welcome to Dream dinnerwhere we ask notable characters to describe exactly that: the dinner party of their dreams.
She is widely known for her critically acclaimed novels (17 of them!), including The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace, but Margaret Atwood is also a poet, essayist, designer, environmental activist and inventor (of the LongPen, a robotic arm that paved the way for signing documents remotely). Here, she shares who she would invite to her dream dinner and why.
You can host three people, fictitious or real, dead or alive. Who is invited ?
I’ll stick to the dead. If I don’t invite living people, they will be very annoyed. (Not to say that other deceased people wouldn’t. I would expect to hear Samuel Johnson and Oscar Wilde, who were proud of their dinner conversation.) But here’s my guest list: Graeme Gibson, my partner for many years; he loved dinner parties. He always cooked the main course and I made the starters, salad and dessert. Charlotte Brontë and Toni Morrison would be my other guests. Both wrote novels with weird and weird stuff. Jane Eyre hears a spiritual voice calling her through time and space and she answers it. I saw again Beloved in the New York Times and have always been interested in Morrison’s technically varied way of approaching subjects. So associating it with Brontë, who gave us the first open novel, would be fascinating, especially since one of them is from the 19th century and the other from the 20th.
What is on the menu?
We would start with a salad made up of oranges, avocados and endives. Then Graeme would make this chicken dish which involves putting lots of thighs and thighs, a huge amount of garlic, an onion, a bouquet garni and a few cloves in a large Le Creuset. You make a paste with flour, water, salt and oil, roll it up like a sausage and wrap it around the edge of the pot. As it cooks, it forms a seal and the chicken steams in all that garlic.
Do you bring it to the table in a dramatic way?
The dough becomes quite hard. It is a ceremonial moment where you break it with a hammer. It would be served with potatoes and green beans. For dessert, I would make the lemon pastry cream cooked from The pleasure of cooking. I had prepared white china with red trimmings (which belonged to Graeme’s grandfather), candles and either flowers or a crystal ball – which I, yes, have in my possession.
The conversation revolves around an essay in your new book, burning questions-Which is it?
These days it would probably be one of the environmental essays. Maybe the one about Rachel Carson and how visionary she is. When it comes to talking about the environment, I’m interested in solutions. If you want some hope, go to drawdown.orgwhich contains many data and ideas on how to reduce greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
Who is the best table companion, a scientist or a poet?
I know quite a bit about poets, so for a learning experience I would choose scientists, but it depends on what genre. Not physicists. They can’t really explain to others what they are doing. I could hang out with birdwatchers. They are generalists because they have to know something about habitat, bird biology, migration patterns. And they need to think outside the box to find birds, so they are often quite adventurous