Susan here, arriving a little late with today's blog and bringing a question for you all – we’ve all heard this one before, but it’s a classic question well worth repeating. The answers constantly change. Time for the Dinner Party!
What five historical people would you invite to have dinner together? Or change the number of guests depending on how many seats you want to fill at the dinner table. We can handle twelve to fourteen at our table, but that’s too many and I’ve no desire to cook on that scale. Over the years, every time I think about this, my list changes. This was a game my family used to play when I was growing up, after a Thanksgiving or Easter dinner, when we all sat around the table with dessert. It got pretty lively—one year my very Catholic dad, who could be adorably funny, said “I’d invite Jesus! He was a helluva guy!” and we all laughed ‘til we cried.
What would your invitation list be? Has it changed since the last time you considered it? My choices change depending on what historical research mode I’m in. Here goes:
Joan of Arc – Always on my special list, she has been important to me since I was a little girl listening to the stories my great-grandmother told of growing up in a little village in Lorraine just a few miles from the village famous as the home of Jehanne d’Arc – and like her, my grandmother worked in the fields and fell to her knees as the bells rang out for prayers. I heard many stories of life in that area of France, and I would love to talk to Joan about it. I’d also show her the many books I’ve collected about her. I was able to include her as a background character in my novel, The Sword Maiden (now on sale in e-book for .99!), set in 15th century Scotland, the story of a soldier returned from the war in France . . .
Sir Walter Scott – I’d love to have dinner or a long leisurely tea with this lovely man, in hopes of discussing Scottish history and the origins of historical fiction. And we could talk about Abbotsford, his beautiful home, which I’ve visited more than once (and my friends nearly had to drag me out of there).
Mary, Queen of Scots – She has always had my sympathy, a beautiful young woman who was raised in a royal bubble in France and sent back to Scotland, little more than a teenager, to rule over some rough, ruthless, conniving men who did their best to bring her down, destroying her idealism. She was spoiled, naïve, too easily influenced, and by the time she gained the maturity of a wiser woman, it was too late. I’d like to ask her the truth about Bothwell and Darnley, who was blown up in the garden. I think she would get on gangbusters with Joan of Arc.
Mark Twain – He would liven up the conversation with his wit and insights, and I know he would particularly want to meet Joan of Arc, who was something of an obsession for him and the subject of one of his novels. Years ago I was lucky enough to see Hal Holbrook’s onstage performance as Mark Twain, entertaining and unforgettable, and I would love to meet the real guy.
I’d also invite Robert Burns, the lusty, rowdy poet of 18th century Scotland, perhaps seated beside Caravaggio, the lusty, rowdy painter and rascal of the Italian Baroque. Caravaggio was arrested a few times with an ancestor of mine for drunken carousing — and I've done a few Burns Night addresses — so we’d have something to talk about. They'd have a lively conversation, if the language barrier could be bridged. We’d have to move the whisky far away from those two, though!
As to the menu, I could go with a typical Scottish dinner, though I’m not too fond of haggis (it's quite tasty, I hear – I just don’t eat red meat). But I’d offer a cock-a-leekie soup to start (chicken and leeks), then fresh salmon, neeps ‘n tatties (potatoes and turnips), a veggie or two, and a nice fresh fruit, custard and whipped cream trifle for dessert, followed by tea, coffee, and a finish of a good whisky to keep the mood warm and happy at the table.
And at this point, I should mention that Drunk History has become one of our favorite shows in this house – it’s hilariously funny, surprisingly endearing, and very creative. I’m a bit sorry some of them get so wasted, but they know what they’re in for, and the result is a fascinating, wacky turn on history.
How about you? Who would you invite to your table?