Appetizing Evenings are on the Menu
“I didn’t know if people would want to see films there, if there was even a need, but we thought we’ll try it and see what happens,” Downing recalls. “When people showed up for that first event, we knew it was going to be a success. Everyone loved the vibe. They could sit there and chat with their friends, their partner, or maybe someone from the community who they don’t normally see.”
The screening drew about 50 attendees. Once they realized they had an audience, Downing and Shkapich knew they could build the event into a series as they always imagined it. Each year the pair gets together in the fall to brainstorm an intriguing theme and meticulously select the films and foods they’ll stir into the mix.
“Every year it’s a little more challenging,” Shkapich says. “We’ve now basically shown all of the go-to so-called foodie films. So we started to think outside the box in terms of theme.”
“We began to think about nourishment in a new way,” Downing adds, “nourishment of the soul, nourishment of the heart—appetite in more of a metaphysical sense.”
The 2017 theme, “Southern Odysseys: Culinary Sojourns,” is inspired by O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the Coen brothers’ 2000 film which follows three escaped convicts searching for treasure in the Deep South. While the movie does not have an obvious culinary tie, it’s one of Downing’s and Shkapich’s all-time favorites. All of the films for this season’s calendar take place in the South and include similar plot elements, such as protagonists’ odysseys or fugitives on the run. The other movies to feast on include Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Chef (2014), Ulee’s Gold (1997), and a series of short documentaries produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance, an organization based at the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture that documents and studies the diverse food cultures of the American South.
This theme provides Shkapich an opportunity to exercise her creativity with Southern-inspired dishes, using local ingredients. “I love to cook,” Shkapich says. “I use this as a way to be really creative and experiment. The heart of the home is always the kitchen. And to me, the kitchen of Wellfleet Preservation Hall is the heart of the building.”
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