|—————————————— DISSERTATION DINNER||...back to Research/Creation|
By the time the last of the guests left the loft—Kit, our friend Judith, Pamela carrying the leftover pavlova—it was already 11:30. I almost had to push them out the door, smiling and waving, but mostly wishing they would just hurry up and leave. My Dissertation Dinner was over and done with. I had performed my research-creation-reporting dissertation component. I had made mushroom pâté and chicken galantines and eggs with polenta and gazpacho waters and crème caramel and seventy-two vials of obliquely labeled liquid seasonings. I had bought three dozen cloth napkins and twenty-seven wine glasses and ten ramekins and a case of Luxembourgeois brut fizz, half pink, half white. Jean had ironed the napkins, hired a dish washer, and done a zillion other things for me. People had played and questioned, traded dishes and stories, and ingested many things. The smoke detector had gone off and the coffee maker exploded. At 11:45 pm Jean asked me if I was relieved, elated, satisfied? No, I said. Was it all that I had wanted? Yes, but it already had been, long before the invitees arrived. Was it the non-textual representation of gastronomy that I intended? multiply real? invitational and performative? a complex milieu? Whatever. I was tired and wanted to go to bed. I’d look at the video later. Maybe I’d find something to write about.
On October 26, 2014 a performance about the performance of gastronomy unfolded in a loft in Old Montreal. The Dissertation Dinner mingled food, people, space, time, words, and interaction, producing sensorial, bodily, emotional, and cognitive effects. It evolved from a process of conceptual design over many months, to a series of concerted efforts during two weeks, to a collectively enacted report that took place in five hours. Its significance has varied from a showy food event to a logistical puzzle to a PhD project component to a weekend supper. All of us became sites of inscription of knowledge about gastronomy, yet what was inscribed was not indelibly etched. Instead, these impressions composed a process of transformation—both of us and of the knowledge written. As we were changed by gastronomic acts, we changed things about gastronomy.