I just got back from a week in LA and a new life lesson I learned on Christmas in a Chinese restaurant- shared here as food for thought, an idea for a New Year’s resolution, and an invitation for an activation. Have you paused to think about the ritual prop that we call ‘Lazy Susan and what it really stands for?
The recommended dish for Christmas eve at the legendary Genghis Cohen Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles turned out to be ‘Pork Shalom’. Great. Luckily there were many veggie options. Place was packed. Ten of us sat around a round table consisted of 50% Jews, 100% hungry and festive people getting to know each other, bonding fast thanks to to the genius invention of the Lazy Susan – and one socially suave self proclaimed hostess.
It’s an unfortunate name for a wonderful and too taken for granted device that transforms dinners into memorable communal experiences.
I prefer ‘turntable. And I want more of them in my life. Not just the object – the concept.
As soon as we sat down at the table, Colette took out a stack of paper scraps and started writing notes to people around the table , spinning them around, and then getting us all to write anonymous fan-notes to each other and spin them on. (I got ‘you’re sexy and you know it’.) When the food arrived the turntable was fully activated as a device that requires more polite patience, sensitivity skills, better social cues, and a reminder to trust that resources circle back to you in due time: what comes around goes around.
There is at least one theory that the ‘turntable food server’ was perfected by the Utopian Oneida Community in the 1860’s – as a tool to foster ‘communlalism’. “Lazy Susan” comes from early 20th century, a proto robotic attempt to replace a specific maid or housewife suspected of sloth. ‘Turntable’ is more elegant and egalitarian, no?
So here’s to: Turntable-mentality as a tool for a better way for intimate dinners, co-created communities that foster little utopias of better communication and care if even for a bit or for a bite. Turntable as a symbol for the sacred circles of companionship we humans crave so much.
This new year I’d like more turntable-style trust and compassion and patient sharing of plenty in our lives, not just around the table, as the wheel of life goes round and round, turning and returning – seasons, feasts and celebrations.
Dante wrote: You are to know the bitter taste of others’ bread: how salt it is.
I don’t know if he knew of turntables but he understood what ‘together’ is about. And for me, this symbol is what Lab/Shul is about – a co-created circle of seekers, spinning new meaning out of the old, turntable-style remix of traditions as we share, and learn, and build a movable feast together.
Care to share? Pass on the plenty. Last two days for your tax-free gift to Lab/Shul in 2013 are happening right now: Thank you for your year-end gift!
Happy New Year!
PS: Coming soon! First round of Lab/Shul Shabbat PM Dinners on January 24th