Tuesday 20 November 2018

Dinner Party Reflections 2

I forgot, when I sat down at my keyboard this morning, that I meant to praise dinner parties as a great joy in life. Naturally I've done this before, but as it happens, the Stoics liked them, too. It wasn't for the food and drink, of course, that Stoics loved parties, but for the friendships.

The Anglo-Saxons thought of the after-life as an endless dinner in the celestial mead-hall, or so it seems in the Dream of the Rood.  There is quite a lot of feasting in the works of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, but eating alone is frowned upon---even dangerous, if you recall what happened to Edmund after pigging out on Turkish delight.

(By the way, real Turkish delight is much, much better than that dreck you tried at your local candy store.)

Sometimes Benedict Ambrose fusses about the work involved in cooking dinner for six to eight people, and sometimes I respond by saying that my mother cooked dinner for six to eight people for over twenty years. When B.A. is on his game, he doubts that these were three-to-four course dinners, which is pretty accurate, except at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But my more profound point is that I  ate supper around a table with other people until my third year at university, when I moved downtown. Therefore, every dinner was, to a certain extent, a dinner party. And if (for various reasons) you don't have children in the house, the best substitute is a regular number of dinner parties with adults of varying ages but relatively uniform interests.

My last dinner party involved six adults aged between 18 and 50-something, and we were all interested in traditional Catholic and Orthodox liturgies and music to a certain degree. We had something fun and liturgical to watch on my computer after pudding, and occasionally someone burst into song, which was never allowed at my family dinner table, although G.K. Chesterton valued singing at the dinner table very highly. Two of the guests were Polish, so occasionally I was asked for the English word to some homely object (cooking pot, which I knew) or concept (being disabled, which I didn't). I asked them to name some ancient Slavic tunes.

Very often at our dinner parties I miss out on great slices of dinner party chat, for I'm away back in the kitchen, washing up the soup bowls and dinner plates between courses so that I'm not up too late afterwards. However, this time, I stuck around from soup to nuts (or, this time, soup to violet creams) and enjoyed the merriment wholeheartedly.

The joy of dinner parties occurred to me while reading A Guide to the Good Life, perhaps prompted by an invitation to ponder what I enjoy most in my ordinary life. I would have to include also visits to and from my family, and travel to and through Italy and Poland, and the Traditional Latin Mass. Then coffee, good books, and successful conversations in foreign languages. Letter-writing, sending presents to children, and conversations with unusually intelligent and/or personable children, too.

I prefer sending gifts to children to giving them in person, for children are terribly honest. If your present is a dud, they will not be able to hide their disappointment. But if you send a present, it is usually their parents who respond, and they are always politely enthusiastic.

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