5. Dolley Madison. Forget about Martha Stewart. As First Lady, Madison took the role of hostess to a whole new level, earning accolades for her brilliant dress, witty conversation, and terrific dinner menus. And she had moxie as well domestic graces: She offered (often unsolicited) advice to her husband on domestic policy issues and saved a historic portrait of George Washington from a devastating White House fire. Since she's obviously not scared of flames, I'd like to take her out for barbecue and pick her brain about planning the perfect party.
4. John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. If Montagu did, in fact, invent the glorious sandwich, then he is definitely one of my food heroes. In an era when propriety was at a premium for the elite, this dude had the temerity to eat with both hands and gamble at the same time. I dream of feasting with him on a multi-course lunch of reubens, egg salad clubs, and Philly cheesesteaks.
3. Nat King Cole. If this fella gotta eat right, I hope he would eat with me. I promise no red ripe tomatoes or French-fried potatoes, just stogies and a few strong martinis. It may be sort of creepy to have a crush on someone who died two decades before I was born, but I don't care. Nat, I so wish I could share the frim fram sauce with you.
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2. Julia Child. Cliched, yes, but let me be specific as to exactly which Julia Child. I don't want the jocular, learning-to-cook Julia nor the hitting-her-stride, primetime Julia, but rather the delightfully bitchy, "been there, done that," host of Baking With Julia. On the show Julia doesn't hesitate to correct other feckless pastry chefs on their technique and occasionally even smacks their dough to emphasize a point. Heck, if we shared a meal she probably would criticize my own table manners, but it would be worth it just to share some boeuf bourguignon with her.
1. Charles Dickens.Nerd alert! Yeah, I know. But for a Victorian literature graduate student, Charlie is, like, the equivalent to Steven Spielberg....TO THE NTH POWER. And given he could drink his weight in punch (I don't mean the Hawaiian kind) and do really funny impressions, I'm sure he would be a jolly good dining partner. I just hope he doesn't smack me when I ask, "Please, sir, I want some more..."