Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Could I Get a Do-Over Here?

By Sophie

If you could invite three characters to dinner, who would they be and what would be on the menu?

I was once a fairly accomplished entertainer. I'm a pretty good cook, and I once cared very deeply about appearing sophisticated "enough". My mom was an innately elegant woman whose circumstances didn't support her lofty ambitions when it came to making a home, but she saw to it that I learned how to set a table and passed along to me a longing for the silver and crystal and berry spoons and fish knives she never had, so when I got engaged I studied Martha Stewart's Weddings as though I was burning every lovingly photographed tableau into my memory.

(Yes, younger sisters, it's true. This was before all that bad shit happened with Martha, and we all pretty much revered her.)

In the early years of my marriage, I devised careful guest lists and seated people with an eye to interesting conversations. My husband poured generously, and I think it's safe to say that a good time was had by all.

Except me.

Because I was so damn nervous all the time. That's a lot of pressure, the pursuit of perfection. And underneath it all - no matter how many layers in my terrine, no matter how lofty my souffle, I lived in fear that my humble origins were showing, that I was one faux pas away from exposure. That everyone would find out that I was a rough-raised kid from a small town whose only brushes with grandeur had been in the pages of books. I kept smiling and toasting and complimenting and serving, but on the inside I was constantly on alert.

I think I did my guests a disservice. I think if I'd allowed my guests to see my true, deeply imperfect self, they would have been far more accepting than I ever gave them credit for. Really, would you rather have your hostess in the kitchen garnishing the plates, or telling a raunchy story that makes you laugh so hard the champagne comes out of your nose?

So, to anyone who dined with me in the early nineties, give me a call and we'll stage a do-over. It won't be fancy, but I'd love to know what you were really thinking while we were all making polite conversation.

In that spirit, here are a few characters who might appreciate an opportunity to let their hair down, so to speak - characters who are reticent even on the page:

Elizabeth George's Simon Allcourt-St.James
Dennis Lehane's Bubba Rogowski
Peter Robinson's Annie Cabbot


Rebecca Cantrell said...

Oh God, Sophie, are you sure you aren' As a poor kid from a small town, we seem to have the same neuroses.

Glad you can finally let your hair down and I can't wait to blow champagne out my nose at one of your parties some day.

Alan Orloff said...


Whatever you do, don't spill hot soup in Bubba's lap. He's got quite a temper!

Jen Forbus said...

Well, I didn't have dinner with you in the 90s, but I'm with Rebecca - let's blow champagne out our noses all night long. One can never laugh too much! :)

By the way, my dinner standards: anything not on a paper plate is fancy! ;)

Bobby Mangahas said...

Interesting dining companions, Sophie. Just don't make it TOO formal. For some reason it's kind of intriguing though to picture Bubba in a nice tux with combat boots.

Sophie Littlefield said...

oh my and me throwing a party! That would be something.

Here's something I've always planned on. When I get famous enough, i am going to throw a giant party in my suite at the RWA conference every year. now I know a lot of you still don't go to that awesome conference, but you're invited anyway. And every year someone's going to do something so enormously spectacularly wrong that it's all over the place the next day, but the next year they will receive special gentle treatment at the shindig, because I have a soft spot for people who just can't help embarrassing themselves.

Sophie Littlefield said...

Yeah Alan....Bubba was my odd guest. But really, don't you want to know what's going on in his head? And how it got there?

Sophie Littlefield said...

Oh Jen you are invited right now. Stop by any time! I have a stack of paper plates in the pantry and one of those 400 pound bags of chips you get at Costco. That says "party" to me.

Sophie Littlefield said...

R.J.....Bubba in a tux, huh? I think Simon wears a tux more often than any other fictional character, so the real challenge will be to get him into something casual. Maybe a "Prose Before Hos" shirt and he can borrow my son's favorite cargo shorts which are practically shredded

Leslie said...

Any party with champagne is my kind of party... especially if I can wear my jeans!

I was always fascinated by all that silver too... especially the really bizarre arcane things, like antique silver chicken leg holders!

Just google "6 silver chicken leg holder" for a pic ;-)

Kelli Stanley said...

Sophie, darling, you *are* sophisticated enough for anybody--all the "rules" are just made up BS that change with the decades and whoever is the reigning Miss Manners. The most important dish to serve at any party is good will and hospitality ... followed by bourbon, of course. ;) You were always a success!!

I grew up with a love of salt cellars and yes, I did attend charm school ... but have forgotten most of it except for how to curtsy.

And I, too, remember the long-haired Martha.I've also always liked her because she's Polish and proud of it--just like us. :) Now where's some champagne I can snort?? ;)