‘Tis the season of entertaining, and while I partake in the standard social fare — in-laws, work parties, potlucks — there is only one social event I want to be at. My fantasy dinner party. If fantasy sports leagues can be a thing, why not fantasy culinary events? I’ve been hosting a fantasy dinner party in my head for years.
If you Google “fantasy dinner party” you will see this is not a new idea. But what I am proposing is a competitive league. It is no more ridiculous than fantasy sports, and it is 100 times more creative. Plus, there will be no money changing hands, therefore no danger of insider trading. (Unless it catches on. In which case there might be money. Never say never.)
Here’s how we’ll do it:
First, compile your guest list. You can choose anyone living. Chefs are often asked whom they’d most like to cook for, and most answers include Julia Child and Albert Einstein. It would make for interesting dinner conversation, to be sure — except they are gone. And while I am putting a pin in a Dining with Dead People idea for next year’s Halloween column, for me, the real thrill of a fantasy dinner party is that there is a 99.9 percent chance that it could actually happen. I suppose there is technically a chance that a fantasy sports team could come true too — but I think my dinner party odds are better.
The perfect dinner party roster has eight guests, but you need two extra in case of casualties. (Events like a sex scandal, bribery accusations or a stint in rehab will move your guest to the DL.) Choose a group of people who will offer lively, fascinating conversation. Points are earned for clever banter, so think carefully. Kardashians should be drafted only as a last resort. Interests should intersect, or at least complement. You will earn more points if your guests become unlikely friends. Imagine how many points you’d have if you’d invited Andrea Mitchell and Alan Greenspan before they were married.
Just because dinner party stats don’t exist doesn’t mean we can’t start a database. In the meantime, use common sense. Consider Twitter popularity, TMZ appearances and general polling. Points are deducted for faux pas, outbursts and physical altercations. When your guests blunder in real life, you lose, so consider past performance when compiling your roster. Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton might each make lively guests in certain company, but sitting them at the same table is just going to make everyone else uncomfortable. Points deducted.
In my Fantasy Dinner Party League (now it’s capitalized, because now it’s a real thing), the menu is key. You will be awarded points for menu and ambience by votes from other league members. Think Academy Awards meets Michelin. Since there will be no actual eating, creativity wins out over deliciousness. I have been planning my menus for years and have come to favor theme dinners for fantasy dining. I have several menus set around particular historical eras and regions, such as the United States in the 1930s, because Depression-era food is hilariously inventive. The Imperial Rome menu features cuisines from enslaved peoples of the second century, because I like spices and controversy. I have also created menus around iconic cultural events, including the Dark Side of the Moon menu. This has dishes inspired by Pink Floyd’s iconic 1973 album — though to be honest, it is mostly food I was craving when I listened to it at Laserium in 1979. The Star Wars menu is corny, with things like Gungan Gumbo and Aunt Beru’s Blue Milk. And then there is the Walking Dead menu, which tastes way better than it looks, but is definitely not suitable for vegans.
As you can no doubt tell, I have been thinking about this for a long time. I keep a list on my fridge of potential guests, which is constantly evolving as my interests change, as people fall in and out of favor or they leave this space-time continuum. The official Fantasy Dinner Party League will have ranked draft picks, so my guest list will be partially reliant on the luck of the draw. That said, here is my dream roster:
The President or Vice President of the U.S.
Of course, POTUS will certainly be the No. 1 draft choice, so I thought it prudent to include Uncle Joe Biden as my backup. Either way I’m golden. If I end up with Uncle Joe, I will have him inappropriately whisper into the ears of the other guests — which will be my creepy but awesome party favor to everyone.
This multifaceted actor will certainly hold his own in any conversation. And he is clearly very gracious. I actually did cook for him once. Several of us from the pastry department pretended to be busboys so we could get close. He’s really, really bald.
Besides the Star Trek connection (a show I pretended to like in the ’80s so my [now] husband would like me, but ended up really liking it), Mr. Takei is damn funny, which is a must at my dinner party. If it is ever determined that a guest on my list is not actually funny, off they go. He can sit next to Mr. Stewart.
I know he will not have time to come, because (if I’m reading the current political climate correctly) he will be the President. But the invitation is extended, and if he comes, I will seat him next to George Takei because I think Mr. Sanders needs an evening of joviality. He can go back to worrying about the impending doom of our planet in the morning.
This comedian and podcast host needs to be at my party because he is a skilled interviewer, and we will no doubt be in need of conversation jump-starters. Also, he always seems a little tense, which I think is both funny and offputting — a classic dinner party combo. Plus, if the prez comes, they can reminisce about the time they tied up traffic from the Rose Bowl to Highland Park.
I am only a part-time Foo Fighters fan, but Mr. Grohl is on my list because I hear he is a really nice guy and will therefore get along with everybody. And I figure if I add him I can also get the musician I really want, Josh Homme. If you are not a rock ‘n’ roller these names will mean nothing to you. Suffice to say, it is the equivalent of inviting Dino over so you can get to Frank.
Leading off the SNL Weekend Update with “And now the fake news” will always be hilarious to me. If the conversation gets dull, he can read the menu to the rest of my guests, because he can make anything funny.
Even Giants fans love him. It’s a win-win draft pick. I’m not convinced he has a sense of humor, but he’ll know the stats of the rest of my guests, which will be amusing.
If you don’t follow this astronaut on Twitter or Instagram, you should. And when you do, you will know why he must attend this party. He is the one guest everyone will be giddy to meet. He will be the thing, apart from the menu, that makes this the party of the century.
This choice is really just for decoration.
One’s Fantasy Dinner Party roster is always telling. It has been pointed out on several occasions that my roster is only men. It’s not that there are no women I want to meet — it’s just that, well…there are more men. Michelle Obama was on the list for a while, but she never responded to my many letters. I think Patty Smith would be a fascinating guest, but honestly, she intimidates me. Frankly, it’s a competition thing. I have similarly left chefs off the list. I just don’t need that kind of pressure.
Now that I’ve sold you on my Fantasy Dinner Party League, it’s time to start compiling your list. Recruit your friends! Create your own division! I’m telling you, this is going to be bigger than the Ramen Burger.
Leslie Bilderback is a certified master baker, chef and the author of Mug Meals: More Than 100 No-Fuss Ways to Make a Delicious Microwave Meal in Minutes. She lives in South Pasadena and teaches her techniques online at HYPERLINK "http://culinarymasterclass.com/"culinarymasterclass.com.