Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Life's Moveable Feasts

During an TV episode of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations: Vancouver", Anthony dines with his chef chums and asks them what they would eat for their last meal on earth.

"Fugu," one man said, "...because I'm already dying anyway!"


To appreciate the humor of this statement is to know that fugu is the japanese word for pufferfish, a fish that--if prepared incorrectly--is lethal.  Around the table everyone laughed, their faces flushed red from too many raised glass toasts.

Later, I concluded that, certainly, there is no better way to die than around a lively dinner table with friends.  My most cherished memories have been embedded in meals rich in conversations that make my eyes sparkle.  Last weekend's dinner party was no exception: I lifted my pink plastic flute of champagne to toast my oldest friend, Ashley, on her recent engagement.  "Your love is an inspiration to all of us," I started.  Distinct memories rushed forward of the first time I met Ashley and her twin, Jenny, in kindergarten.  It seemed surreal to think that we were the same people standing here as when we viewed the world from only a couple of feet above ground.  20 years ago felt both gargantuan and miniscule.  As if those years passed by like a meandering stream but we realized our life was a single drop in an ocean.

I'd like to make my drop count by building a life of moveable feasts.  Ernest Hemingway receives credit for the poetic phrasing of moveable feasts.  And it's no surprise that Paris, a city culture of institutionalized three-hour meals, inspired this graceful truism.

Paris by night

Speaking of moveable feasts, one of the recent trends in the foodie scene is pop-up dining, which created a buzz last summer and began in...Paris. (Are you surprised?)  The New York Times documented the action and other cities wanted to prove that they were also gastronomically sophisticated.  In response, the Atlanta Underground Market organized Feast Noir, a flash mob feast in which over a 1,000 Atlantans dined al fresco on exclusively homemade food at tables of eight.

The rules were fairly straightforward:

  • Wear black
  • All food must be homemade
  • No plastic plates, cultury, or cups
  • BYOTAC (Bring Your Own Table And Chairs)

The location was undisclosed until the morning of the feast.  Preparing dishes for a meal with strangers at an unknown location provided a new challenge to my host of dinner party skills.  The actual event was a delight, as I expected dining with fellow gourmets to be.  A sommelier told tall tales of the wine business and another couple described their organic farm produce they sell at local farmer's markets.  We shared a meal together but more importantly, we built a community.  As night fell, we packed up our things and left, trusting our feast to memory's safekeeping.  Hoping for another moveable feast.  

Feast Noir 2011
Photo Courtesy of Jessica Wolff

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011

Free Poems on Demand at the Decatur Book Festival

A man with three daughters.  Good legs. Monsters.  Hiding.  Sambones the dog.  Red lemons.  Sandwiches.  Bacon.  Healing.  Peace.

1.  Are the above names of...

a) Next year's summer blockbuster titles
b) Poetry titles
c) Award-winning Thoroughbred horse names
d) None of the above

If you were to pass the Free Poems on Demand tent at the Decatur Book Festival you might be able to deduce the correct answer, b) Poetry titles.  On Saturday afternoon I joined a couple of other poets from Free Poems ATL to write free poems on demand for festival-goers.  Free Poems ATL is a literary performance group that launched at last year's Decatur Book Festival and writes free poems based on any topic requested.    

Some passerby were hesitant to request topics.  Four people requested a poem about love.  One elderly couple approached the table, wanting a poem about love.  Jimmy, the poet sitting next to me, responded to the women that three love poems had already been written and suggested that she choose another topic.  "Well, how about old people love!" she exclaimed, "We're recently married," she softly explained.  Another person named "poop" as a poem topic.  One young man requested a poem for himself, wanted another poem for his sister, and called his mother asking her to choose a poem topic.

On average each poem took me 12 minutes to write.  

Here is a poem I wrote about bacon:

                                                            Another poem about hiding:

And last, my favorite poem of the day about red lemons:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Table-to-Farm: A Compost Institution

One of the more recent (and I might add, increasing fascinating) tenants in my apartment-block brain, is composting.  As I learn more about composting or the transformative process of food scraps to nutrient-rich soil, I can imagine this waste reduction process taking on an environmental "coolness" factor akin to bringing canvas bags to the grocery store to eliminate the paper or plastic bags you consume each shopping trip.  Food waste is the second largest waste stream in the United States after paper, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.  (Pretty interesting considering we are suffering from a national obesity epidemic.)  Considering this disturbing fact, why is composting not more institutionalized as a common form of recycling?  We have bins for plastic, paper, and glass--but where is the bin for my banana peel and stale bread?  Farm-to-table dining is the foodie's buzz word of the year.  But what about table-to-farm?  How about a full-cycle food industry?  A girl can dream.  For now I'll add "American Wasteland: How America Throws Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It)  to my reading list.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cycle Culture

The instructions to my 2009 red Yamaha scooter documents each nut and bolt to my machine.  Literally.  The owner's manual details how to take off the side panels for a peek at the engine, outlines the air induction system, and catalogs where to get spare parts and new varnish for body touch-ups.  The maintenance schedule gives me the knowledge to offer informed guidance to my mechanics on what needs to be done at each mileage check-up.  But where are the rules about cultural cycle norms?

Beyond legalities, there are unspoken cultural nuances to scooter driving in Atlanta.  One of my favorites is the motorcycle wave.  It's akin to a secret handshake of an underground fraternity.  A quick dropped arm at a downward sloping 45 degree angle before returning to the safety of the handlebar grip.  This wave is a call to solidarity among scooter riders.  When I drive around town and pass another scooter driver we will use the wave as a friendly hello or simple recognition for the choice to be on two wheels.  Motorcyclists sometimes wave.  Their choice to wave, perhaps, depends on pride.  I find some motorcyclists to regard a scooter the way a child on a two-wheel bicycle would pitifully watch a toddler on a tricycle.  I let them silently guff.  They can't ride their machines in stiletto heels.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Don't have a good solution? Ask a better question.

"The mere formulation of a problem is often far more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.  To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science" 
     -Albert Einstein 

Have you ever found a solution to a problem you faced?  How did you discover the solution?  Was there a series of questions involved?  How did you know what to ask?  Did you ever question yourself, or others?  Do questions beget questions?  Could a question create noise?  Could a question create silence?  Should a question have inalienable rights?  Would a question have regrets for being a question?  Are questions ever envious of declarative statements?  What does a good question taste like?  For that matter, what does a bad question taste like?  Is there ever a bad question?  What makes a good question?  What makes a great question?  What makes an outstanding question?  Have you ever questioned your questioning? What if you thought in questions all day long?  

Friday, July 15, 2011


To travel is to live said H. C. Anderson.  His eternal words caught my eye and captured my heart in the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.  After spending four engrossing hours in the small three room museum these words described my then current thoughts exactly.   I feel confident that H. C. Anderson and I would have been friends on facebook and I certainty would have followed his blog and perhaps his tweets as well.

I've alway appreciated quotations, particularly concise quips that read like a poetic mantra by which to live.  The 42 country stamps in my passport attest to the comings and goings of a self-proclaimed global citizen. But a victim of wanderlust?  Hardly.  This oft-diagnosed condition may cast an inaccurate reflection of the intentions of a well-seasoned traveller.  I'm not dealing with high school crushes anymore--I'm in wanderlove.  Love makes the world go round and so does an overnight bus to Oslo, Norway.  Perhaps, travel is like summer camp for adults: an opportunity to make new friends, learn new skills, and be in love with languid humid days.  This isn't my first trip and won't be my last as a traveling bon vivant.