The “I’ve Been Everywhere, and Then I Had Dinner” Project

Posted on Dec 16, 2015 in Essay, Food, IBE&TIHD | No Comments

Imagine me, driving down the road, as wind rushes in the moon roof, when the intro of I’ve Been Everywhere Man crackles through my speakers. Johnny Cash rips through a dozen towns before the first chorus, and I think about how I haven’t been everywhere. Then I start wondering about all those places Johnny’s been. Then I realize if Johnny’s been to all those places, maybe I could go to all those places too. And if I went to all those places, I bet I’d be pretty hungry by the time I got there…

By the time I’d finished that drive, in May of 2012, the IBE&TIHD project was born.

The mission: Go to all ninety places listed in the song and eat dinner.

The guidelines:

  • Since my Grandpa Tom’s side of the family calls lunch “dinner”, and dinner “supper”, I’m allowed to have either a noon-time meal or evening-time meal at any of the locations.
  • A story or essay must be written about the event. The format of the piece has no restrictions, as I expect the pieces to evolve as I become a better writer—as well as need the flexibility to adapt the pieces to each individual dinner. If I haven’t had too many cocktails, I may even provide photo documentation of dinner and/or my accomplices.
  • Partners in crime are allowed, and encouraged—as eating too many dinners alone leads to larger pants sizes and sad, concerned looks from strangers. (If you’d like to join me, name your city and we’ll make it happen.) Dinner companions must be prepared to be captured, for all of eternity, by my written words and should embrace the transition from real life human to character on a page.
  • There is no time limit for this project.

Here are all the places I (we?) get to go:

Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota,
Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota,
Wichita, Tulsa, Ottawa, Oklahoma,
Tampa, Panama, Mattawa, La Paloma,
Bangor, Baltimore, Salvador, Amarillo,
Tocapillo, Baranquilla, and Perdilla.

Boston, Charleston, Dayton, Louisiana,
Washington, Houston, Kingston, Texarkana,
Monterey, Faraday, Santa Fe, Tallapoosa,
Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa,
Tennessee to Tennesse Chicopee, Spirit Lake,
Grand Lake, Devils Lake, Crater Lake

Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville, Ombabika,
Schefferville, Jacksonville, Waterville, Costa Rica,
Pittsfield, Springfield, Bakersfield, Shreveport,
Hackensack, Cadillac, Fond du Lac, Davenport,
Idaho, Jellico, Argentina, Diamantina,
Pasadena, Catalina

Pittsburgh, Parkersburg, Gravelbourg, Colorado,
Ellensburg, Rexburg, Vicksburg, Eldorado,
Larimore, Admore, Haverstraw, Chatanika,
Chaska, Nebraska, Alaska, Opelika,
Baraboo, Waterloo, Kalamazoo, Kansas City,
Sioux City, Cedar City, Dodge City

I had my Kansas City dinner on May 24, 2012 and I’m lucky enough to have Bangor and Boston crossed off the list as well.

Here’s your disclaimer, the next few posts are going to have quite a bit of food in them—so if you’re hungry hold off on reading until after you’ve had a snack.

 ***

I’ve been to Kansas City, and then I had dinner.

A picture of a palace accompanied the invite: “While our dining space is a bit less ornate than Versailles, the experience will be just as engaging!” I sent an excited yes acceptance, and knew I had the first dinner secured on my IBE&TIHD dinner adventure.

Location: A small eclectic dinner party at the home of friends in Kansas City, Missouri.

Time: May 24, 2012. 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Cast: Six multi-talented individuals: our ages spanning three decades, all avid readers, two-thirds of us writers, with more than one philosopher thrown in to the mix.

Part 1: Introductions are made. I sip Prosecco from a handmade purple flute, the artist wove tears of color through the glass. We get comfortable with one another as we nibble on tomato tapenade served on crackers, celery with cream cheese, and shrimp with cocktail sauce. Since crustaceans seem to find me particularly offensive, and try to kill me every time I eat them, I pass on the shrimp and focus on stories served from the lips of new friends.

Part 2: Baskets of hard crusty bread and never-ending bottles of white wine adorn the candle-lit table. Our hostess reveals she’s been preparing for our party for weeks. Carefully recreating recipes from the Blue Stem cookbook, a beautiful volume she received for Christmas. Green pea soup, the color of Scarlet O’Hara’s beloved curtains, stands vibrant against a white bowl. Floating in the center is a dollop of rich crème fraiche topped with the zest of lemon.   The lemon zest was cured for three weeks and adds a salty brightness to the summer soup

Part 3: Chicken breast with berries in crème sauce accompanied by vegetables in delicate slivers. I think I detect a hint of sage in the seasoning as I quarantine all the carrots to one quadrant of my plate. I ask about the sage, our chef gently tells me I’m wrong. When she inquires about my carefully constructed carrot fort my date lets her know I’m “carrot phobic”.

Part 4: Mint ice cream served atop a chocolate torte/cake. The cake is fantastic, but it’s the ice cream I’m in love with. Crisp mint against the chilled cream—it rolls on your tongue with a delicate bite that makes me mourn the fact I’ve eaten so much of everything else.

The meal was exquisite, made with care and skill. Our hostess cleverly invited a group of storytellers from every walk of life. We learned of a friend’s exile from a resort island, how it feels to watch your grandmother get arrested for bootlegging, and that Gregory Peck is a perfect gentleman. I couldn’t have chosen a better dinner for the start of the IBE&TIHD project.

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