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