Evening meals appear to be among the most auspicious for meeting people who may become the most important person in our life.
Spouses, best friends and worst enemies have often been met at the table, as well as people who completely changed our career or our outlook on life. Sometimes we have learned things that have inspired us forever or we heard something so atrocious that it is engraved in our memory until the day we die.
In 1960 my parents told my brothers and I that a very important person was coming to dinner and we were to be on our best behavior. The dining room table was set with the fine china etc. and we were all dressed in our Sunday best. I don't know what the menu was save the ever present potato dish du jour. A small man pulls up the long drive in a sports car (later learned it was a jaguar). Cocktails were served in the living room until we were all summoned to the dinner table. My three brothers were acting really silly (all older than I) and my father was visibly pissed. The small man spoke in this very high pitched voice and everytime he spoke my brothers became giggly and I heard them whispering to one another and I picked up some of what of the words they were saying but didn't understand. The man remained very composed. Finally, my father appealed to my girlish charms and said "well, C. you're awfully quiet tonight" and I answered him in all my innocence "Daddy,what's a fag?". Well our guest burst out laughing in glee, my father's blood vessels about to burst, my mother on the verge of tears, my brothers quiet as church mice. Our guest was Truman Capote and he was negotiating with my father to buy a piece of land that wasn't arable near the ocean. The deal went through and his ashes were strewn there after his death.
In terms of dining with a 'celebrity,' probably the most famous person I ever had a meal with was a Québec provincial government minister. I clearly recall that he accused me of "intellectual vandalism" (in a friendly tone) when I dared to disagree with him. Such people are clearly not used to being challenged by people of the lower castes.
Once when I was travelling late for work I decided to go and have dinner in the dining carriage on the train. I was seated opposite an older man in his late 60's and we got talking over dinner and ended up talking for the rest of the journey up to Newcastle, long after dinner had finished.
I found him to be absolutely fascinating; he had been a football player and was now involved in politics and he spoke so passionately about everything I was enthralled. As well as his work he told me about his family, particularly how proud he was of his children. I will never forget that he said he never worried about them being high acheivers or earning lots of money, when he brought them up the most important thing for him was that they grew up to be kind - and he was so proud of them that as adults they were good, kind people. Our conversation really touched me and I felt like I had met an exceptional person, but that comment in particular stayed with me. About 5 years later when Little star was born that comment was one of the first things that popped into my head and I looked at her and I hoped the same for her. It is still my main hope for her.
A month after she was born I saw the obituary of that man in the paper and it made me so sad that such a special person was gone. I really hoped that his children knew how proud he was of them, that he even told random strangers on trains! I wasn't surprised at all to read how well liked he was:
There are a number of famous people who I don't think would "impress" me at all at the dinner table (I would probably be much more intimidated by the setting, assuming it was "their" setting). Some of them just seem like people who would be easy to talk to on a normal level -- and others would probably be so diametrically opposed to my own views that we would just look at each other with disdain.
To get a funny image in your head, imagine which of you might feel more intimidated if you were having dinner with the Pope or Angela Merkel or Hugo Chavez or Tom Cruise -- and everybody had to individually go up to the counter and order their meal.... at McDonald's.
I cooked Christmas Dinner for everyone who was left in the halls of residence at the end of term - so 30 people - in order to ensure it wasn't odd I was inviting MrStar and it was kind of the beginning of it all. Is that an exceptional encounter or just a fit of madness?
I have known my oldest friend since I was 4, we didn't see each other for a couple of years when we went to secondary school. When we were 13 we got back in touch she came round and I cooked her omelette - she still says it was the best omelette she ever had and she has only hung around ever since on the off chance I might manage it again. It was a one off as I am not very good at omelettes.
Well it was lunch actually. In 1978 I was working at a home for wayward girls,I loved the job but the pay was not very much. iI took on a second job as a waitress in a neighborhood restaurant. I was the sole waitress and the lunch time chef was none other than our very own Bixa. One of the regular customers was this very nice man and he began to come in even more regularly and I developed a major crush on him. Bixa knew him and they were friends. He was also very fond of her cooking ,a particular soup she concocted was his favorite.(Bixa was in a relationship so I wasn't worried ). Anyway,the courting began. This man became my husband and still is to this day Mr.C. And so I met my best friend and the love of my life over lunch. I never did find out what Bixa put in that soup but it sure was good,exceptional.
I've never met anybody famous at meals, nor have I ever met girlfriends by way of a restaurant evening. The closest I get was meeting the German 'Sozialministerin' in the dining car of a train between Hamburg and Goettingen sometime in the early 90s.
Our Tuesday night veggie potluck, a friend brought another friend,a noted New Orleans musician. Have to admit I was a bit "school girl" nervous as he is more my generation then the younger attendees. A wonderfully humorous and very unassuming guest. I had the last of the radishes from the garden on the table and deceided to put out some butter and coarse salt to serve with a la Baz. When someone inquired about this my new friend responded that that's how the French eat them. But, the best part was when the conversation turned to opossum and raccoons as we have many nocturnal visits from these critters due to our proximity to the river. One lady described trapping a 40lb. raccoon (catch and release traps) which I remember well as I helped her transport said beast down the river a few miles to release. He was huge and rattled in the cage the whole trip.Our new friend then commented on how he would have loved to have had said critter to "cook up". "I'm a real Coon Ass,I would have made Coon Sauce Picquante." Will inquire about recipe if anyone's interested.
You might as well know that the one thing I really dislike about Spanish -- and by extension all Romance languages -- is that annoying, pointless gender thing. And the thing I dislike about French is the abundance of silent letters -- its legacy to English.
But I sincerely appreciate having the correct spelling for sauce piquante.
(in Louisiana it's pronounced sawss pee kaw, accent on kaw -- is that anywhere near the correct pronunciation?)