by Kevin Allman
Hey New Orleans — here's a dinner deal for you!
First you pay $35, then you bring your own food, utensils and your own goddam table.
You don't know where you're going, but you must wear white from head to toe. Oh, and there's a three-step process for application and a waiting list ("Best of luck in your registration!"), because, you know, the experience of paying a stranger for the privilege of staging your own dinner party is not just for everyone, darling.
And you can't cancel. Period.
The concept is called "Le Diner en Blanc," it's been done in other cities around the world, and it's coming to New Orleans this month, as described by Doug MacCash in a Times-Pic article this morning (hat tip: Food Goddess Lorin Gaudin). MacCash describes it as "an international phenomenon with thousands of adventure seekers finding their way to clandestine clone events," and I'm certainly with him on the clone part.
Seats are allotted on-site in a very specific manner.
In order to participate, one must be invited by a participant from the previous year or get on the official website's waiting list.
Once confirmed, the presence of each guest thus becomes mandatory, regardless of weather conditions, as the event is held regardless of weather conditions.
Huh? You want me to pay you to bring my own dinner and my appearance is mandatory? And no weather cancellations, no matter what? We cancel Mardi Gras parades that have been in the works for a year if the weather is going to be dangerous — your dinner party is more important than those?
Over the course of an evening, the diners enhance the function and value of their city's public space by participating in the unexpected.
Beyond the spectacle and refined elegance of the dinner itself, guests are brought together from diverse backgrounds by a love of beauty and good taste.
Le Diner en Blanc recalls the elegance and glamour of court society, and diners engage one another knowing they are taking part in a truly magical event.
Oh, please. We've got all those elements here already for those who enjoy them, albeit in scattered pieces: neighborhood block parties, Wednesday at the Square, dinner at Commander's or Galatoire's, Swing in the Oaks, White Linen Night and Peggy Scott Laborde narrating the Meeting of the Courts. But all this white just looks like The Great Doucheby.
I love many of the changes in the dining scene in the last few years — the pop-ups, the small plates, the food trucks, the casual new neighborhood spots that serve refined food alongside the red beans. But you don't have to behave like a supplicant to a total stranger to have a block party, a picnic in the park or a tailgate under the interstate. That's the kind of true community that other cities are always straining themselves to achieve. We do it effortlessly, with our own traditions and style. We don't need to pay to attend a dinner party and be told to bring "a picnic basket comprised of quality menu items and a china dinner service including proper stemware and flatware."
Are we really turning into this, New Orleans? I hope not. Because this whole thing makes me feel like putting on an old Saints jersey and licking roast beef po-boy gravy off my forearm while doing the Cupid Shuffle.