Since reading Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen (and it’s companion More Home Cooking) I’ve been thinking about that question, the business of inviting writers to your dinner table, any writer, dead or alive, the meal served, the drinks consumed, the table setting, who might sit across from whom.
For a writer, I’m pretty terrible at oral storytelling. I forget details and timelines, oh wait, I’ll revert, and then, no, but, yeah, okay. I don’t know how to give the headlines. I bury leads. To be honest, I wouldn’t blame anyone for walking away from a conversation with me. I’d rather listen to all of your stories and write out my own as neatly as I can on the page. But there is one thing I can talk about for hours and I’m not even sure I’ve ever mentioned here:
I’ve done it. There’s proof. Two cousins have sat through home-cooked meals in which all we discussed were other meals. Village cafes, to tasting menus, to the illegality of durian on a plane. I have friends who have sat with me to strategize all-you-can-eat options and first and last stops at food markets and festivals. I have a husband who will recount in excruciating detail everything we’ve ever ordered, where we ordered it, and whether we’ll order it again. I even sent a cookie recipe to a friend the other day and, in a string of follow-up texts, I mentioned how it might feel to whisk the dry ingredients with wet, where you’ll probably think you’re about to fail and then discover you haven’t, the moments that are humbling and frustrating and then surprisingly benign. Poor girl didn’t know she’d request a recipe and find her phone chiming with emoji-less emotions about a simple cookie.
All this to say, when it comes to writers at the hypothetical table, I don’t yet have it all filled. I don’t know what we’re eating (but, trust me, I’m working on it.) All I know is that I’d probably need one of them to be Laurie Colwin. I’d need someone to talk as much about life as the food that’s served.
"One of the delights of life is eating with friends; second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
– Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen