Monday, November 15, 2010

The Truth Behind Vegetarians

This is the second post for dinner #23, the one before it I wrote and than deleted four days later.  

I had the pleasure and luck to sit down during a meal next to Ze Frank, who I told about our Thursdays at Worth Street experiment. I asked for his opinion on the project and he replied to me with a question that gave me a totally new and insightful perspective. He asked: Are you telling the truth about the dinners when you write about them on the blog? My knee jerk reaction was to reply yes, of course! But his question also came just at the right moment where my truthfulness in my writing was about to be put into question. The TRUTH is, I do find something very unique and special about all the dinners we have had so far, but of course, there are some things that go wrong, that are off, that don’t catch flow or connect in the way we would want them to. His question made me question my writing, in a good way of course! It made me shove it a little bit against the edges of social correctness and create a new filter I can evaluate my writing against: Complete and utter truth. I will now document the pink, sweet and fluffy but also all those gray areas in between.

The second expression of dinner #23

The night felt a bit off right from the get go. I was leaving to go to a conference in Mexico early Wednesday morning and we didn’t want to cancel dinner for the week so instead we decided to have the dinner take place on a Tuesday.  Like the butterfly effect, this had an impact in just about everything leading up to the dinner: Brainstorming the menu, going to the market, confirming guests, consulting wines, and many other endeavors that happen in between dinners. On top of that, it was a complicated dinner since it was all vegetarian. Not to blame our vegetarian friends, but these dishes, rather than more simple can become very complex and elaborate, especially when one is trying to escape the traditional and present an exciting menu to a group of people who are usually limited in their options. We wanted to allow our guests to rethink their possibilities when it came to food and create something  for them that was rich and fulfilling. Very beautiful in theory, much chaotic in practice.

This complexity quickly became apparent in what a real, full on restaurant would be the back of the kitchen, but unfortunately for this particular night, was front and center and completely visible to all the guests.  The kitchen became a HOT MESS, there was barely any room left to prepare the food, the kitchen counter was FULL with ingredients, sauces, plates, skillets, pans, you name it! It looked like a crazy Turkish bazaar. It was so crowded with stuff that even I felt there was no room for me in it. Felipe was maintaining composure but I could tell he was getting flustered. While he wasn’t making it apparent, he had on that undeniable vibe only couples pick up from each other. For the first time, I was not let in, I became a guest rather than a player, I sat on the bench, waiting for my turn to join in on the game.  And suddenly, still on the bench, I started seeing all the pieces coming together. All of these food elements were actually randomly connected. The kitchen started to make sense and that tension all of a sudden started wearing off. At the end, this was one of the most delicious dinners Felipe has made. It was exceptional, delicate, unique and just exquisite! Best of all, I got to see it all. I got a sneak peak into the imagination of his brain and its ability to deconstruct and build back up again. I got to see and enjoy the food from the perspective of our guests.

So to all our vegetarian guests, which also came randomly together, thanks for pushing Felipe’s culinary limits and challenging us in just about every way.

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