by Marci White
On a sultry summer night in August, more than 200 Rabbit Box fans gathered in downtown Athens to listen to stories about the alchemy of cooking.
Tara Stuart was the always-vivacious emcee.
The first storyteller was Stevie King, who talked about how much black folks (generally) love a good barbecue and the fine art of putting one on. A tip: “Don’t ever ask what someone has in their red Solo cup. You don’t want to know.” On one special occasion his family decided to have a barbecue to welcome a new sibling into the family – a 245-lb, 6-ft, 38-year-old, “bouncing baby boy” whom none of them had known existed.
Alon Wilson, creative and innovative chef extraordinaire, regaled us with tales of some of the highlights of his long culinary career. And it’s not over; Wilson continues his quest to create fine foods experiences with his own, cross-cultural stamp of excellence.
Paul Guillebeau was in fine fettle, telling about a time when he and his brother Bill decided they wanted to cook a special country dish for the Sunday dinner. With their grandfather’s help, they had to learn the lost art of “sulling”: catching, preparing, and cooking a critter.
Mary Miller learned long ago that “food was the problem, but cooking was the cure.” In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, she volunteered to help at the St. Francis Animal Sanctuary in New Orleans, where she became the default camp cook for a big crew of hungry volunteers.
When his buddy Art called to say he’d found something amazing on the road, Peter Loose went over immediately to see what it was. They had never cooked this particular species of roadkill before but decided that they would cook an extraordinary, unforgettable meal to impress their wives. Peter credits his long marriage to “good food, adventure, and a wife who doesn’t blame me for much.” The last two factors figure prominently in his story.
Alzena Johnson has volunteered at a local homeless shelter, helping to feed the hungry of Athens, for the last six years. The winter homeless shelter, now called Bigger Vision, has persevered through many challenges and relocations over the years. All are welcome there – none are turned away, no matter how many times you’ve fallen. Anyone can get fed, and anyone can bring a hot meal for the shelter.
“Losing” a parent is not like “dropping my mother off in a parking lot and forgetting where she is,” says David Ferguson. It’s more like an earthquake or a hurricane . . . something that shakes you to the core. In grief a person might become detached from all the pleasures of life, or he might embrace all the visceral things that make him feel vital. There’s a reason why people bring rich, tasty food to the grieving, David says. What they bring is more than just food – it’s alchemy for the soul.