Anatomy of a Feast
One of my favorite things to do is to put on a real feast. It’s not just the idea of feeding a large group of people, which itself is very satisfying, but it’s the fact that large meals for large groups allow you to do things that you usually just don’t have the opportunity to do.
For example, everyday cooking is usually about putting together one satisfying plate for a small group of people, like between one and four or five diners (at most). This is much more about getting the people fed than anything else, whereas the process of building a feast has a different set of problems to solve.
For one thing, you need to build a menu. This involves thinking about a rational progression from dish to dish. How do the flavours of the dishes interact with one another? How do you balance the meal as a whole: not too heavy, not too light, not too bold, not too mild…? Some chefs like to think about it in terms of telling a story. In fact, some of the best stories I’ve ever come across have been told to me through food.
During the Olympics last month, I set myself the task of writing a recipe for each Canadian medalist. Towards the end of the Games, Linda Solomon, our fearless leader and editor of the Observer, presented me with the idea of staging a feast consisting entirely of recipes I had dedicated to our athletes. I was thrilled with the idea.
So, I went about the task of building a menu. My concept is simple: Mediterranean flavours. It’s no secret that the Mediterranean diet is known to have health benefits, but it may be a bit less well-known that the various cuisines of the Mediterranean are extremely well-suited to the vegetarian diet. Below, you’ll find a tentative menu for my feast. It’s my hope to convey the concepts of the vegetarian diet through both an exploration of classic Mediterranean flavours and a reminder that food is often about comfort and a sense of belonging, values we see throughout the culinary traditions of the region.