Another day, another Bookending Summer prompt! Today I get to share the prompt idea that inspired me to sign up as a host, and the one that I’m personally most excited about.
Quality time is definitely one of my love languages, and I was also inspired by a video from one of my favorite YouTubers (taking everyone i love on dates). Since starting college some of my favorite memories have been dining hall hangouts with my friends, so in my mind dinner is a great opportunity to spend time with the people you care about.
Lucky you, you’re going on a dinner date — romantic or platonic, as you prefer — with any book character you want! Tell us who they are and why you chose them, where you’re going (fancy restaurant from their book? picnic in Central Park? Feel free to be creative and detailed), and what’s on the menu. Bonus points for multiple courses and/or dishes inspired by or straight out of books!
This post is part of Bookending Summer 2019, which is organized by Sam & Clo! Today’s prompt, “Table for Two,” is hosted by yours truly — so if you do this prompt don’t forget to link back to this post!
Who & Why
I actually didn’t have any particular character in mind when I thought of this prompt, and honestly I don’t tend to get fictional crushes. In high school I related a lot to Blue Sargent and Cath Avery, but honestly, having dinner with someone like me — not to be confused with having dinner in my own company, which I do regularly and generally enjoy — sounds pretty awkward. (Because I’m an awkward person, and I related to these two because they were also a bit awkward. Just too much awkward in the same space doesn’t sound like a recipe for a nice date.)
There were so many different routes I could’ve gone with this, and it certainly doesn’t help that I hate making decisions. Rhen Tellur has both intelligence and courage that I admire. Fang is allegedly very good-looking, with “a great fashion sense,” and he plays a “mean” harmonica. Any of the Daughters from the Mother-Daughter Book Club would be great for a long conversation about books and boys and growing up. And so on …
After thinking about it for way too long, I realized I might as well draw a name out of a jar and decided on Magnus Bane. He would be a super fun date, with his sparkling personality and colorful anecdotes; there are parts of his backstory that I can relate to (for a while in high school I aspired to identify as a “freewheeling bisexual”), but just as many that fascinate me because I can’t quite put myself in his shoes. I’d love to get to know him better, and I think we could have a good time doing it.
The prompt is, after all, for a single dinner date, not for a forever partner.
Well, Magnus has forever. I don’t.
This idea was inspired by the picnic scene in Small Town Hearts, and I do love both the casual vibe and fresh air that comes with a picnic. The planning and food preparation can be done ahead of time; it can also be a fun way to spend even more time together.
But. I don’t really enjoy dealing with grass stains and bugs and all the uncontrollable variables with sitting outside for an extended period of time, so my ideal picnic would actually be indoors — perhaps preceded by a leisurely walk, to enjoy the fresh air and maybe work up a bit of an appetite.
Ideally I’d love to build a blanket-and-pillow fort in the living room, with some string lights and candles, all the works, and enjoy the picnic inside the fort. Maybe that’s childish and/or aggressively quirky, but hey, this is my fantasy date, I can do what I want.
What’s On the Menu
Although sandwiches are the classic picnic food and certainly come in a great variety, they comprised the vast majority of my high school lunches and I’m happy to never make one ever again. But in spite of superficial similarities, I doubt you could lump Dr. Chef’s marvelous creations in with such a pedestrian food.
She bit down into a smoky bun. The bread was airy soft, the unidentified filling rich and savory, somewhat reminiscent of roasted mushrooms. Smoky, yes, but also lightly spiced, with just the right amount of salt.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
As another main dish, I picked another lunchbox classic: one that I rarely got to enjoy unless I took the initiative to make them myself, but easy to make and absolutely delicious.
To make onigiri, you wash your hands and cover your palms with salt. Then you grab a handful of rice and shape it into a lump. My mother made fancy triangle-shaped onigiri, with seaweed and pickled plums …
Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
I certainly couldn’t put together this list without including something from Natalie Tan’s grandmother’s cookbook. (The Drunken Chicken Wings for love and relationships would be an obvious choice, but that seemed a little too manipulative for a dinner date.)
Time is the key to these spring rolls.
This is a meal designed to entice conversation and build connections, for it involves active participation: kinship. […]
Each person makes their own spring rolls, and in the process, ingredients are passed around and shared. As much time is spent in preparation of this dish, more time is taken in its consumption.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim
And, of course, no dinner (or picnic) would be complete without some sweet treats!
I sank my teeth into a[n Earl Grey] shortbread cookie that wasn’t perfectly round. The sweet, smoky notes of tea blended with the crushed vanilla beans I’d sprinkled into the cookie batter. The flavor was incredible — like sweet, crumbly autumn goodness. Like fragrant, floral tea and crisp breaths in brisk air. Like fingertips warmed by hot cocoa and enormous woolly sweaters wrapped around me.
Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale
And some more …
Finn finds my left hand, opens my fingers, and puts a November cake in my palm. It oozes honey and butter, rivulets of the creamy frosting joining the honey in the pit of my hand. It begs to be licked.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Actually, let’s just make that lots of sweet treats.
“Have you tried the cinnamon things?” Poppet asks. “They’re rather new. What are they called, Widge?”
“Fantastically delicious cinnamon things?” Widget says, shrugging. “I don’t think all of the new things have names yet.”
“I haven’t, but they sound good,” Bailey says.
“They are good,” Widget says. “Layers of pastry and cinnamon and sugar all rolled into a twist and covered in icing.”
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Now that I’ve hopefully made you at least a little hungry and maybe a little disappointed that this whole setup is purely hypothetical (Magnus being fictional aside, half these dishes don’t exist in our world … yet), which foods would you pack in your picnic basket? What’s your idea of a perfect date?
If you do this prompt, please don’t forget to link back to my post!