Matthew Stein (left), as Odin, and chef JJ Gonson
was in high school, my gung-ho AP English Literature teacher giddily decided to
host a "Beowulf Feast," in an effort to nail down the importance of the
Anglo-Saxon mead hall in our wandering
teenage brains. We were each responsible for bringing a dish worthy of a
Grendel-slaying warrior, along with a poem of our own composing to perform in
front of the class.
everyone brought bread, and only one person dressed in a cape. Things
definitely got real during his reading, as we all halfheartedly raised our
plastic cups of apple juice.
saying is, had local chef JJ Gonson been in charge, this shit would have been
epic. And there would have been real mead.
the brains behind Cuisine En Locale, a shared-food program (think CSA, but in
fully-prepared meal form) and the driving force between the coolest foodie
outings since food trucks: ONCE ( One Night Culinary Event) dinners, which originated
in 2008 as a backyard barbeque. Now, Cuisine en Locale is bringing a massive
10-course locavore feast in "Odin's Hall" back into our lives on January 21
with a perennial favorite Valhalla-themed smorgasbord.
"I was a
personal chef, making wonderful parties with my team. I felt frustrated that
they were only open to a few folks," she explains in an email. "So I decided to
throw a party myself, for anyone who wanted to come, and ONCE was born."
Beowulf. I'm not saying that sometimes I dream about attending a massively
out-of-control feast in a freezing cold tapestry-adorned castle somewhere,
complete with danger-reaching levels of alcohol and hunks of meat and Viking
hunks...but I'm not going to deny it either. When a close friend of Gonson's
created a business called Short Army, making knitted hats in the style of
Viking helmets, the two of them had a similar idea.
thought it would be a good idea to get a lot of Viking lovers together, put
those hats on their heads and feed them Viking food," she says. "Turns out
we were right!"
sister. Now, because people in the 21st century aren't usually crazy about under-seasoned
legs of animal flesh, Gonson and her team tailor their Valhalla
menu to modern day appetites in collaboration with a huge handful of local
farmers. Duxbury's darling Island Creek Oysters make an appearance, paired with
a tangy green apple mignonette, as does a cider and maple glazed Stillman Farm
ham. Drool, much?
aren't a lot of cookbooks on Viking cuisine, so we have trolled the resources
we have to get a sense of what was around in their world," she says. "They were
great travelers, so they probably ate a lot of things. But, this is Valhalla-- the place you dream of going, so we are trying
to reach an approximation of what they might have dreamed of eating, in the
best of feasting times."
year's Nordic feast drew in 200 "honored guests, and many Gods, gnomes and
Valkyries," Gonson says, most dressed in their 600 AD best. Don your finest
battle fur and don't miss it this time.
ONCE: Valhalla takes place
Saturday, January 21, at the Center for Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland
Avenue, Somerville, from 7-11pm. Tickets
are $75, and are available at brownpapertickets.com. Cash bar. Knit Viking
helmets are available here.