this last weekend i spent one of the most beautiful saturdays i can remember in a truly magical place – the treehouse gallery at regent’s park in london. this dreamy fantasy land, filled with the tallest of towering structures and the humblest of tree stump seats, played host to an open gathering of food and conversation called the feast of strangers. over 150 people showed up to share a meal and some of their most intimate thoughts at this community event organized by limina, a social enterprise dedicated to ‘creating transition spaces and events between the rural and urban’ through journeys, workshops, and other events.
synnove, ed, and the wonderful other people of limina were kind enough to invite rambling restaurant to prepare a feast for the feast. food for 150 in the middle of a park with no electricity? luckily, there’s nothing we like more than a challenge. after a 5am wholesale produce market trip, an evening carrot-chopping get-together, a late night focaccia-making and wine-drinking party, and a morning put-everything-together-right-before-mealtime activity, we managed to put together a lovely spread of food for the park wanderers. here michelle puts together the information table for the food, all up for grabs by donation.
the meal consisted of several dips and salads, a harissa lamb, and a truly massive amount of focaccia bread. here’s the roasted carrot and caraway dip topped with feta cheese, fresh mint, and a teepee seating structure:
i thought there was a possibility that baking somewhere between 18 and 20 pans of focaccia might be enough to allow me to move on from my current focaccia obsession. apparently this has not been successful as i almost made a tray for breakfast this morning with leftover harissa paste. but maybe my odd breakfast inclinations demonstrate that i have moved on from the simple roasted vegetable combinations which we did for the weekend including aubergine, courgette, red onions, garlic, and fresh herbs (that’s eggplant and zucchini for you american speakers). perfect for an easy snack to eat by hand and use as a vehicle for dip scooping, especially considering we ran out of utensils fairly early in the day.
synnove purchased a massive leg of lamb, which we rubbed with a deep red harissa paste and managed to wedge into my tiny refrigerator and then roasted the next morning. the thin shaved strips of tender spicy lamb were the perfect accent to the smooth and rich hummous, sprinkled with a dusting of paprika and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.
michelle also put together a fabulous couscous salad with lightly sauteed spring greens, roasted eggplant, pine nuts, feta cheese and a delicious and everchanging mix of spices known as ras el hanout. if you had been there you may have been able to see me eating this by the ladleful.
it was no surprise that the food went quickly with a spread this amazing, but most people brought food of their own to share as well. sharing was very much the spirit of the event, which involved getting matched up with a stranger and choosing questions from a ‘ menu of conversations’ developed by the philosopher theodore zeldin. i had a very open, challenging, and heartfelt conversation with someone who has, amazingly, lived in my hometown in boston as well as my neighborhood in san francisco and now currently lives near me in east london and also works in the creative teambuilding/consulting industry. sometimes the world is a very small and amazing place.
besides serving food, making new friends, and enjoying the sunshine, i had a fantastic time exploring the incredible installations of the treehouse gallery. one of my favorite structures was this geodesic dome-esque latticed wooden structure with spinning globes and a beautiful old antique piano.
and a view from behind the music…
there were some stunning feats of structural engineering and design like the treehouse below that could hold a small crowd but still evoke the sense of being an organic part of the natural landscape:
but some of the loveliest sights of the day were the most simple:
if you live in london and haven’t been to the treehouse gallery yet, i implore you to go before it closes sometime in september. the installation is filled with joyful surprises and happy moments for people of all ages and it’s located right on a beautiful boating lake. my only disappointment is this the second treehouse world i’ve visited on two consecutive weekends (the other being a soaring walkway through the treetops in kew gardens), and still i have seen no ewoks.
oh well. a girl can still dream. and the treehouse gallery is a wonderful place for dreams…