Thursday, 21 August 2008

lunch with the literati

The Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, held in British Columbia last week, has a quite brilliant comedy twist (I mean, other than calling itself the Sunshine Coast Festival when it’s in B.C. Good one). On the last night of the festival, the authors and other bigwigs gather aprons, teatowels and implements of destruction and serve up a salmon barbecue to attendees. There are photos as proof, and everyone looks remarkably jolly, given they’re being reminded of effectively what they might well be doing as a job if the whole writing thing hadn’t worked out. Is this a scheme to take writerly egos down a peg, d’you think?

Either way, this scene must forthwith be replicated at literary festivals and conferences and awards shindigs the world over. Could the Booker nominees be persuaded to come up with a casserole for the judges? What about the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Potluck? The Montana Awards Strawberry Tea Social? Pasta Night at the Sydney Writers’ Festival!

The culinary expectations would focus the authors’ minds far more than the usual acceptance speeches, Q & As and panel discussions. Going home after a successful keynote address knowing they’ve got to knock up a batch of raisin buns for tomorrow’s coffee morning, and that someone can be relied upon to comment “I don’t care if she did win the Governor-General’s Award, her pastry’s like lead,” would radically up the performance anxiety.

Husband-and-wife team Yann Martel and Alice Kuipers could co-ordinate the teacups. Stephenie Meyer, who got such a rough deal recently from teenagers the world over for not writing the book they expected, might be happy spearing cheese and pineapple cubes on cocktail sticks. I hear Nick Earls does a good line in pesto. And the sandwich production line could have Lloyd Jones digging into the economy-sized pail of mayonnaise and Salman Rushdie cutting off crusts.

Who’d you have in your literary lunch lineup?


Anonymous said...

Hi Amber,

I'm right on side with your push for litfests the world over to combine food with the accolades. It's a great chance for a prize-winning author to reveal that she/he is more than a one-trick-pony, and who knows what gastronomic treats would reveal themselves? Why, I'm starting to wish people would would think of awarding my books prizes again, just so that I could cook for them. Kuwaiti fish stew, Moroccan meatballs ... My next novel includes a few notes on a simple but seriously crowd-pleasing salmon recipe, and don't even get me started on the subject of what I can do with my wok. I'm so much more than pesto (though good pesto is a fine thing, and I'm very happy to see my name in the same sentence as pesto).

One author you have to include: Toronto's own Michael Redhill and his maigret du canard. I can't even spell it with confidence, but he's perfecting the preparation of this dish in the south of France right now. Actually, he had it perfected in May. I'm not sure that's public knowledge. Go on, somebody. Give him an award, and a duck, and see what happens. You won't be sorry.


Amber said...

Mr E, I'm quite sure you are far more than the sum of your basil. But the 'actual soil' pesto does crack me up every time I reread 48 Shades of Brown.

Maigret du canard, eh? What a coincidence, as I am currently working on my Sherlock Holmes Cheese Toasties and my Poirot Waffles flambe.