Food for thought, courtesy of Mural Arts Program


For 18 months, you work on an ambitious outdoor dinner for 900 people that will put Philadelphia on the world stage.

Days before, you learn that you have to move it because the U.S. government is shut down.

Such is the lot in life of the Mural Arts Program, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary with "What We Sow," a program about food-related issues.

The big to-do will be Saturday, Oct. 5 with a community, invitation-only dinner staged by French artists Lucy and Jorge Orta, designed by Marc Vetri, and catered by Cescaphe.

Since the lawn outside the initial venue - the Independence Visitor Center - is federal property, Mural Arts was sent scrambling to find a new spot.

The dinner will be held outside the Municipal Services Building, with City Hall as a backdrop. ,

Called "70 x 7 The Meal," act XXXIV, it's a deliberate stretch of the Mural Arts mission, said the program's Jane Golden. "We're moving the needle on social issues," she said. "This is more than putting paint on walls."

It's another kind of art: a discussion, addressing the politics of food production - specifically heirloom food - and how it relates to people. The Ortas have staged 33 similar ritual meals throughout the world.

The 900 invitees will eat fennel and parmesan gratin; squash caponata with raisins and pine nuts; traditional bagna cauda with potatoes, purple carrots, fennel, and chicory; and haricots vert with purple potatoes. (See recipes here.)

Mural Arts is giving out kits containing lengths of the table runner designed by the Ortas, heirloom produce and recipes so people can produce heirloom meals on their own.

Also, some local restaurants are creating special heirloom menus for the evening of Saturday, Oct. 5, and will use a piece of the Orta-designed table runner:

Aksum, 4630 Baltimore Ave.

Circles Thai, 812 N. Second St.

Heirloom, 8705 Germantown Ave.

La Calaca Feliz, 2321 Fairmount Ave.

Liberté at the Sofitel, 120 S 17th St.

Marathon Grill, 121 S 16th St.

Standard Tap, 901 N. Second St.