My dream dinner party must take place somewhere with a view of a vast body of water and which overlooks a city of the rarest beauty. For that reason, I’ve chosen an apartment in Rio, several floors up, maybe in the neighborhood of Flamengo.
The flat will have a balcony so that we can go out between courses with glasses of wine or soft drinks, if my guests are so minded, and enjoy the arrival of nightfall and the growing clamor of the nightlife below. The dress code will be decadent casual, so I will go for a black velvet jacket with gold trim, with matching black rollneck.
For the cuisine, I will leave everything in the hands of Joyce Hermlin of Kaari Delicatessen. A few years ago, I went to Berlin’s African Food Festival and, among the many excellent stalls, her cooking de ella stood out.
Berlin has some of the best restaurants, euro-for-euro, that I have found anywhere, so the fact that I remember it so well half a decade later says it all. I’ll ask her to cook her her full repertoire — fish, chicken, soups, vegetarian skewers, kidney beans, chapati.
For the wine, I’ll consult Camille Darroux, an up-and-coming French sommelier who is an equally gifted musician. I first encountered her in the latter guise in Berlin, where she was making electronic music. Then I heard her talk about wine and she blew me away. Not only will she heal a superb evening of libations, she can also assemble an outstanding playlist.
After much thought, my five guests are Tony Morrison, Paul Newman, Samuel Eto’o, Okot p’Bitek and Miriam Makba. All five not only achieved exceptional things but they never lost track of their social consciences. What’s more, they seemed to know absolutely everyone and had, as far as I can tell, a playful sense of humour. Which means the gossip should be good.
It’ll be fun if one of them starts each course with a light-hearted tale about themselves that no one else knows — a wild last-minute adventure to another country, a chance encounter with a stranger who would become a life-long friend — then everyone can respond and go from there.
Let’s quickly run through my remarkable guests. What gets me about Toni Morrison is the fullness of the life she lived. She did n’t cast everything aside in pursuit of her craft de ella, she gave so generously of herself. Even if she had never written a single word, she would have gone down as a legend in literature for the work she did as an editor.
It will be incredible to hear her talk about the first time she realized a new author was special or the feeling of that moment when a great idea came to her. But also to hear about the joy she took in being a parent and in her many friendships from her because no one could describe affairs of the heart like her.
Paul Newman can tell us all about a pivotal time for American society and politics, for which he had a front-row seat. He’ll have so much to say about him maintaining his integrity and progressive values, even within a segregated society. And, hopefully, he’ll share plenty about his love of motor racing.
As for Samuel Eto’o, my goodness. What to say about one of the greatest footballers of all time who’s now the president of Cameroon’s football association? He is so fearless and forthright in every interview and I want to hear what it took for a working-class black African man to make his way in mainland Europe.
Meanwhile, Okot p’Bitek was a true polymath. The Ugandan writer, most famous for his epic “Song Of Lawino”, is one of Africa’s finest poets, and was also good enough at football to play for his country. From what I’m told, he will be the most mischievous of all my guests, so I expect him to be the catalyst for a night on the town afterwards. Before that, he can give us an insight into life growing up in a country and continent trying urgently to break free from colonial rule.
Last but not least, perhaps the greatest of them all, Miriam Makeba, who was singing both for justice and joy almost until her final breath. She is one of the few musicians who can claim to have provided a soundtrack to freedom. I do not think anyone else in the room will be able to speak once she starts talking about any part of her life de ella, so she’ll have to introduce the final course.
After a spectacular meal, everyone will get into two long chauffeur-driven black Cadillacs to find a club somewhere in the city, with a big dance floor. Either side of that, we can stop off in Leblon for cocktails then end up in Botafogo for karaoke. When we’re done there, we’ll drive to the edge of the lagoon, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, and watch the sun rise over the water. And, of course, there will be selfies, endless selfies, because who wouldn’t want an eternal reminder of such a night?
Musa Okwonga is an author and the co-host of the Stadio football podcast. His latest book by him is “Striking Out”, co-authored with Ian Wright
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