Literature and Food

by Mel Gilden

I am not much of a joiner, but joining happens just the same. Some years ago I fell in with three or four other writers who had written Star Trek novels, and for some months we met occasionally for dinner under the banner The Rubber Ears. (If you don't get the joke, ask a Trekkie. Everybody knows one.)

People moved away and lost interest and with one thing and another, there hasn't been a Rubber Ears dinner for a few years.

But I do a lot of joining for a guy who isn't a joiner, and I soon fell into another informal organization, this one called the Live Poets. Some years ago, when my sweetie and I lived in Venice — California, not Italy — I became friends with a young lady who was interested in writing. She eventually actually sold a book about how women are involved in world mythology, but her sale has very little to do with the Live Poets as the organization developed.

As I recall, three or four people attended the first meeting. I was the only male — but that's all right. I always liked girls. The original idea of the founder was that each of us would read a selection from our own work. I was the only person there who had written fiction. Others in the group read from their poetry, and one woman even read from letters that she'd written to her family back in the old country.

The event was kind of interesting, but after a few meetings of this sort people ran out of personal work to read and began bringing in their favorite words by other people. Members drifted in and out. And for a while it looked as if the whole Live Poets organization would fade away.

And then we invited my sweetie to join. When that happened, the whole nature of the beast changed. At the first few meetings, the founder had put out bowls of simple finger good like dates and nuts. There may have been wine. In any case, the fare was not very interesting. But my sweetie loves to cook and is creative about it, and with the Live Poets she saw a whole new group of admirers to feed.

It wasn't long before a Live Poets meeting included a substantial potluck dinner along with the readings. Some years passed and the membership of the Live Poets eventually stabilized. The original founder, for reasons of her own, dropped out of the organization. I was no longer the only male. And the food became an even more important part of the event. While taking turns reading we eat appetizers, mostly homemade, for a few hours and eventually settle around a table for what is generally a spectacular and unforgettable dinner. My sweetie is no longer the only wonderful cook among the membership.

Most of the members are writers at some level, but the Live Poets is by no means a critique circle because we have mostly given up the idea of reading our own work. We're not against it, it just doesn't happen very often. And if it did, there would not be much critiquing going on. That's not why we're there. We're there to share and appreciate well-crafted words along with the delicious food.


A random illustration of the concept.

Each meeting has a theme, though following it is not important. As a matter of fact, as far as I can tell the only important parts of the meeting are that everybody have a good time, and that we eat well. None of us are big joiners, but so far the Live Poets seems vigorous and not likely to evaporate any time soon.