By Isaac Espinosa
Talking with your mouth full is generally poor table etiquette, but it’s mostly excusable when discussing the virtue of sharing a three-course meal with strangers.
The Advisory Council on Campus Climate and Inclusion’s “Greek Table” on Oct. 16 framed a three-course meal around three professors’ mini-lectures regarding the general philosophical benefits of eating while talking with others.
The menu was prepared by Chef Jessica VanRoo, curated in part by Professor Zina Giannopoulou. Each course was innovative, taking staple Greek dishes and improving on them in fresh ways. Tzatziki sauce, spanakopita, and youvetsi — a rice, lamb, and tomato stew — were the highlights of the meal, and an impressively assembled recipe book that accompanied the evening provided attendees the opportunity to recreate the spread for themselves at home.
Before the main course was served, each professor had a topic or term they each spent around 5 minutes attempting to abstract and define. Professors Duncan Pritchard, Giannopoulou, and Tommy Givens discussed the virtue in the abstract, the word “symposium,” and the New Testament’s viewpoint of breaking bread (literally and figuratively).
Pritchard briefly discussed the ancient Greeks’ belief that virtues are simply what it means to be an excellent person. They’re not traits a person is innately born with — rather, a person acquires and cultivates them as they live, and hopefully learn how to use them in moderation to succeed in life.
Giannopoulou then defined “symposium,” explaining how they were originally parties with food, drink, and entertainment that would slowly shift towards conversations regarding philosophy. According to her, while symposiums today have ditched the festivities beforehand and jump straight into intellectual discussion, events like Conversation Kitchen are important in their ability to “combine the pleasures of the body with the pleasures of the mind.”
Finally, Givens explained how Jesus’ seemingly simple gestures of eating with those shunned from society hoped to create a more inclusive world. Breaking bread with tax collectors, the sick, and even his would-be traitor showed people how you can improve yourself and open your mind by “extending a welcome beyond what is comfortable.”
After their talks, attendees were served the main course of youvetsi and gigantes plaki, a massive dish of Greek beans stewed in tomato sauce. Although conversations didn’t directly discuss the lectures, diners discussed cultures, the foods they make, and how all of their varied college paths have transpired.
While not focused on the philosophy of the night, everyone engaged in the open thought discussion that they were told is so important to the Greeks.
Conversation Kitchen registration is online and is an event every UCI student should consider attending at least once. There aren’t many events on campus that provide food for your stomach and food for your mind.