By Jamie Drummond
“I kind of look at food as a way to counteract all the other wear and tear you put on your body.” – Sal P
Just last week I got together with Sal Principato in New York City and for once we didn’t speak about music…
Salvatore Principato has quite the resume, in fact some would say that he’s something of a phenomenon. Most will know him as being an integral component (vocals/percussion) of the seminal post-punk/post-disco outfit Liquid Liquid, responsible for such cracking records as Cavern, Optimo and Bellhead… but Sal has many other talents… cooking being a particularly strong suit of his.
A few years back I was lucky enough to meet Sal while he was in Toronto for one of his many DJ gigs. We started chatting and struck up what has evolved to be a the most wonderful of friendships, with us hooking up every six months or so.
It was at one of these catch up sessions, over lunch at Mario Batali’s Casa Mono, that Sal first told me of his wish to create a dining experience unlike any other I had previously heard of. The concept revolved around the idea of a structured “return to the table”, with an emphasis upon diners gaining a greater understanding of their relationship with food, something that Sal felt was seriously lacking in most New Yorker’s lives. At this point in the project’s development Sal was attempting to work out how to integrate a shopping/gathering component, something that really drew me in. I distinctly remember thinking that the idea of a “restaurant” where one would (as a group) assemble ingredients, prepare a meal and then eat together, to be utterly fascinating… although I could not for the life of me fathom out how to make it work…
Fast forward to 2008: I receive an email from Sal indicating that he has shaped his original ideas somewhat and made them reality. Entitled Go Gather, guests make reservations to visit Sal’s downtown Manhattan apartment where they then communally prepare a full dinner from scratch. Under the watchful eye of his gorgeous wee dog Carrots, Sal leads the group through the steps of creating a thoroughly wholesome meal. Now this was something that I simply had to experience…
Roll on to May of 2009: I make plans to visit NYC and attend Go Gather with my girlfriend and friends Simon and Kirsteen… and innumerable bottles of rosé wine… which was probably my downfall… literally. Go Gather was everything that I had dreamed it would be. Sal eloquently articulated his food philosophy as he led us through the step by step preparation of the most delicious vegan dosai (Yes, that’s the plural of dosa folks- J) that one could ever imagine.
The experience is without a doubt a hands-on affair with all guests sharing time in the kitchen: pan-frying the dosa batter, preparing salad with a tasty dressing, cooking the vegetables in fresh coconut milk, and even helping with the washing up. The food was splendid and the wine flowed, as did the conversation. It was a night to remember.
And tasty dosai are just one of the many dishes in Sal’s repertoire, as one can see if one has a peek at his website. The entire process of cooking and then dining together is very much a spiritually bonding and enlightening one that, as Sal points out, is something that we should all really make an effort to rediscover before it sadly becomes a forgotten practice.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… and somehow managed to develop a stutter whilst interviewing Sal… must have been the beer. Yikes.