O, Miami, Edible South Florida magazine, and the Kampong National Tropical Botanical Garden are hosting Forager Fête, a book release party featuring food and drink for Forager: A Subjective Guide to Miami's Edible Plants. The book is the first published work from O, Miami's new press, Jai-Alai Books.
Why is a poetry festival throwing a foodie event?
"The first O, Miami event we ever did was a pig roast and poetry reading on Key Biscayne with the iconic Boater's Grill," says P. Scott Cunningham, of O, Miami and University of Wynwood. "Luring people in with food is a time-honored tradition. Your mother probably did it to you. In trying to reach everyone in Miami-Dade County, we're not above such blatant manipulation."
Exotic fruits from Seasons Farm Fresh will be served by "commercial forager" Nick Bernal, and Cao Chocolates is providing desserts. Tours of the garden will be guided by Larry Schokman, Kampong's director emeritus, and Tiffany Noé of Plantmatters Nursery.
The event begins at 7 p.m. and a "Fast Foraging" mini-tour of the grounds will take place at 7:30 p.m. At 8:15 p.m., guests will be treated to a Q&A session with Forager authors, Tiffany Noé and George Echevarria and Edible South Florida editor Gretchen Schmidt, plus a reading of "food poems" by local poet Nick Vagnoni. Food and drink will be available throughout the entire event.
Raca's Harrison says participating was a no-brainer. "I had a great time foraging and discovering lots of local edibles with Tiffany Noé, Edible South Florida magazine, and an elite group of Miami chefs, so I didn't want to pass on the opportunity to showcase Raca and experience some more good times at an evening full of my favorites -- words, plants, and edible discoveries," says Harrison.
The chef wouldn't divulge much of the menu, but says that he'll be featuring a Taperia Raca Spanish-style tapa dish that incorporates local edibles.
"Poetry and food are both art forms that allow for self-expression and provide the means to convey a message whether it be obvious or up to the interpretation of the reader/eater," he adds. "As a chef, I find myself with a pen and paper or computer at my fingertips almost as often as I do a sauté pan or knife and that is a part of the job that most "civilians" don't know about. The most successful chefs are able to master both worlds."
Poet Nick Vagnoni, who also contributed to the book, explains what food poems are. "In the simplest sense, food poems are poems about food, but beyond that, I guess most experiences of eating bring a lot with them, so these poems also become about the contexts, relationships, places, and people involved in those food experiences," he says.
But can words relay the experience of eating? "Good question. I think there's always going to be a limit on how close our words can get, but once we accept that, then I think it just becomes fun to try to approximate tastes and smells through language," says the poet.
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Vagnoni adds, "When I was doing restaurant reviews, explaining tastes accurately was the main goal, but with the poems, I can experiment a little more -- or a lot more. So, in one way, yes, I think there's the potential for accuracy, but maybe not with the same level of intensity. Words are great, but they're never going to be a mango."
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