Tonight I went to Cuisine en Locale’s second Meat Meet. Basically, there was a woman from Stillman’s Farm selling frozen meats out of coolers loaded into a truck flatbed. Parked in a public parking lot. There was a line about thirty people deep, with people even picking up their Thanksgiving turkeys. JJ Gonson, the dame de Cuisine en Locale, flitted about the parking lot handing out homemade candied local ginger and welcoming old friends. Her adorable daughter Ruby similarly worked the crowd, carrying around a little purse-like bag. When asked what she was carrying, she exclaimed “Profiteroles!” If there’s one thing I love, it’s little foodies, and there’s something wonderful about an event that has kids running around…so I was totally charmed. Not to mention that I walked away with a big ol’ chicken, tons of lamb chops, and osso bucco.
But it wasn’t just the convivial atmosphere in line that made me such a fan of the Meat Meet. I’ve already talked about how much I like informal economies (and I’m sure I will again), and it seems to me that food is one of the areas today that has the most successful informal economy. I’m sure there are lots of reasons for this, and I hope I will have more opportunity to reflect on this in the future. If you’re interested in getting started learning about the non-traditional food economy, you can get inspired in the same way I did: by reading Sandor Katz’s book The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved. The subject of the book is exactly this: how important and powerful it is — both for our health and for our economy — to relocalize and repersonalize our food consumption. I think JJ is doing a really important job to make this happen in my area, and it’s one of the reasons why the Meat Meet was so cool.
There was also a “happening” nature of the Meet. It was unexpected: a long line, a store on the back of a truck. Passersby could stop and watch it going on: people pulling into the parking lot would turn their heads to curiously wonder what was going on; one father and daughter walking by actually stopped next to the truck to watch the meat being handed out. This observable nature of the Meet reminds me of good public art. Yesterday I went to the Design Excellence in Public Spaces event at Build Boston, where I had the opportunity to hear several prominent public art practitioners talk about their field. Barnaby Evans, who created Waterfire 15 years ago, talked about the importance of public happenings for enlivening public spaces and community identity. While I’m sure JJ wasn’t thinking of the Meat Meet as art, I think that it definitely served the same purpose as public performance does: just as people walking by will stop to see what a street performer is doing, so were people very interested in why people were buying turkeys off the back of a truck. And the more people are interested in what each other are doing, the less they are looking at their iPhones and participating in the city around them.