Sunday, November 27, 2011

poetrysciencetalks: is a monthly salon that meets in a private loft in downtown NYC. The group, which has been meeting ten + years is comprised of an ever-widening list of participants; a shifting cast of seekers, whose “day jobs” runs the professional gambit: professors, artists, entrepreneurs...  The group comes together to share a meal, hear a presentation (every month a different speaker and different idea) then Q&A/discussion and schmoozing.
     The talks range over many topics; those focusing on Creative Media catch my eye, while ones about Healing or Philosophy of Mind: Spinoza in Cyberspace: Affect as a Mode of Cyborg Communication or NO-THING: The Desire Path to Enlightenment, elude. This is true about the speakers too; some shine with intimate warmth, or dazzle with PowerPoint acumen, others bumble, cryptically mystifying.  However obscure, all the talks are presented in good will and the “breaking bread” part of the evening is straight-up pleasure. Being PST’s chef these past six years has been wonderfully engaging.
     Creating and cooking a low cost menu, using minimal equipment, and including foods suitable for omnivores, vegans and other dietary intolerances can be a difficult challenge. But imagining the menu, which is designed after consulting with the evening's presenter to highlight the talk, is an exhilarating challenge. Sometimes the menu rifts on language: a talk that explored money as a medium of exchange delivered foods whose names are slang for money: bacon, clams, greens, bread.  Other menus are illustrative: a talk about string theory and particle physics opened with a meal of strings and dots: bocconcini tossed with spaghetti, Israeli couscous salad, strawberry licorice whips. Still other times, the connection between talk and meal is more abstract. A talk about Elementality and Jungian Psychology offered platters representing the four elements: Fire/tofu with Chinese chili oil, Earth/sautéed greens with Umami rich mushrooms and Parmesan cheese, Air/a mélange of popped corn, cheese doodles and other ersatz snacks, and Water/lemon sorbet.
     Last month the speaker shared his “spiritual awakening,” charting, in his own words, his journey from “skeptic to Gnostic.” After opening the evening with a Chakra activation, he used a Powerpoint to illustrate connections between ancient Gnostic teachings and the concepts he's learned participating in ayahuasca ceremonies, kundalini awakenings, and through extra-terrestrial encounters at Burning Man.

Of all the possible inspirations for a menu, Chakras, which are energy points along the body that correlate with the color spectrum, proved to be the most concrete.

    Imagining the menu; a different dish would correspond to each Chakra color.

Tomatoes, roasted red peppers and salami/ 
Butternut puree/
Turmeric-scented basmati with split yellow lentils/ 
sautéed Kale/
assorted blue cheeses, Ribber grapes, dried Mission figs/
Beet and red cabbage pickle…   (this was way too magenta. Should’ve been indigo instead. Peruvian potatoes or eggplant would’ve been better but the pickles had been made and they were delicious. Turns out there’re several extraneous chakras beyond the standard seven, including a magenta one… so maybe this oversight can be forgiven!)
Berry ice cream with lavender shortbread/ stood for the ethereal violet Crown chakra.

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