Dinner with Christopher Hitchens, Dorothy Parker and Mr Bhutto.
For a truly memorable dinner party you need guests who can amuse, enlighten, as well as cause a slight frisson of unpredictability, if required. Potential of danger needs to hang over the evening. The chance that a glass of wine could be thrown, or an aggrieved party could storm out in a spectacular huff, if suitably provoked, should always be within reach. Likewise, it could all go swimmingly well and all parties could be there until three a.m., swapping anecdotes about the ghastly people they have come across in their professional careers.
With this in mind, my three guests are as follows: journalist and writer, Christopher Hitchens; poet, writer, critic and satirist, Dorothy Parker; and finally former President and Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
All three guests like a tipple, despite Mr Bhutto banning the sale of alcohol in Pakistan. So, upon arrival, Johnny Walker Black label would be served for the men and champagne for Ms Parker. It would be wise to avoid serving Ms Parker anything stronger in case she adhered to one of her own Bon Mots:
I love a martini - But two at the most. Three, I’m under the table; Four, I’m under the host.
Surprisingly for Pakistan, Bhutto would arrive first, followed by a half-cut Hitchens, and finally in would swan Ms. Parker.
Conversation would be lively, and combative. The atheist, contrarian and provocateur, Christopher Hitchens, would collar Bhutto immediately on everything from capitulating to the mullahs on alcohol and the Ahmadi issue, to the loss of East Pakistan, and the building of the nuclear bomb. Hitchens would have fun at the expense of Bhutto’s megalomania and demagoguery. Hitch would be especially critical of Bhutto’s sidelining of democratic principles in his pursuit of retaining political power. Bhutto would get his own back by challenging Hitchens, a staunch Marxist, on his conversion to the neocon doctrine and his vocal support for George W. Bush’s War on Terror.
Later in the conversation, Hitchens would face more wrath. This time from poet, writer, critic and satirist, Dorothy Parker. Hitchens infamously wrote a 2007 article for Vanity Fair titled ‘Why women aren’t funny’. He had argued that there is less societal pressure for women to practice humour and that “women who do it play by men’s rules. I suspect, Ms Parker, a great wit, would be suitably scathing of Hitch’s hypothesis. This would result in some witty back and forth between the two with some additional flirting from both sides.
The dinner itself would be outside on my chatt (roof). Background music would be supplied by Sabri brother qawwals. The menu would honour the nationalities of my three guests. I would serve garam, garam samosas and pakoras with imli chutney for a starter. The pakoras would have a variety of fillings from the common aloo, onion, haari mirch and palak pakoras to less traditional ones like paneer, moong daal and gobi.
For my main course, I would serve a classic beef Wellington, with all the appropriate trimmings. The dish certainly is suitably rich and decadent for such illustrious guests – a butter-soft, ruinously expensive cut of beef smothered in a rich, potentially even truffled mushroom mixture, spiked with madeira wine and topped, in its most glorious incarnation, with a decadent slab of foie gras. Sauce wise, I would serve a simple beef and red wine sauce, and for sides a portion of spinach will bring everything together beautifully.
Finally, for dessert, I would serve a classic New York cheesecake. This would be made with cream, not sour cream and definitely have lemon juice in it to add to freshness and cut the richness. The key is to mix the ingredients well without incorporating too much air into the batter.
So a Pakistan starter, a British main course and an America dessert – my courses would match the order in which my guests arrived at the dinner party.
After-dinner chocolates, coffee, and port (if anyone has any room left), would finish off the evening. I would announce my retirement for bed at three am in the hope that everyone gets the hint to leave. That’s if the port hasn’t been deposited on someone’s head first.