A recent article in the Times, The Artful Dodger, has quickly been marked as one of my favorites. Diane Root so casually writes about a family meal she shared as a young girl in Nice, France, with no one other than . . . Picasso.
First, she describes their meal: pissaladière, mounds of moules marinières, a flurry of pommes frites, brandade de morue (the “requisite” ratatouille), aioli to slather on bread, and multiple bottles of pélure d’oignon, a regional rosé.
Then, she writes about Picasso’s antics. As they ate, he mischievously distracted her with his charming drawings as he, of all things, quietly stole food right off of her plate!
When her father later asked what she thought of Picasso, she said, “He’s one heckuva pique-assiette.” I think this translates directly into “crazy plate,” and indirectly as “one who eats from other plates.”
Oh, if we all could be so famous for our mischievousness. It makes me think of the crazy cast of characters LRK channeled at the recent event where I saw her speak, and of the ambitious, semi-subversive plans of The Ghetto Gourmet. Have you heard of it? When Angela, my food-loving pal, and I got wind of it, we quickly adopted the Minneapolis-St Paul chapter, the GGMSP. “The Ghet” has a few mottos and taglines worth noting.
- The Ghet is “a dinnerparty network for lovers of fine cookin’, cool art, and new friends.” The idea is to eat well and impishly mix together new people through the elixirs of wine, music, food, and art.
- “Hold on to your forks!” Diners must hold on to their forks because the meals, which serve dozens, take place in people’s home, studios, galleries, and other spaces. In other words, forks are at a premium. Don’t let yours be bussed away.
- “All sinners welcome.” Well. Whatever the story is behind this one, let’s try not to complain.
In the spirit of the thing, at the first dinner, Angela and I cooked a five-course meal for 18 friends and strategically paired personalities at the tables. Along with the gracious attentiveness of our server, Michael, we turned a vintage apartment into a rockin’ restaurant for the night. (The other thing about The Ghet is that diners pay for their meal. We squeak by through asking for 20 bucks per person.) We ate butternut squash and green apple soup with curry garnish. Pink lady apple cups with celeraic cherry slaw. Argula salad with fennel, baked ricotta, and saffron. Cassoulet (with white beans, tomatoes, lamb, duck, and sausage). And pots of chocolate with orange polenta cookies.
All of this is made from scratch by us, of course, the Ghetto Girls. We go through quite a round of collaboration before deciding on the menu, meeting over cookbooks, emailing recipes back and forth, and often making courses we never saw recipes for in the first place.
At the second one, we intended to transform a backyard into a romantic dinner garden, but the rain interfered with our plans. Retreating to Plan B, we gathered inside and ate carrot coconut soup. Butterleaf salad with feta, Medjool dates, orange slices, and pistachios. Roasted garlic and butternut squash spread with pear and Parmesan. Mini toast with ricotta, fig, Marcona almonds, and honey. Seafood stew (mussels, Chilean sea bass, and salmon) in creamy white wine sauce. Apple upside down cake with vanilla ice cream.
Both of these dinners were fun. Lots of tasty, chatty, liquored-up fun.
At this point, ambitions intact, we’re looking to stir things up by inviting new people, as any gathering is only a reflection of the people you invite.
We’re also hoping to find a better venue. We have quickly hit our limits in terms of kitchen space and seating. Given that we are two crazy plates ourselves, we wonder if anyone in MSP may have similar ambitions. We’d like to meet a dinner benefactor, of sorts, an instigator, someone with access to a kitchen and accompanying large seating area.
Also, could we invite a local chef? Could we feature local products at a discount? Could we host a group of burlesque dancers to spin turns around the tables?
Also yet, could we be hired to host your own dinner party? We’re not sure yet. The only thing we know is that there seems to be a lot of potential behind the idea of creative people coming together to meet, eat, and get to know one another at the level of an intimate meal. Raise your hand if you’d like in on the next one.