“Sounds pretentious…I don’t need a sideshow with my meal…. Tourist trap stuff for the upper-middle class. “Oh, Henry, we MUST go to this! Don and Biff thought it was wonderful!” It’s just a newer version of dinner theater” -Anonymous comment about Los Angeles Eats Itself
As food has become the aesthetic experience of choice, cities are increasingly seen through the lens of edible itineraries. We see example after example of this from the increasing prevalence of shows that merge wanderlust with the digestive tract where celebrity chefs are either the host of said program or its overly romanticized subject. And with this surge of attention around the culinary profession, there also comes a demand for more exploration into obscure food scenes, cuisine deconstruction cum hybridization or just the general one-upmanship among restauranteurs and their novel activations of the food space. Everything from a purposefully dressed down dive by a star interior designer, to the anonymously marked speakeasy doors that indicate a ‘restaurant’ inside a ‘restaurant,’ or just novelty centered urbanites exoticizing an otherwise unpretentious food place, we have increasingly turned these spaces for cuisine into a contrived set around the act of eating. More than ever, the dining space or the dining ‘act’ is fully self-conscious and, consequently, fully staged, so… Let’s Make Dinner Theater Again! Los Angeles Eats Itself, already a riff on Thom Andersen’s documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, is a kind of dîner du théâtre where we just make obvious the already elaborate efforts being made to create largely fictional spaces for the non-fiction process of digestion. But on top of all this simulacrum, we offer a hefty serving of historical research along with a side of experiential panache for embodied, participatory tasting of a city that has a history of playing itself!
Involving a limited number of events, the historical catalog that makes up Los Angeles Eats Itself is an attempt to reinterpret and reintroduce a city that is increasingly populated with transplants; many of whom may only know LA’s past through the long arm of the media, which reduced the city to a notoriety for being…well…notorious! But instead of the microwaved re-sensationalization leftovers of these events, we revisit these moments with a new sensibility, one that is plural and multiple in its identifications, even if it means the narrative of our city becomes a little harder to chew and eventually swallow. So, is there a sequence of soft textured dishes that could make you ask why Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia, had incredibly bad teeth? Is there a way to bring Angelenos back to the memories of those living in the city during Richard Ramirez’s rampage, as Wes Avila did as a small child, who found solace and comfort in his Grandma’s sweet potato recipe during that hot 1984 summer? Or when the slow-speed chase of the White Bronco was taking place in 1994, what restaurants along the route are still in operation, 25 years later that you could have eaten at then and now? What may that say about the turnover of culinary trends? These are just some of the questions that have resulted from our dîner du théâtre around the complex intersection of history, food, and identity.
Los Angeles eats itself is a ten-part series (decalogue) that looks at our city’s history through inclusive collaboration to revisit a historical moment as a more layered presentation of the infamous stories that have, for better or worse, become irrevocably stitched into the mythos of LA. Each dîner du théâtre, beyond a rich tapestry of visuals, smells, and flavors will attempt to offer insights and unexpected perspectives on a well-trodden and heavily mediated historical event.
We are a non-profit and all of the artists, chefs, creatives, and makers involved are volunteering their time and labor to make these works and Los Angeles a more complex and layered cake of perspective.
Los Angeles Eats Itself is a project created by Jason Keller
Contact for events: [email protected]
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