According to merriam-webster.com, a feast is an, “elaborate and usually abundant meal often accompanied by a ceremony or entertainment,”. If you close your eyes, and let your mind linger over the term, you might imagine tables piled high with elaborately ornamented dishes—a mosaic of differently plated bites; abstract spatterings of red wine on white table cloths like Pollock-style paintings composed by excitable guests; the hum of curious conversation from guests oogling the platters that have just made their grand entrance from the chef’s mysterious domain…
Ok. Perhaps that’s not how every feast throughout history has gone, but that’s not far from what my two experiences at Feast Portland have been like: A 4-day gathering of people from across the spectrum (and across the world) who’ve come together to find joy in food and wine and being among likeminded individuals who revel in it in the same ways. The abundance is apparent at every event from the Grand Tasting to the Night Market to the Dinner Series and Drink Tank panels; the food telling different stories and presenting familiar ingredients in unfamiliar ways. The entertainment presented in the form of DJs and post-dessert dance parties in the Pacific Northwest moonlight.
My favorite aspect of Feast is how it brings people together around the same table who might not dine together otherwise, but share a common love of food. It’s a platform for unlikely conversations, giving attendees an opportunity to ask questions. To learn.
This year, while standing in a snaking line for a bowl of something noodley, I befriended the family in front of me—fellow out-of-towners from Seattle who shared my obsession with all things delicious. As we eagerly crawled closer to our steaming bowls of shio ramen we began to chat. Within minutes, we were sending representatives of our newly formed group to stand in other, shorter lines to grab more samples for us to share: a spicy fajita cheese steak, a stellar fried oyster sandwich. By the time we received our long awaited ramen, I’d learned about where to find the actual best Vietnamese food in Seattle, received a robust list of additional Seattle recos in my inbox, and gained three new friends to have dinner with on any night of the week.
Behind the scenes, I met members of the food media who’d all come from different perspectives and brought differing opinions to the table. We exchanged opinions about our favorite dishes of the weekend (I’ll never forget that corn); expressed elation about upcoming food trends (shout out to Filipino and Jewish cuisine!); and exhaled together when we finally got to take a break from eating.
Feast is a reminder that food and conversation can make the barriers that divide us as people seem less unsurmountable, if only to ask if the cow tongue was worth standing in line for. It brings us closer as as humans—and if that’s not the first step in reuniting us as a country then I don’t know what is.
Some might call this a romantic idea. I call it a starting place. United we Feast.
Short list of my other favorite parts of the weekend:
- Dominique Crenn’s fireside chat
- The corn on the cob (above) from Compére Lapin
- The fried oyster sandwich at the Night Market
- The Italian Natural wine Drink Tank panel with Marissa Ross and Helen Johannesen
- Smoked! (per usual)
See you at Feast 2019!