October 25, 2012 at 4:43pm
Oscar Wilde called A Rebours or Against Nature the strangest book he ever read. Which is not to say he didn't like it. He did, and thus became Joris-Karl Huysmans' first champion in the English speaking world. Born in Paris to a Dutch father in the mid 19th century, Huysmans began by writing unmemorable realistic novels. Perhaps to counter the tedium of his civil service job, he branched into unique "decadent" work. Against Nature aka Against the Grain is the story of Du Jean Des Esseintes, a reclusive aesthete constantly looking for new sensations.
The Black Feast of the novel is a wake to mourn the loss of the (anti) hero's virility. Never mind that, it translates easily to an unusual Hallowe'en repast for adults, and if tweeked to a treat for kids.
Des Esseintes used three elements for his feast which I don't recommmend recreating. I won't go into it in detail, I'll just say it involves toxic heating fuel, slavery, and an endangered species. Obviously black table linens, plates and platters, napkins and candles. and very dark violet flowers can be used in a modern recreation. Des Esseintes served Russian rye, black puddings, caviar, black olives, truffle jelly, game in port...
You can serve black olives, black olive tapenade, black American caviar on dark rye, charcoal crackers, cheese in port, seaweed, dried black figs, dark chocolate, or chocolate truffles, real truffles, squid ink rissoto, or black pasta tossed with black olives. Serve port, Guinness, or a deep red wine. This isn't about a balanced meal it's all about the color. Come up with your own black goodies and decor.
Then dress all in black, light the black tapers, play some Chausson, Rousell, or ultra- eccentric Erik Satie. Or you can play a bit of Rolling Stones, a tad of Amy Winehouse or any other tunes with black themed lyrics.
For a kids' mini Black Feast licorice whips, jelly beans, gum drops, coins, and ice cream, are an obvious choice. Then grab the food colouring and add it to grape jello, dark grape or berry juice , or cupcake frosting. Invite black stuffed animals for the fun.
Pictured above are port, greek olives, caviar and a charcoal biscuit. You'll notice Edgar Allan Poe's Raven flew in for the occssion.