November 11, 2003

Guess Who's Coming for Dinner?

JOHN HAWKINS HAS COMPILED a list of the 20 people, living or dead (and at the peak of their abilities), which a selection of bloggers have determined as History's Most Interesting Dinner Companions. The list is both a sign of the times and an insight into the influences which have had an effect on the bloggers in question. First on the list is Jesus Christ, followed by Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. We found the selection of Christ as tops on the list both reassuring -- because it shows that Christianity's influence remains strong -- but also a bit intriguing.

You see, we here at The Rant know that we would be rather intimidated were we to dine with our Lord and Savior. We can see ourselves spending rather a lot of time attempting to craft a dinner menu, and then agonizing over whether we made the right decisions about it. We can imagine that process would have a Lileksian touch of humor to it, too. ("Oh, swell. He's going to think we're having bread because He's Jesus.")

Given that, we couldn't exactly ask Him to bring wine, either. Even so, we can imagine He would bring a nice bottle of red anyway -- not too expensive, but still good. Then, the atheist we'd have mistakenly invited would challenge Him to transform the San Pellegrino. That's another problem too, while we're thinking about it. What do we do about the guest list? After all, look what happened the last time He had dinner with friends.

On the other hand, though, we don't think He would be all that concerned about how dinner turned out, provided we did our best to do a nice job. We daresay He might actually go for some pizza and beer -- nice and relaxing, that!

In any event, many folks -- among them Sheila O'Malley -- have created their own list of people with whom they would like to have dinner. So we will too, as it seems like a fun thing to think about.

First up on the list: Dante. Definitely Dante. As a fellow writer, we think we'd get along famously with him. It is not merely that he was perhaps the greatest writer of the medieval era; it is that the guy had that quiet self-confidence we very much admire:

According to Sercambi, Dante was invited by King Robert to the Neapolitan court and, like the poet he was, arrived carelessly dressed. It was dinnertime and, owing to his appearance, he was seated at the tail end of the table. Since he was hungry, he ate anyway, but as soon as the meal was over he left town. Appalled at having mistreated the great poet, the king dispatched a messenger and invited him back to court.

This time Dante arrived richly attired, which caused the king to seat him "at the top of the first table, right next to his own." Service had hardly begun when the poet began tipping meat and wine all over his fine clothes. The king was astonished and asked what he was behaving in this way.

Dante replied, "Your Majesty, I know that in paying me this great honour you are in fact honoring my clothes, and I wanted those clothes to benefit from the food that is being served. And I shall tell you frankly that I had no less genius or common sense when I came the first time, when I was seated at the tail end of the table because I was poorly dressed..."

-- from The Medieval Kitchen

As it was much harder to kick ass and take names in the Middle Ages than it is today, we must say we strongly approve of Dante's action: not because it was all that gentlemanly but because it showed he had his priorities in the right place. For dinner, therefore, we would go to one of those good Italian restaurants in New York which stays open until after last call. But nowhere that would require a jacket.

Some others on our list, which would be by no means complete:

* Luca Pacioli. Woefully underappreciated in our view, his treatise on mathematics and finance helped set the groundwork for our society to enjoy our high standard of living.

* C.S. Lewis, author of Mere Christianity and other theological works in the 20th century. Dr Lewis' work has had the most impact on our religious thinking.

* Miguel de Cervantes. If you had spent an entire semester of high school English reading the unabridged Quixote and analyzing it and falling in love with it, you would say the same.

* John Bogle, the founder of the Vanguard Group, Inc. We very much admire Mr Bogle for his candidness and honesty in matters financial.

* Johann Sebastian Bach, whose organ works we consider among the highest musical accomplishments of man.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at November 11, 2003 07:59 PM | TrackBack

Would it be a bad time to mention Sam Kinison's 'Jesus the Miracle Caterer' sketch?

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge at November 13, 2003 11:04 AM

LOL. Gad. I haven't thought about Kinison in years!

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at November 13, 2003 08:44 PM