FED stakes a contemporary claim to the dining table. Not a sentimental harking back, this home-based community performance in Athens, Georgia USA combines whole foods, fine things, and an open invitation to catalyze plenty. In the moment. Just like my grandmother would, if she were alive to see the day.
Frances Eloise David believed that her initials were significant, that they heralded–despite significant instances of hardship–a life of plenty. For her, food provided the anchor and catalyst for a rich life. Food was sustenance. Food was love. Food was family and friends. And vitally, food was delightful for all the senses and stimulating for the intellect. “Always a yellow vegetable, always a green, both raw and cooked,” she’d employ to guarantee a pretty plate, a balanced meal, and when, as markets opened up to produce from afar, an exotic treat and a conversation piece.
An innovative and gifted cook, my grandmother taught me to make biscuits as soon as I was able to stand on a stool to reach the kitchen counter. Henceforth, she took my tutelage seriously, and it continued until her death in 2000 at eighty-eight. Long after she was too frail and blind to manage herself, she could tell from the sounds and smells whether something needed tending. “A little white wine for those birds, sugar,” she’d offer for the quail. “The peanuts are ready for the soda,” she’d say about the brittle.
Likewise, I took my apprenticeship seriously. As my grandmother did, I credit a well laid meal, cooked with love, with great potential, and when I wasn’t studying by her side, I was studying elsewhere–as an observer, participant, and host–the power of the meal.
I lived around the corner from Julia Child in high school, and I used to watch her show after school, then walk down the street to the market where she shopped. I’d purchase the ingredients necessary to replicate for supper her offerings on that day’s show. When I was lucky, she was shopping, too, and I would quietly and discreetly follow her around. Too shy to “invite her to tea,” as my mother often suggested, it was enough to watch her and follow her lead.