“Special events” have become a commonplace in our busy lives. But every now and then, an event occurs that actually deserves the modifier “special.” This Saturday night promises to be one of those occasions.
In the Spectator auditorium — and spilling over into the surrounding environs — a night of revelry will take place; a celebration combining visual art, beautiful food, fine wine, performance art, music and dance. The evening has been conceived, planned and organized by that Dundas dynamo, Chef Ken LeFebour of Nellie James Gourmet Food to Go. Chef Ken will be tempting participants with at least ten different types of hors d’oeuvres paired with wines chosen by Peter Kline of Bacchus Sommelier Services. Tickets ($80 each, two for $150 or groups of ten at $730) are available through Nellie James Gourmet Food to Go, 905/627-3252 (http://nelliejames.com/2014/05/06/a-happening/) or The Hamilton Spectator, 905/526-3457.
The event, called “A Happening“, is original in details, but loosely based on a model of the “happenings” of the 1960’s, in that it is a participatory sort of performance art that combines the art of cooking with various other arts. In case you’re too young to remember, the very first, original happening was created by Allan Kaprow in 1959 at the Reuben Gallery in New York City. (Art history alert!! All those whose eyes are glazing over may skip to the recipe!) Called “18 Happenings in Six Parts” the 2nd floor loft space of the gallery became the setting for an evening of organized chaos. Kaprow issued invitations advising his guests that “they will become part of the happenings” and “will simultaneously experience them.” Moreover, he announced, “some guests will also act.”
What the audience found upon arrival were three rooms formed by translucent sheet plastic, each different in size and feeling. Collaged materials, panels of scrawled words or rows of synthetic fruit covered some walls, while strings of Christmas tree lights dangled throughout the subdivided space. From chairs arranged in circles and squares, facing in different directions, visitors were required by instructions sent beforehand to change their seats several times in the course of the performance and move throughout the various rooms. The performances commenced with amplified sounds and six musicians marching down the narrow passages between the makeshift rooms. The whole point was a closer integration between art and life.
Kaprow went on to have several more events of this kind in various indoor and outdoor spaces and came up with a definition of “a Happening” as:
” … an assemblage of events performed or perceived in more than one time and place. Its material environments may be constructed, taken over directly from what is available, or altered slightly, just as its activities may be invented or commonplace. A Happening, unlike a stage play may occur at a supermarket, driving along a highway, under a pile of rags and in a friend’s kitchen, either at once or sequentially. If sequentially, time may extend to more than a year. The Happening is performed according to plan but without rehearsal, audience or repetition. It is art but seems close to life.”
Happenings became a Pop art phenomenon during the1960’s and the general purpose of the events varied quite markedly from artist to artist. The earliest ones were raucous, energetic, madcap and improvisational — a famous “picnic” at George Segal’s chicken farm, for instance, or a fun fest held in a backyard version of the Ringling Brothers Circus. In the latter stages, the happenings often became confrontational, politically motivated and celebratory of sexual liberation. (After all, this was the ’60’s.)
Okay — so, the Happening in our Spectator auditorium is going to be a lot more classy and a bit more staid. For one thing, the food will be much, much better — divine snacks created by a wonderful chef, paired with some interesting wines. (The substances consumed at the original happenings were — shall we say — less gourmet and more transgressive.) And guests will not be required to take part in the performances, although we’d love it if they did.
The early happenings were free but we are selling tickets because this is a benefit and any profits made will be returning to our own community. The funds raised will support two very worthy causes:
The Spectator’s Summer Camp Program which is a partnership project between The Hamilton Community Foundation and the Spectator. The Fund is for local children whose families could not otherwise financially afford the cost of summer camp.
And Hamilton’s Interval House will also be a beneficiary. Interval House provides a safe place and support for abused women with or without children, along with community outreach services and practice-based research in a quest for freedom from violence, including a 24 House Crisis Line, emergency shelter, counselling and outreach transitional services.
So throw on your love beads, put a flower in your hair and meet us at the Spectator, from 7 p.m. on, for a night of fun and frolic.
And here is a recipe from the Food Network Kitchen for something called a Hash Brown Casserole — since I figured the Spectator wouldn’t let me put in a recipe for Hash Brownies.
Hash Brown Casserole
from The Food Network Kitchen (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/hash-brown-casserole-recipe.html)
12 oz 2 percent Greek yogurt
1 cup 1 percent milk
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
3 tbsp all purpose flour
2 lbs. frozen shredded hash browns, thawed
1 cup extra sharp cheddar shredded (4 oz.)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 large yellow onions, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 lb sliced cremini mushrooms
2 tbsp panko crumbs
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
1 – 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or chives for garnish
1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9- by 13-inch baking dish cooking spray.
2)Whisk together the yogurt, milk, sour cream and flour in a large bowl. Stir in thehash browns and cup of the Cheddar, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
3) Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are wilted and the onions begin to brown, about 10 minutes more. If the pan gets too hot, add a splash or two of water as needed. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
4) Stir the vegetables into the hash brown mixture to combine.
5) Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese, the breadcrumbs and nutmeg if using. Bake until a deep golden brown, about 45 minutes.
6)Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Easy, crispy, cheesy comfort food.