With the scrape of a chair on the wood floor, the man rose — chest out, head slightly down, arms by his side. And then he began to sing. Conversation in the restaurant soon quieted. From the kitchen we squinted into the dining room.
I spent time cooking in an Italian restaurant in San Francisco that hosted many from the local Italian-American community. Service was in rapid-fire Italian, so I had no idea what was said, but learned to deduce. That night, I truly didn’t know what was happening.
Another man stood up and joined the song. Conversation had now fully ceased, revealing only the chimes of wine glasses and silverware — and, of course, the singing. Now a third, and then fourth man. I looked at Tony next to me and then back to the dining room. A fifth and sixth man joined as the dining room was silent save for the pure song. The service staff was frozen in place. The song grew until all the guests were singing.
After the song ended with cheers, I looked at Tony again. He looked at me with tears and said, “That was beautiful.” I went to respond — tasted salt and choked. I, too, had teared up.
This experience had highlighted a belief I had about a disconnect in our junior American culture — we have nothing like this. It’s true, singing “Happy Birthday” is close, but its often half-hearted execution lacks the depth of history and culture in comparison.
Recently, things changed for me. Artist and friend Paolo Salvagione recently released One for Each, his limited edition artists’ book. It’s the result of his being the 2012 Imprint Artist in Residence at the San Francisco Center for the Book. The edition was large in scope and execution. From the start, from the sidelines, I watched Paolo’s effort in the development of his edition. I watched the Center’s Mike Bartalos, Rhiannon Alpers, and staff join him in full support. And then soon after, writer Marc Weidenbaum added in a series of essays. Designer Brian Scott responded with type, and Heimo Schmidt with photos. An idea, a movement was put forth, and many united, creating something better than an individual alone could make.
This time I knew what was happening, and it was my chance to stand up, chest out, look into everyone’s eyes, and sing with them.
My contribution was to build — for the exhibit’s opening event — food and drink that directly related to the edition: five gifts for five layers of five senses. Inspiration from inspiration.
Gift one was based on layer one of the edition, Sight, which involved the use of 3D glasses to view images printed in red and cyan. We concocted a cocktail to represent this: a red negroni with ice as the cyan. Here is the recipe:
- 1 oz. gin
- 1 oz. Campari
- 1 oz. vermouth rosso (red or sweet)
- 1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6
- 3 oz. water
- blue food coloring
To prepare the glass:
- Color the 3 oz. water with the blue food coloring.
- Pour into glass and freeze until solid.
To prepare the cocktail:
- Combine all the other ingredients in a mixer with ice cubes and stir for 30 seconds.
- Remove prepared glass from freezer and strain mixture into the glass.
- Serve immediately.