessert: served after a walk around and through our beautiful water gardens (this is a fantasy, remember?)A most excellent , not-too-sweet Rice Singapore.  (My Mom used to laughingly call it “just a little rice pudding.”)  Rice Singapore is one of those perfectly wonderful, though time-consuming dishes to prepare, but worth all the effort!  It’s made with rice cooked in cream, sugar, vanilla bean and fresh-ground cinnamon.  It is served chilled, with ripe strawberries, and it truly does melt in your mouth.

The invitation will direct the guests to wear whatever they are most comfortable in, and should probably be loose-fitting, or have an elastic waist band.

One final note:  I will mention again, that in this fantasy, there will be no waste of any kind.  All food prepared will be consumed – either that night, or the next day or two – and guests will be free to eat as much or as little as they like, except I will perhaps encourage Mr. Gandhi to eat abundantly!  No need for fasting here in my perfect world.

Alright, everybody – now it’s your turn!  Send me your ideas for the perfect Fantasy Dinner!

Hope you eat not too much nor too little, but just enough . . .