Schell: Get in touch with the art of communal dining

I have always adored the image of a long, white linen-draped table. It evokes warm feelings—a village celebration.

I have always adored the image of a long, white linen-draped table. It evokes warm feelings of family, community, camaraderie—a village celebration.

The art of dining is alive and well in places like Europe where the communal dining experience is imperative to their relationships and lifestyles.

Here, we have begun to see a rebirth of this wonderful style of eating. The feeling of joy felt during a harvest celebration in a farming community has beautifully been expanded by a wonderful organization called Outstanding in the Field.

Welcoming all to their long tables of celebration, they have taken the experience one step further by setting their tables in remarkable locations: Ones chosen to surround the diners with what is most important about their food—the people who lovingly grow and create it.

A celebration of eating local, Outstanding in the Field is a roving culinary adventure—literally a restaurant without walls. Since 1999 they have set their long table down at farms or gardens, on mountain tops or in sea caves, on islands or at ranches across the world. Their mission is “to re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.”

We are thrilled to have five of their dinners scheduled in Canada—three in B.C., one in Ontario and one in Quebec. Outstanding director, Leah Scafe, who is a local girl born and raised on a farm outside of Salmon Arm, is especially pleased to organize these dinners close to home.

“It gives me a chance to see my family too,” Scafe says. She joined the group, or began “following the bus” (check out their website for the story on their travelling bus) five years ago after volunteering at the dinner held at the UBC Farm in Vancouver where she was studying.

What she loves best about these meals are the people. The eclectic group of guests who arrive to the table, many not knowing the person sitting beside them when seated, soon ease into conversations. Not hard to imagine for this table will draw a collection of like-minded souls.

Scafe says: “It’s so wonderful and interesting to watch the amazing groups of people that come together and connect.”

Of the success Outstanding in the Filed has experienced, Scafe says the 2012 season is the “biggest season ever and we keep growing exponentially.” With 83 dinners planned this year, there are a few more in the works.

In 2008 the Okanagan’s favourite local greens and salad dressing producers, Little Creek Gardens, hosted the Outstanding dinner on their breathtaking lake-view property. This year, the dinner will be at Covert Farms with locavorian specialty guest chefs Cameron and Dana of Joy Road Catering helping to create the magic.

I cannot wait to sit at the long table, sip local wines, nibble on produce from Covert’s organic fields and revel in what we here in the Okanagan are so fortunate to celebrate—our local bounty, farmers, chefs and artisans. Cheers.

To view all events, buy tickets to the event at Covert Farms and read more about this amazing organization go to: www.outstandinginthefield.com.

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