A Common Feast

21 Dec

 

How do you stop wanting something? How, after seeing the possibility of happiness do you walk away before a first taste, letting fear of the end of a great feast prohibit your seating at a table. Perhaps it is the fear of the end, of the last bite which prohibits the first, the regret of having eaten at all.  – – Beloved

In traveling I have had the opportunity to eat, really eat and enjoy gourmet food and fine wine. Well, maybe not so much Gaffers Sports Pub in Ocracoke, but most definitely wine at Zillies and then, most definitely in DC.

One of the most memorable meals I have had so far was at Granville Moore’s. Delores and John had told me about the place because John’s daughter works there. That’s all I really needed to understand. They said I needed to go, so I went.

The entrance of this Belgian style gastropub is nearly hidden. One could never tell that a restaurant was actually there at all; the cab driver had a problem even finding it. But when I walked in, I understood why. Originally a doctor’s office, the building is tall, two stories and very narrow, most likely a building from the early part of the 20th century. The bar is long, covering one side of each of two floors with a single row of booths on the opposite side of each bar. The first greeting from the doorman was sweet. He loves red hair. Story of my life.

But no room at the downstairs bar for a red headed lass to sit, so up the old creaky steps I went. The walls are barely painted, half wall papered, half scraped and the ceilings open to the rafters. A convergence of European pub and tenement house, the ambiance really works. This is upscale even in its unassuming wood and tarnished brass. I found a single spot at the bar and literally inserted myself into the eating crowd.  Quite quickly, I was reminded of the idea of the common table, of eating  surrounded in warm spirit by others. But also yielding to the vulnerability of eating. I had never thought about how fiercely vulnerable eating makes someone, but it does. We take off our defenses and sit at a fire and feed ourselves into life. We focus on our senses and take pleasure in them. It is something that must be done in safety, sometimes in quiet, but most times in communion. It’s why we desire to eat in groups, I think. To break bread together and to enjoy not only the flavor of what feeds us, but the act of eating with others draws them into our intimate life.

Granville Moore’s menu focuses solely on moules (mussels) and craft beers. And in the eating of this type of old world food, one dives into the nature of relationship, to others and to the planet. I ordered moules prepared with a sauce made of grand marnier, cream, duck sausage, and cranberries. Frites with curry mayo was the side along with crusty bread to be broken and plunged into that vat of sea-orange cranberry flavor. I ordered a beautiful beer. La Rulles Meilleurs Vouex, medium bodied, malty, not too heavy. Tasting brought to mind moss and dark soil, an image of Antaeus, strength in earth. Beer, like a tree, seems firmly connected to both ground and sky.

I sat there amid the crowd and ate and scribbled in my notebook. I broke my bread among the masses in intimate vulnerability. I listened to the couple next to me discuss her sister’s problems with home and parents. I watched the other couple beside me in their technological silence as he flipped through Facebook and she sat alone and dipped bread and ate, and ate, and dipped and ate. He flipped his thumb upon his phone screen in ignorance of her boredom, her sense of rejection, her beauty and vulnerability. If I had been brave enough, I would have told him to break a corner of her crust and feed her.

So how was the food? I held pale orangish pink moules, barely cooked, upon a tiny fork and watched them quiver before they hit my tongue in a salty revelation. Earthy and sharply citrus from a burial in cream, orange and berry, I felt and heard the bread crack and crumble under my fingers and then let it soak in all of the bottom of the bowl. Then, perching upon the top to my mouth, came a small morsel of duck sausage, rich and bloody and dark and filled with sage and the memory of a winter home upon a heath.

Perhaps there is something about a feast which doesn’t tempt some, but a feast IS meant to be shared. For in that sharing comes healing and life, growth and joy. One must share the table, the bread, the wine…and freely share. It isn’t a stolen moment. It is a gifted pause  to be able to meet another at table and feed the heart and soul as well as body.  We are invited to a common table. Its up to us to meet it.

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