“To share … perception and attention” is why Wai and I, along with two other thought-filled women, began a monthly conversational salon. Inspired by a book by Jaida n'ha Sandra and Jon Spayde entitled Salons: The Joy of Conversation published by the Utne Reader, we launched ourselves into what we imagined would be the modern version of Gertrude Stein’s salon at 27 Rue de Fleurus, except ours is in the heart of technology’s mecca, the Silicon Valley.
But first, the protocol around food and drink must be arranged! Gatherings require nourishment of the solid and liquid kind to dispel distractions from the belly, and loosen inhibitions to participate fully. Although Gertrude had staff to prepare meals and drinks for her visitors, we settled on a finger-food potluck so the hostess need not stress about entertaining on a weeknight. A stack of porcelain salad plates show nicely with either sweets or savories that often include Thai veggie wraps, assorted cow, sheep, & goat cheeses, home grown and grilled peppers, handmade hummus and pita, very buttery almond cake, and artisan chocolates. Each dish could stand on its own, but when assembled as a group of shared offerings, an individual recipe becomes a feast.
Wine, fresh mint tea, and mineral water meet most everyone’s liquid tastes and inclinations. The right beverage is like an instrument in an orchestra. It transmits the free flow of individual thoughts into words from which emerge new ideas… a symphony of sorts. Stemless vintage French water glasses work for all three… less fuss, easy cleanup.
Yes, it’s as much about food and drink as it is about gathering and conversation.
While Gertrude’s salons focused on the world of art and literature in Paris, we explore a wide array of topics. The changing nature of women’s relationships over the course of history, essentialism, election debrief, a visit from a Ugandan former child of poverty who now works to pay it forward, how the threat of climate change vs terrorism is perceived, and Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe speech about how artists can and do resist and transform ignorance… these are the topics that have so far been on our conversational menu. We invite a theme that is yet to emerge.
Our gatherings feed us through connection, conversation, diversity of thought and experience, and good food. Thank you Gertrude Stein and those before you… going back as far as Aristotle… for inspiring and continuing the practice of conversation. And, thank you Jacob Needleman for putting words to what we create when we gather… and for inspiring us to “become a conduit for the appearance of spiritual intelligence”.