Privilege Blog

Dinner With The Donald. And Some Others.

We’ve all been to at least one good dinner party, right? Define the good, you say? Warm light, shoes off, laughter. Food delicious enough that the conversation stops for a minute. Comfort and joy. The unmistakable thrill of connection and invention.

With an open slate, who would you invite? Only people who know how to banter, who understand that two conflicting opinions can both be true. They should not take themselves too seriously. While the rules of this exercise forbid inviting relatives or simple friends, I can’t comply. Dinner parties are best when some people meet for the first time as others interact with habitual camaraderie.

Here’s my list.

  1. Dorothy Parker – I want to be there for the invention of a witticism, or perfect turn of phrase. “What fresh hell is this?” the favorite so far.
  2. Nora Ephron – I want to hear the real stories of her journalist days and Hollywood nights. Also, compare necks.
  3. Oscar Wilde – He needs another go-round, especially now that New York is on board. Had his only recourse been Iowa, not so sure.
  4. Donald Trump – Yes. I’m serious. I loved him in the first Apprentice. Although he now focuses more on The Donald Show than on the real thing, I appreciate a good entrepreneur like nobody’s business. Or everybody’s. Seriously, can you imagine Oscar trying to understand Donald? He and Dot sparring over politics. Politely, of course? (Warning: His website is loud. Surprised?) UPDATED FOR 2016. I WOULD NOT HAVE THIS MAN ANYWHERE NEAR MY HOUSE. NOT EVEN FIVE MILES AWAY. HE IS INSANE AND WE MUST STOP HIM.
  5. Me – You don’t think I would miss this, do you?
  6. Significant Other – Without him nearby, I’m prone to vibrate at far too high a pitch
  7. Old Friend – When I was married, we were friends with a glorious couple. Journalists, with a sense of humor and enormous personal warmth. They moved to Northern Europe, I got divorced, we lost touch. I’d bring them back, just for the dinner. They’d tell stories of their travels, and listen rapt to everyone else.
  8. Old Friend’s husband – He is just as lovely as she
  9. Father – Let’s just say that some famous couple or other, oh, Beyonce and Jayz and their baby, cancel at the last minute. Those things happen. Maybe they had to go sing for the President’s family. Who knows. In any case, I will pick up the phone and invite my father and his wife. Professors make good dinner party guests – when silence falls they can speak about something obscure, in that particular slow cadence, until inspiration strikes the others.
  10. Father’s wife – Hold no party without an artist. If we were lucky, she’d take some photos of the evening. Facebook never had it so good.

And where would we assemble, you might wonder? I’d order up a rare warm Northern California night. We’d pull the dining table out on the slate patio. Snip back the hanging branches of the backyard Chinese elm, and hang a chandelier outdoors. Layer on textures in neutrals, eat from dignified china and silver, add a touch of silly with bright glassware. Oxymoronic design loosens tongues. As does exceptional wine.

Dinner Al Fresco, With Chandelier

What to wear? In California, we’re always pretty casual. The best tricks I know to dress up the natively informal are:

  1. Rely on monochrome
  2. Show your best skin
  3. One piece of startlingly fancy jewelry
  4. Wear sparkly shoes and a flattering nail polish
  5. Keep those shoes on until you serve the food
Dinner With The Donald, And A Few Others

And the food. Ah yes, the food. People should feel well-cared for. This is important. Everything prepared from scratch. Even the salsa, if you serve it. Even the blue cheese dressing.

You also want everyone to find something they’re happy to eat. So we’d need two main dishes, and a vegetarian side that can count as a main. Also, despite how fetching you look in a kitchen apron, best not to be stir-frying at the last minute. Advice I’ve ignored repeatedly – as evidenced by a pattern of burns on my right arm.

So let’s choose Potted Chicken from Jan’s recipe, and  Pork Adobo in the slow cooker. Vegetables as per the season. Even fancy people like simple food. Mashed potatoes, some with dairy, some without. You have to consider dietary restrictions. Salad made from front yard garden lettuce.

Focused on comfort for the main course, we’d go a little fanciful for dessert. It’s hard to ruin chocolate, and burned sugar smells delicious. So make brulé tiles in the shapes of letters, and anchor them in Boston cream filled cupcakes. Serve with a large bowl of ripe strawberries dressed in balsamic vinegar. Superfine and raw sugar on the table in a crystal bowl.

Sugar hidden in processed foods may be evil but out in the open it’s all right by me.

Then at the end of the night, bring out mid-century artifacts. Dinner mints, chocolates, and brandy. Watch as people’s faces light up. Realize, happily, that you’re going to be up past your bedtime. The privilege of grownups.

For more posts, and more dinner parties, click here.

36 Responses

  1. Ahhh, I must agree with you on the potted chicken – perhaps over a puree of roasted parsnips, of which Beloved and I have become enamored as of late. ;) And the strawberries, although I’d go a step further and dress them in dark chocolate balsamic vinegar.

    I find your guest list…intriguing. I must think about who I would invite to such a dinner party.

  2. I have to say, this is one of my favorites of your posts. {Granted, I say that about a lot of them :) } But really, great choices all around. Sounds like a fabulous dinner party!

  3. Oh to be a luminary at your table!

    And you rock polyvore like nobody’s business. You make me want to be more innately stylish than I ever will be.

  4. Might you sit at the head of the table at my Dream Blogger Dinner? Please say yes, you just sound off as stridently as you wish, you have that Privilege. Gosh, I read Tish’s table where she unites Diana with her now-grown sons, and almost wept for the dearness of such a gesture.

