Eat, That You Will Feel Well
Would you let 30 random strangers eat off your plate? Would you, in turn, eat off the plates of those 30 strangers?
The Uovo Performing Arts Festival included one “performance” yesterday of 30 individuals, by reservation only. “Mangia che ti fa bene”, “Eat that you will feel well.” For 10 euro, or about $13.50, I walked into the room to a very long table with 30 place settings, and a variety of ingredients:
- grana cheese
- sesame seeds
- pumpkin seeds
- olive oil
- cooked peas
- fresh ginger
- fresh herbs
We were given limited, very loose guidelines.
We each grabbed a plastic apron from the group taped to the window.
Our project was to gather whatever combination of ingredients we desired, blend them and put the mix into a paper-lined, 3″ x 5″ foil pan. The 30 of us were elbow-to-elbow at the table and we were being filmed. We had graters, sieves, knives, bowls, half-moons and cutting boards at our disposal. Notes were provided about the health-inducing properties of each food item.
We asked for ingredients to be passed. We reached across the table. We laughed and chatted and mixed with our hands until our concoctions looked just right to us. Some pressed the ingredients through sieves for a uniform consistency. Others left chunks for spikes of flavor. Some formed loaf-like logs, while others patted their mix into flat casseroles. We bound up our creations in oven paper, scrawled our names on the wrap and sent the little tins off to be baked for 30-45 minutes.
While our dinners were baking, we were served lemon-slice salad, celery sticks with honey, and braised celeriac root. For our 10 euro, we also got a glass of red wine and some herb tea.
Trays of foil tins emerged from the oven, and the hostess called out names. One-by-one, the “performers”, the dinner guests, opened and tasted their creations. There were 30 recipes at the table. Like a groundswell, the sampling started. People reached over with their forks and sampled their neighbors’ meals, and everyone started passing their dish around for others to taste. It was remarkable the range of culinary directions we had each taken. I realized later that I could have gone in the sweet direction and combined bread, egg, apple, ginger, lemon and arrived at a dessert to contrast with all the savory gratins at the table.
I looked around, tickled, chuckling and amazed. Would this happen in the U.S.? Could it? How could I bring this experience to Seattle? To Burien? I easily tallied that the 30 people at 10 euros each only brought in 300 euros. And I looked at all the food, and the utensils, and the wine and thought that surely this was not a money-making proposition. In the U.S., liability insurance alone for a one-day event of this nature would probably be prohibitive.
And would people in the U.S. be willing to pass their dish for their unknown neighbor to sample from, and then fork a bite from their neighbor’s plate and relish the combination of ingredients different from their own?
This does give me ideas for an uncommon Thanksgiving dinner… but many in my family would likely balk at the idea. (But they wouldn’t be random strangers.)
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Here’s the official, “as advertised” description of the event:
The aftermath was a mess of a table!