by cheri block sabraw
Last weekend, we held a banquet for Joe’s 78th Birthday.
Banquets are a major motif in Ancient Greek literature, and in some Roman literature too, so hosting a dinner tailored for Joe seemed entirely in keeping with the spirit of the man.
In Greek times, when seafaring strangers anchored their ships out in the cove, and sent small boats of guests on shore to meet and greet the hosts, Greek tradition proscribed the following protocol:
Guests first showered.
Then, they were oiled and massaged.
Finally, they dressed and entered the hall for dinner.
They ate unabashedly, drank, and womanized.
They smoked, talked, rhapsodized about their journeys.
After all that, the host asked the guests who they were.
At that point, the stories began, stories of long arduous journeys in which the crews tangled with loose women, monsters, and the elements—wind, fire, water.
Sometimes the hosts did not fit into the above model.
When Odysseus and his crew land at the island of the Cyclops, the Cyclops Polyphemus eats some of the men for dinner instead of serving them crackers and cheese with lamb pate. The Cyclops, uncivilized creatures with no law, no decorum, and certainly no concerns about hosting a dinner, provide a foil for the ideal Greek banquet.
In the Ancient Greek world, banquets afforded opportunities for the following:
- Devotion to the Gods
- Giving of gifts
Joe is Sicilian. He is not shy. He ordered his banquet: Cornish game hens, wild rice, steamed broccoli, fresh Dungeness crab, olives, and for dessert–tapioca pudding.
The cook delivered.
A banquet for six people.
No oiling, massaging, carousing.
Just philosophic conversation from the master.
After dinner, King Alcinous served port.
Joe predicted the future.