    Alright then: Tish, LPC, Max, Toad, Mrs. Blandings, Meg, Connor, Reggie, Alice, Down East Dilettante, we’ll need photographs so I might include The Sartorialist except he p’d me o for posting a 1972 photo in his Vintage Photos series, c’mon, plus I just think he was better before he came under the thrall of that woman. Everyone bring a friend. We’ll dine here, it’s nice, relaxed, dress artsy.

  5. One of my favorite dinners ever was spent in the company of a friend and co-worker who had grown up in Romania, under the Ceaucescu regime, and a retired economics professor who was born in 1932 in eastern Germany and then spent his childhood and adolescence under not one but two hellish dictatorships (oh, yes, and a devastating war in between) before escaping to Switzerland in the 1960s. We three sat under a spreading oak tree in my Romanian friend’s back yard, and I listened quietly as the two of them reminisced about the ordeals and privations and terrors they had faced. As I walked home, my mind was full, but my heart was somehow lighter; they had survived terrible things, and my own difficulties and existential angst seemed ridiculous in comparison.

    I think I would probably want to fill my own dinner party table with people of my acquaintance who were seventy and above who had experienced the last century in fascinating and terrible ways so X and I could quietly sit and listen to their stories and their conversations with one another. Even if they didn’t want to talk about their brushes with history or greatness, they would have lived, and I would have wanted to hear whatever they had to say. (And I use the past perfect tense because so many of these people are now gone, and I choke up remembering some of them especially–they are, for me, what comes to mind when I think of the phrase “communion of saints.”)

    I’m sure Donald Trump would be rather an interesting dinner guest, but I’m not sure I could endure his company for very long, so I admire your sense of hospitality…and your stamina.

  6. Interesting guest list. Don’t know if I could bear Donald either, of if he’d let anyone else speak, but a unique choice. A slow cooker has changed the way I entertain for the better. Some dish from that, a salad, bread – that’s it. No last minute scurrying around the kitchen.
    Also, I’ve looked at that candle chandelier many times, and wondered how the candles wouldn’t blow out if it was outdoors? I wish they had glass hurricane covers. I know, I can be so literal.

  7. I actually love your list!!!! I would have various jazz singers on mine (if I can invite people from any time period) including Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.


    Best wishes from one blogger to another,

    [your everyday girl,
    writing about guys]

  8. What fresh delight is this from LPC? An exquisite milieu, a companionable ambiance, a merry flutter of witticisms and the graceful backdrop of familial kindness.

  9. What, I’m not on the list?? :-) Sounds like an awesome party. And I love a dinner party. I particularly agree on the point that sugar in the open is alright.

  10. How about Robert Benchley, the world’s most genial person, to go with Dorothy Parker? Something tells me that Patrick McManus (my favorite living author) would be a good bet, too; he must be a great storyteller in person. You are wise to keep the celebrities in the minority. Even if they all got along, it would be more enjoyable for the host/hostess to experience a few strong personalities at a time, backed up by solid and dependable friends and relatives.
    –Road to Parnassus

  11. Did you see that I invited YOU !!
    And, I was going to invite The Donald, but my son told me not to, that Bob Dylan was cooler. What can I say? I folded. Love you Lisa-invited-guest-of-mine…

  12. Your own Algonquin Round Table!
    No one fired a zinger into the conversation like Dorothy Parker.
    My fav cocktail napkins quote her:
    “I like to have a martini, two at the very most, after three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host.”
    Another Parker fav: That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can’t say No in any of them.

  13. I would LOVE to be at a dinner party with Oscar Wilde. As introvert I’d be a little afraid of him, would probably want to bring some of my more extroverted friends along with me for protection.

  14. Your guest list — minus Donald — is perfect, as is your menu. And you know, of course, I approve of the apron :)

  15. Any table with “the Donald” is sure to be a lively one, just hoping he can handle the attention that is surely to be lavished upon the other distinguished guests. Will he be able to hold his own? This would be interesting and entertaining at the very least! Sounds like a fun soiree…..enjoy.

  16. Oh, Lisa,

    You’ll look beautiful — you always do — and the loving attention to the food is what guests appreciate most these days I’ve found. And, Lisa, being Lisa you add that provocative touch, The Donald. I think even he would be intimidated or at least put it his place with wit and intelligence by Oscar, Dorothy and probably Nora once she slugged back a glass of your wine and saw where her dead peers were taking the conversation.


  17. I’d like to attend this party very much! You paint such a perfect picture in my mind of what a lovely and elegant evening it would be!

  18. I like “show your best skin.” But the wicked kid in me wants to point out that for most of us the best skin has never seen the light of day…

  19. Oh what a thoroughly enjoyable post Lisa.
    If I was invited to this dinner and seated next to the Donald (like that’s going to happen) alas I would spend the entire evening controlling my ex-hairstylist urges to not lop off his hair.

  20. I love the whimsy of this and would love to be there, if only to hear Oscar dryly whittle the Donald down with lightning dry humor. Oh and the food, the chocolate, the wine, I’d come for that anyway!

    xo Mary Jo

  21. Oh I never knew that quote originated with Dorothy Parker.
    I went to a dinner with Donald Trump back in the 80’s – rather than had dinner with Donald Trump.

    Polyvore is beyond me, I applaud you!

  22. Love your guest list! It looks like we had to chare Oscar Wilde :) :)

    Sorry for late visit and comment, but still frozen in here.

    Thank you very much for your kind comment. I think we all had fun!


  23. My apologies for arriving late to this party to comment, at least I posted on time if that is a plus?? Deligted to have made it here and was laughing and giggling all the way at your entralling list and post! The Donald…ugh..would love to here Oscar take him on and see the confusion on his face whilst trying to desypher Oscar’s wit equals priceless, in my book! I am now quite pleased at being late in commenting, since I equally enjoyed the commentors contributions. My son and I read the post and comments cheek to cheek and had the best time! Thanks for the entertainment! Loved your writing!


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