My latest read is The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle. It was my Book of the Month pick for August and I couldn’t want to get hands on it and devour the story.
Here is the synopsis from the back of the book:
At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Rebecca Serle contends with in her utterly captivating novel, THE DINNER LIST, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as One Day, and the life-changing romance of Me Before You.
When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together.
Delicious but never indulgent, sweet with just the right amount of bitter, THE DINNER LIST is a romance for our times. Bon appetit.
It got me thinking – who would be on my dinner list?
First, would be my grandma. She died a little over three years ago and life is not the same. When I was little we’d go to my grandparents’ house every Sunday for dinner. Even as I became a teenager and a young adult, I still loved sitting down to a meal with her. I loved it even more when I would go alone to spend time with her and my grandpa. Just me and them. She’d always make my favorite beef stew. No one made beef stew like my grandma. I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to recreate that stew and the feeling it gave me. I’ve perfected a pretty incredible beef stew (just ask my husband), but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put as much love in it as my grandma did. I think she was the only person that was ever capable of giving so much love. In fact, she still gives it. I can feel it around me every day. I just wish I could see her. And that’s why she was clearly the first person I put on my dinner list.
Second, would be Lin-Manuel Miranda because, well, he’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. In 2007, my college boyfriend and I had the opportunity to attend the Theater World Awards ceremony in NYC. He was making his Broadway debut with In the Heights. The show was Off-Broadway at the time, but was heading to Broadway. On the Thursday before the 2007 Tony’s, we sat 5 rows from an Off-Broadway stage (behind Rosemary Harris) and watched a young Lin-Manuel rush on stage to accept his Theater World Award. His words were fast and quick, noting that he had to go because his sister was in labor and he had to go meet his niece or nephew. I remember watching him and thinking, “what a cool guy”. He was utterly magnetic. After that day, I began following his career and he has become someone I admire considerably. His genius is unparalleled. I am in awe of everything he does. Imagine how entertaining and wonderful dinner would be with him! I could listen to him talk for hours, so clearly he was the second guest on my dinner list.
Third would be my friend, Nate. He passed away from cancer almost seven years ago and not a day goes by where I don’t think of him. He remains, to this day, the person that taught me the most about life and how to live it to the fullest extent. I was young when I met him, in my early 20s, still unsure about my path in life. From the moment we met, I adored him. In the time I knew him, we spent most of our moments together eating and/or drinking beer. I enjoyed sharing meals with him and loved our conversations even more, some lasting upwards of four hours. There was never an awkward silence. I felt like I could tell him anything and we’d talk for hours about writing and life and beer. I really needed him at that time in my life. His friendship and the way he supported me, made me fall in love with writing all over again. He made it seem possible that I could really be a writer, that writing was my destined path. I will always be grateful to him for that. I’d really love to hear his voice again and to talk to him about writing (and beer).
My 4th guest would be Chef José Andrés. I’ve actually eaten his food before and have been in his presence. I worked the Cayman Cookout Food & Wine event in Grand Cayman for three years. It takes place at the Ritz-Carlton in the Cayman Islands and is hosted by Chef Eric Ripert (someone else I considered adding to my guest list). Chef Ripert invites his famous chef and wine friends to Grand Cayman for a food and wine festival. I worked in ticket sales and had the opportunity to be a part of the event. José Andrés’ event was always one of the more popular ones, selling out very quickly. The first year I was tasked with scanning tickets to his event, I witnessed the extremely boisterous, fun, passionate chef in his element. One of his schticks was that he always had a crazy entrance. One year he had a full-on carnival entrance with a parade and dancers, another he arrived via pirate ship and was dragged on shore by pirates, and for another he appeared out of the water in full scuba gear. He was great to watch and his love of food was palpable. Meeting him and eating a slider he had made is still one of the highlights of my life. I’d love to sit down with him and talk about food. I mean the man fed an entire island for God’s sake, he should be treated to a meal. Also, he and Lin-Manuel were instrumental with the Hurricane Maria relief effort in Puerto Rico. Lin-Manuel even wrote the forward to Chef Andrés’ new book, We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time, which published earlier this month. If you haven’t, you should check out and consider donating to the incredible World Central Kitchen organization, founded by Chef Andrés.
I knew my 5th guest would be an author, but as someone who is in a constant state of reading, you can imagine I had a long list. Ultimately it came down to Jane Austen (obviously) and Kristin Harmel. And while I would love to ask Jane Austen about her life and if she had ever been in love, I really want to be Kristin Harmel’s friend. Like all of my favorite books, I cannot recall how I happened upon Kristin Harmel’s The Sweetness of Forgetting. Most of my favorite books have popped up in weird ways that prompted me to read them. They appear, almost like magic. And when I read them, I am utterly captivated; nothing else matters after that, not even how I found the book. I’m left with a deep-rooted gratitude for it finding me. That was my experience with my first Harmel novel. I’ve been hooked ever since. Even though I’m friends with Kristin on Facebook and have had a few conversations with her, I still would really love to meet her in person and share a meal. Just think of the amazing conversations we’d have about reading and writing. I’d be in heaven.
So those are my five guests, each carefully chosen for very specific reasons. I think it would be quite the dinner!
Anyway, back to the book…
What I loved about Rebecca Serle’s The Dinner List is that the main takeaway is how we all need to learn to let go of the past in order to move forward in life. The main character, Sabrina, gets the opportunity to sit down to dinner with her past and actively choose to use the time she’s been given to gain closure and move on.
I really love when I don’t figure out where the plot is going and then I’m surprised. Usually, I can figure out where a plot is going and how the book will end. It’s a treat for me when I don’t. On a side note, this is what really made me love Kristin Harmel’s books. She has a knack for this and I always know I’m in for a surprise when I read her novels. Rebecca Serle presents readers with such a surprise that I audibly gasped. To me, that’s the mark of an excellent book. I won’t say anything else on the matter, because I really hope you read it and audibly gasp too. I really feel like this book taught me the importance of reflecting on my own past and letting go of what’s keeping me there.
So I have my guests; I’ve read the book. The next step is, of course, what wine do I serve? I was looking for something ethereal and special. I chose a 2016 Vintage Burrasca from Bright Cellars. The grape variety is something I had never encountered. Falanghina, also known as Falanghina Greco, is a wine grape variety used for white wines. Apparently it’s known for having considerable character and its name derives from the Latin word, falangae, which are stakes for supporting grapes in a vineyard. Cool, right?!
Burrasca is from the Puglia region of Italy (the “heel of Italy’s boot”) and is known for its tumultuous history – hence the storm depicted on the label. It’s probably one of the prettiest labels I’ve ever seen. Regardless of the stormy label, I found the wine to be light, airy, and ethereal. It smelled floral and soft. It was incredibly smooth and had a musical quality to it, like the familiar vamp of Linus and Lucy from the Peanuts. While drinking it, I felt nostalgic and happy. I was transported – the perfect wine for a magical dinner.
Who would be on your dinner list?
If you’re interested in checking out Bright Cellars, check out my referral link to get $30 off your first order!
*I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts and images are my own.*