Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cooking with less plastic-- for the stage!

This weekend, New York Metro Vocal Arts Ensemble (NYMVAE) will present "NYMVAE à la Carte", a food-themed double bill of J.S. Bach's Coffee Cantata and The Art of Eating, a new opera by Jeffrey Lependorf. I have been involved with the company for a few years and am not singing in this production, but am helping out on the 'back stage' side- specifically with rounding up props.

Both one acts involve food and drink that are consumed on stage, which can be tricky to get right. Further, The Art of Eating is based on an essay by M.F.K. Fisher, a prolific and well-respected food writer who was active from the 1930s until her death in 1992. I had never heard of M.F.K. Fisher until now, but my foodie friends tell me I must read at least a few of her essays. She was the Ur-female food writer: before Julia Child and Ruth Reichl, there was M.F.K. Fisher, blazing a trail. Food essays and recipes from a time before single-use-plastics existed? Yes I do think I should read her essays!

The Art of Eating
takes place in a tiny French restaurant in 1950, and involves four food dishes that are served- and partially consumed- on stage. I'm responsible for two of those dishes. Gulp! My dishes are braised endive and asparagus with shallots and lentils. I am modifying the linked recipes a bit- for example, I'm not going to attempt a poached egg which is hard enough to get right at home, let alone getting it to the theater!

Wish me luck. I'm an OK home cook but no gourmet, and I've never made prop food before. It is my first time preparing puy lentils and endive. This stuff has to look like it was made by a French chef and two sopranos (the show is double cast) have to eat a few bites of it on stage! And of course, I'm doing this while avoiding single use plastics. Here is how I did on that score:

- fresh produce (Belgian endive and asparagus) purchased using cloth bags. The asparagus had rubber bands and and a plastic tag.
- shallots and herbs purchased using cloth bags
- Puy lentils purchased from the bulk section using a cloth bag
- White wine vinegar came with a plastic cap and seal
- pepper corns came in a plastic tub (I've had the same huge tub for over a year)
- olive oil came in a metal gallon canister with a plastic spout and cap- I now know a couple places where I can get olive oil using my own glass bottle.
- salt, sugar and butter came in paper and cardboard

If you are in New York City, I hope you will attend a performance! We have amazing performers, a completely charming production, and you can see how my prop food came out. The shows are May 20-23 at Baruch College's Performing Arts Center Bernie West Theater. Tickets are available here

1 comment:

Christine Cornell said...

I love your blog. I think it is incredibly important, and I am happy that our production had something to do with it! Couldn't do it without you.