There is a synergy happening—one that has grabbed me in the gut. Tomorrow night opens my joint photography show called Gather & Grow. The show description is as follows:
As we gather, we grow as a community. Photographers Lisa Bunin and Liz Birnbaum became inspired to collaborate on this exhibit through their work at the Ecological Farming Association—Lisa is Board President and Liz organizes the annual EcoFarm conference. What began as an image sharing conversation between two photographers deeply committed to celebrating organic agriculture and food, blossomed into an exhibit that expresses the love of nature and the intrigue of foodscapes. Their photos showcase the beauty, bounty, and biodiversity of ecological agriculture where farms transform nature into an amazing array of food.
Gather and Grow, the show’s title, echoes that of California’s oldest and largest ecological food and farming gathering—the EcoFarm Conference. Like a conference workshop, the intent of this exhibit is to invite people to engage in conversations about food and farming and in doing so foster community in the intentionally created space. Our hope is that visitors will become energized to extend their conversations beyond opening night and to consider becoming a more active participant in forging a sustainable food future. So drop by, have an organic conversation, and leave with an appetite for food system change.
And so, on the eve of my show, I am watching a delicious film: Babbette’s Feast. The film has—as one character puts it as he describes the decadent cailles en sarcophage—“the ability to transform a dinner into a kind of love affair, a love affair that made no distinction between bodily appetite and spiritual appetite.” There is something about that line which echoes in my own body and spirit, tonight.
Earlier I listened to Chef Dan Barber on This American Life. He was on to explain what he lays out so delectably in the TED talk, “A Foie Gras Parable.” The way Barber traces the infamous dish of foie gras is tantamount to a romantic quest. He starts skeptically, begins to see the light, develops depth in his reverence of this new biophilic foie gras, and finally has a full conversion experience to the extent that he would now evangelize to the world. And it all seems valid because biophilic/animal welfare oriented foie gras is nothing short of a culinary god-send. And the confluence of this story and of Babbette’s Feast both re-entering my world on the same night have stirred up some romantic notions of love and life, for me now, too.
I was once fortunate enough to have dinner at Barber’s restaurant Blue Hill, part of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in New York. On that night I dined with incredible company and we spoke of Babette’s Feast. I also saw geese when I was back at Stone Barns in February. These are Dan Barber’s (and farmer Jack Algiere’s) geese. This sensory-memory-romantic onslaught reminded me of a poem I read recently which was published in this Summer’s issue of the journal Gastronomica. It is called Exposition on Baking Baklava, by Hillary Fogerty. The full text is not available online; I could only find this from a preview of the first page on JSTOR:
The poem takes you on a journey around the world, propelled by love, to procure each ingredient to make baklava. From honey gathering to “the flowering place of orchids” which refers to the vanilla bean, this is one of the most romantic, charming, and memorable poems I have read in a long while.
And as is said by the General in Babette’s Feast:
“For tonight I have learned, my dear . . . that in this beautiful world of ours . . . all things are possible.”