Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Diner En Blanc

As the last traces of summertime disappeared into the fast approaching autumn, a group gathered in historic Gasworks Park for a magical evening of food and friendship. The ingredients were unusual enough catch the attention of a few hundred Seattleites:  secrecy, creativity, synchronization, camaraderie, delicacies, and champagne. We were also instructed to dress a certain way: all in white.

I’m talking about Seattle’s very own, and very first, Dîner en Blanc (French for Dinner in White). The original Dîners began in France in 1988. Since then, Dîners have been happening all throughout Paris. Recently, food and performance art enthusiasts have orchestrated their own Dîners, far from the Seine and the clanging bells of Notre Dame Cathedral. The New York Times even ran an article about the event, “How 10,000 People Keep a Secret,” which came to Seattle, WA this summer.

Though the Dîners appear spontaneous to the uninitiated onlooker, this gastronomic flash mob in fact requires quite a bit of planning. In past blog posts and in my book, I’ve sung the praises of spontaneous dinner parties. However, a Dîner en Blanc is essentially the opposite of a spontaneous gathering. Unlike a spur-of-the-moment get together, a Dîner can’t happen without foresight and coordination. But all the planning gives the event a Byzantine, theatrical charm all its own.

The New York organizer Danile Laporte said it well: “Part of the event is the journey there.  To think ahead, to get ready, to get the table, to prepare your picnic, to choose your outfit.  Not making it easy is part of the allure.” 

These dinners, with their secret locations and semi-costumed festivity, unfurl much like a piece of theater. They create the same magical, exuberant, unexpected, co-created spectacle, both for the participants and the observers. The magic is the result of the preparation, born of the desire to set apart a space and time to create something extraordinary.

The scale of this Dîner was quite large. But that doesn’t mean you can’t arrange a similar type of “happening” in (or near) your home. All it takes is a little initiative and creativity, which becomes a reality with the collaboration of a group. A group, by the way, could be as tiny as three people. So, I encourage you to gather your friends to create your own Dîner en Blanc…or rouge (red,) vert (green), or bleu (blue)!

A little something out of the ordinary goes a long way. A special night like this creates not just a memorable evening, but a sense of wonder and a childlike delight that lasts long past the last guest vanishes into the night. 

Read about Seattle’s Dîner en Blanc in The Puget Sound Business Journal: “Elegant Flash Mob Dîner en Blanc a Success.”



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