When the stars align… II.

Meet-up #2 – or I should say happening #2 Budapest Eat Love by Marije Vogelzang

I saw the announcement on the facebook page of a Chili&Vanília, one of the most popular foodblogs. It invited everyone for the unique performance of the famous Dutch eating designer, Marije Vogelzang. The invitation said she was going to have her performance for several times a day for three consecutive nights and only 10 person can sign up for each. I had absolutely no idea about who this woman was except that if she was recommended by Zsófi Mautner (author of Chili&Vanília) whom everyone could trust in such issues so she must be something special. So I signed up.

I thought the other participants would be much more in-the-know and I didn’t wanna feel left out so I did what every normal curious person would do. I googled her. From what I could find about her, in one thing I was sure of: she must be really COOL! I looked at her website, some articles and some videos which were pretty interesting. She also did a presentation at a TED conference which I recommend:

There are two things about that really caught my attention (besides others of course): her natural and simple attitude with her respect to food and that as a designer she wasn’t willing to create more STUFF. She wants to recreate the simplest human daily routine over and over to show how much of a social creatures we are and how important these rituals and customs are. Her little trick with her daughter is just pure brilliant!

She prepared a special event only for Budapest – just here, just now, just for us. As usual I raced myself to the A38 boat from the other side of town and I managed to arrive before the event – but only because they were running late. While waiting I started chatting with two other girls standing there just like me.

The organizers let us know before the beginning that we were going to be fed by Roma girls and women but we would not see their faces and that we were gonna be taken into room individually. We hadn’t even entered the room, an interestingly fruity and mixed fragrance hit our nose. We couldn’t make out what it consisted of and though I wouldn’t use it at home it still made me feel comfortable and cosy. When they came for me I could already see the room dressed in white. There were tiny sheds covered with white sheets, bouquets of white balloons were levitating above them and bowls of fruits and food on top of them were inviting all in. My inside kid took over and made me curious, honest little girl open to anything and everything who is excited about what’s gonna happen and what she’s getting. A girl dressed in white walked around with her guitar playing a nice quiet tune. The little cabins were packed with food on top and were jammed with ut-out articles, old family photos, children’s drawings and random objects. I was directed to sit in one of them and I was anxious to meet my hostess and hear her stories. It was like being part of an initiation and I was gonna be the one initiated.

During those few seconds of waiting I was brwosing through the articles, photos, sketches but I was most enchanted by the music box above my head. When I started playing it I started hearing a girl singing quietly around my shed. She sat down in front of me and started talking about her family. She told stories about her Dad and he used to be taken begging by his mom on the streets of Miskolc, a Northern Hungarian city to make a living. She said she grew up in Budapest where living conditions are better but the lifestyle is very different. She doesn’t get to see her grandma and her family much often cause gas is so expensive. Whenever they make it, they are already greeted at the city limits by the locals who are excited to see a Suzuki. The people there are poor but they are happy. They are probably happier than people in Budapest. While telling her stories she would offer bites of food for me reaching beneath the sheets. These bites would relate to her stories. I was given a piece of pear, a piece of apple, a spoonful of traditional paprika mashed potato, a special roma bread and even crepes. All tasted good but it wasn’t the taste that made them special. It was unique because every single bite had a meaning of its own.

The stories became more vivid as my other senses were awakened and me actively participate. In the first couple of minutes I was wondering whether I could respond. Could I say what I was thinking, what I was feeling? Could I tell her that I know exactly what it feels like when your grandma is the center of the family, the engine and the soul? Could I tell her how much could sympthatize with the simultaneous notion of liking a city and the urge to get away from its crazy speed. I didn’t know how much of it was choreographed and how much I could influence and shape it.

Then it dawned on me. That was the point. There were no rules. All the stories and conversations were unique as were the people participating in it. It didn’t matter who was sitting on the other side of the sheet. It was the moment that mattered, the moment when we connected. Food was just one of the channels for that connection. It was for a short time but I was still touched. I might have been in an emotional state of mind I was affected. Whatever the intention was it worked for me and that made it exciting.

When it was over, we were again taken by the organisers. We got a white balloon filled with that special fragrance and then we were escorted out of the room. The whole ritual didn’t last for more than 15 minutes but it seemed more to me.

It was nice, memorable and we need more events like this. Happenings like that bring people together, build communities and we need those. Especially in the big cities.

We finished at the same time with the two other girls whom I had spoken to before so we left the boat together and chatted. For like another 45 minutes. We were full of things to say and we were somehow connected. The stars aligned again…for whatever reason.


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