Not long ago, I went to an event at the Stranahan House. It wasn’t a wedding or a charity event; my buddy The Frenchman just wanted to eat some good food and have a party with his friends. And if you can book it, what better place in Fort Lauderdale to throw a bash like that than at Frank and Ivy Stranahan’s ultimate New River party pad?
The Frenchman, being French, knows good food. An excellent chef himself, he also knows people in top kitchens across the city; when he assembles a kitchen crew, it’s like a Food Channel version of The A-Team. The afternoon was amazing. There was live music, perfect weather and so, so much good food.
But of course, I also could have had an excellent meal like that delivered to my home. For less than the cost of a good dinner for two with an interesting bottle of red, I can go to the grocery store and get a week’s worth of groceries. Or two weeks, if I go to Aldi and load up on their weird name-brand knock-offs. (“Let’s see, I had Cheery-I’s for breakfast last week; maybe this week we’ll mix it up with Fruit Lupus and some Pop Torts.”)
But then I’d be missing out on one of the great joys of great food – having some with the people you care about. Conversation and community are as much a part of a great food experience as any ingredient.
I had a lot of fun working on this, our food issue, not least because I got to interview South Florida radio legend and absolute foodie Paul Castronovo. The Big 105.9 morning host can talk food all day – and on his show’s “Foodie Tuesdays,” he and others frequently do. If you want to get people talking, debating and calling into a radio show, ask them what place does the best Italian sub or medianoche. Food begets conversation.
In this issue we also celebrate another successful DINE Fort Lauderdale, the annual dinner series that raises money for some great charities while proving that people do not need an excuse to get together, often with strangers, for a great meal. (I mean, people at the table might start out strangers. In my experience they rarely finish that way.)
Observe the world today and you’d be forgiven for thinking we as a people have forgotten how to do community. We can be an angry, divided, untrusting people – and that’s before we even get into the pandemic that temporarily cut us off from so many of the places we go to seek each other out.
But food can still do it. One of my favorite Spanish words is sobremesa; there’s no direct English translation, which is a shame because it’s about that time after a meal when you’re there, with your people, together. I felt it the other day as I stood out behind Frank and Ivy’s old place, looking out at the New River and having a post-meal chat with friends. (I’ll have to ask The Frenchman if the French have a word for this too; I feel like they would.) The food was great that day. And the highest compliment I can pay it is to say it alone wasn’t the best part of the day.