Yesterday, my co-workers and I spent an afternoon coming up with limericks about narwhals. These are my people.
I am increasing distrustful of the unreasonably sound-minded. People ask for lot of explanations and as logical adults, we are expected to have a logical motive for each action. And, “Because I like the way it feels,” is generally only a justification worthy of adolescents, or addicts.
The problem I have is that I’ve found a lot of life in the silly parts. Even dessert, the basis of my job, if a wonderful kind of unnecessary. No one needs caramel sauce.
And I like narwhals.
Last week, I found myself surrounded by a group of people that were delightfully nutty. With no clear motives, except to do it because it feels good, these people run an underground dining organization. They call themselves, “Hot Potato Hot Potato Hot Potato.” The name in itself is pure caramel sauce, so when I was asked to make their desserts I hopped right onboard.
The group chooses a different location each month, works like crazy to cook a gigantic dinner (focusing on locally grown ingredients), charges people a mere twenty-dollar donation for a three course meal (plus drinks), and doesn’t really make a single dime.
Most of them know very little about the restaurant industry and are armed with only the most basic cooking skills. But in the words of Fozzie Bear, “I’m a professional. I’ve had three performances,” they pull off a very good meal.
In a crowded kitchen they wash greens, boil pasta, puree sauces and work furiously (with short attention spans and in all directions), to make dinner for up to forty-five people. There is a wild energy that reminds me of kids very seriously at play – a kind of, “lets try to cross the entire room without touching the floor” type deal.
This particular event was outside – an entire block from the kitchen- and by the time the dessert course came around it was dark. I plated the 40+ desserts by lantern light on two very small card tables. I served a rhubarb-flan tart, goat cheese mousse, red wine-poached rhubarb sauce, black pepper crème anglaise, and a lavender gelee. It was crazy and it was fun and I hope to do it again.
The amount of volunteered work that goes into these dinners is enormous. Some might find the dedication to these whimsy events bizarre and wonder why they do it. I prefer not to ask.
As Mark Twain once said, “When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.”
There once was a narwhal in space
That the universe frightfully misplaced
But he learned to speak star
At a Milky Way Bar
And never has felt out of place