It has been a little while since I last saw an attempted internet meme—your favorite five this or that; your first posts of each month, or the photo out your front window—and I thought I’d try my hand. Besides, if it works, I get to read a whole lot of wonderful writing, on a topic well worth writing about.
First, read Roger Ebert’s amazing, moving essay “Nil By Mouth”. Take your time. Have tissues on hand. (To, er, whet your appetite, Ebert’s essay is about what he does and does not miss, now that he is unable to eat, drink, or speak. It is eloquent and beautiful, and will change your life forever. I’d quote the last paragraph here, but that would spoil your pleasure.)
Second, take some time to think. You’re gonna want that. You’re gonna need that. You’re gonna enjoy that.
Third, write. What was the best dinner (or two, or three, or… I have chosen to write about one, because iambic pentameter gets old fast) you ever had, by the criteria inspired by your reading of Roger Ebert. You do not have to follow my example (you especially should not bother writing in rhyme, unless you share that particular disorder with me).
Fourth, tag some others with the meme. Who? Your dinner party, that’s who. If these blog posts are dinners with friends, who are you inviting? One person? Several?
I had entirely too many meals to choose from, but one kept coming to mind again and again, so here it is. Every bit of it is true; all I did was write it down. I could have gone into much more detail, but then we’d be in epic poem territory, and I kinda wanted to get it posted this year.
The cook leaned up against the no-smoking sign,
Lit one cigarette from another, and gave us a look.
It was late, near closing; his friends were leaving to find
A party somewhere, and couldn’t wait for the cook.
We were four Americans; the cook must have guessed
We were better entertainment. He turned, re-lit the grill,
And asked us what we wanted. “What’s your best?”
So, burgers it was—but no run-of-the-mill
Ground beef; we could choose chicken or pork,
With mayonnaise, fried egg, and yellow cheese
For condiments, and french fries to eat with a fork.
“To drink?” “Four large diet cokes, if you please.”
We sat, the four of us, and ate, and drank, and talked.
The cook looked on, amused by us, no doubt;
Once strangers, now our group of friends had walked
Through Greece and Bulgaria together, and were just about
To say goodbye, perhaps for good. We knew
Each other, loved each other, and this perfect night
Was ours. We ate our meals and looked back through
The past five weeks. I complained that the flight
Back home was coming all too soon for me.
We would have stayed there talking through the night
If we could have; the cook’s face said we should go.
We left—so very happy, so very sad.
Sure, it probably was the company, but I know…
That was the best damn cheeseburger I ever had.
(This is the place. If you are ever in Sofia, Bulgaria, there are scores of better places to eat. Unless you are with friends, and have walked the whole town looking for just the right place for a pork burger with mayo, yellow cheese, and fried egg, on a soft white roll. In which case, this is the very best place on earth. It’s on Shipka street, about a block from the University.)
Now, the really tough part. My dinner party. I am going to start small, so as not to deplete the blogospheric resources too much. My reasons for choosing each are my own, and I will not share them, other than to say that I chose individuals, without much care as to how they combine. I do think having these people around my table would make for a wonderful evening (for me, at least). I am very grateful to each of them for the privilege,, according to Ebert’s criterion, of having dined at their tables so many times already. In no particular order…
And hey, if you are not at the table, but like the idea, consider yourself invited! Write your own, and invite your own people to your table! Oh, and link back here so I can read it!
Edited to add: More and more, I hate the notion of choosing just a few people to send this to. I have already though of a couple dozen people I wish I had “invited” to my table, and I have no doubt I will think of many more before bedtime. So. If you have read this far, you are officially tagged, and asked (politely) to write up your own Ebert Dinner. To keep with meme tradition (is that metamemology?), I will keep my dinner choices, but I have just called up the Intarweb Virtual Caterers and ordered a tent that can fit all of you. You are invited.
Don’t thank me. Thank Roger Ebert.