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January 2011 was the 8 year anniversary of the dinner club . We had agreed to do something epic in December 2010: eat in a metro train. On Sunday January 16th, we met at 7:30 pm on the passage over-looking the metro tracks at Côte-Vertu metro. Everyone had backpacks with food, utensils and dishes. Some carried folding chairs, Judith a folding table and I had a table-cloth and adhesive Velcro. As the first members arrived, the anticipation of watching the trains below come and go and waiting for the other members created an electric buzz. By the time I got there, and I was one of the last ones, the buzz was popping out of peoples’ eyes. Voices were shrill yet restrained and giggles were many.

Once all of the illustrious members minus one had arrived, we verified the hour- right on time- and gave the signal- “go, go” . We shuffled down the stairs to the platform over-excited, and whispering. The train was waiting as Cote-Vertu is a terminus. Direction Montmorency- yes, we were riding all the way into that other world of Laval! But which wagon to get into? We consulted in a giddy panic…The second to last. We crashed in and then took stock of the surroundings two blasé solo riders. The beep announcing departure sounded and the doors closed. “Go-go!” We set up a table between the metro seats and some folding chairs. I covered the table with a retro table-cloth and we starts putting velcro on the bottoms of plastic plates and glasses and fastening them to the table-cloth. By the time we had gotten to Namur- we were ready to eat!

The theme of the meal, customized to eating in the metro in January was: food that boosts the immune system. We started with squash soup and banana bread. The first passengers were divided between gaping at us in awe and doing everything to not gape at us in awe, but when we got to Snowdon a lot of people came in. We didn’t expect so many for a Sunday evening. We shared the experience and sheer joy- giving banana bread to the passengers. Downtown we started serving lentil salad and the wagon was packed! People were freaking-out (in a good way): loving the reclaiming of public space, eating the food and taking tons of photos and giving us praise for the bold move. We watched in euphoria citizens with gaping mouths staring at us as we passed through the stations or peoples’ shock when they got in the train and looked up out of their daze to see us.

(Thanks to Eric Hansen for the video montage)

 We started serving the meal around Berri: 40 garlic clove chicken and ginger roasted vegetables, accompanied by pungent condiments to ward off the germs: delicious!. After we got through downtown, dinner was quieter and we started to feel at home in our wagon. We ate peacefully- yet always interacting with our surroundings. As we approached Laval, we judged that we wouldn’t have time to eat dessert, so we packed up, got out at Laval and ate dessert on the way back. Dessert was apples stuffed with dried fruit, ginger and spices and baked in a crust and served with spiced apple cider. This was a nice ending. We quietly packed up and got out at Berri to go have a beer and do some kind of de-briefing.

The dinner club’s eight year anniversary was special because we proved you could do dinner club anywhere or anyhow you liked. We had inspired ourselves- we were gutsy, creative and we proved that the barriers that people experience are usually self-imposed or imagined. The passengers were as ecstatic as we were and the only STM employee we saw took a photo of us with his cell phone and gave us a thumbs up.

We shared our way of getting down each month and some of the food that was made with love by our members. We also made the public space one of interaction and expression, for at least that night. The experience got people out of their shells; it got them away from their concentrated floor, wall and book gazing and got them people watching. We also put on display and celebration the bonds we’ve forged through cooking and eating together for eight years.

Topping the eight year anniversary this year is going to be a challenge. If you have any larger than life quirky ideas or themes, please send them in. We are open and willing. The best idea will probably be nested until the ten year anniversary in 2013!

Private Members in the Public Space

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