Throwing Barndiva dinner parties on New Year's Eve for the past 13 years has meant I never have to worry about a reservation - or for that matter a date - on the ultimate night of the year. But like pretty much everyone else I still find myself devising New Year resolutions, as if winning strategies might help make sense of the year as history moves on.
For 2017 it’s abundantly clear the resolution that tops the list - something we all need to do more of this coming year - is to Listen. As carefully, and thoughtfully, as we can. Where Empathy leads, follow. It’s going to be a tremendously hard year for the human race as we continue to stumble and bumble our way towards an uncertain future. And considering the veritable brain trust of indelibly talented people we lost this year, it would also be wise to add Finding Ways to Celebrate and Support the Arts.
I only had the luck of meeting two of the powerhouse creative people who died in 2016, (Zaha Hadid: formidable; George Martin: the definition of graceful erudition), but I’ve been struck how the passing of loadstar figures like David Bowie and Leonard Cohen has felt so personal. The way singular creative voices touch our lives is part of what draws us together; grieving public figures is one of the few things we all still, thankfully, have in common. Listening to Desperado after Glenn Frey died the line “come down from your fences, open the gate,” jumped out at me. One of the greatest things about growing up in the 60’s - which we are so in need of now - was belief in the idea that we might find a national anthem not based upon religion, or race. Or money.
The poignancy of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher dying within a day of one another, while tragic, was an apt ending to this upside down year. Singing in the Rain was an anthem for American possibility, a paean to the happiness my parent's generation felt for this country. Finding her true voice in the depths of a painful recovery, Carrie did more than tell her own story. She and her mother were in fact two sides of the same coin. Beyond her illness, or because of it, she bravely spoke to the various systems that bind and obscure us as women.
In a year when politics let us all down (and this goes for everyone, even if you think your side won) giving thanks to the distinct creative voices that pose answers to difficult questions, offering us solace as we soldier on, is more important than ever before. At Barndiva we are all about enabling healthful food systems, but even in this regard enlightenment comes from many directions: I’ve learned what not to do as a restaurateur from AA Gill, how not to lose the passion of appetite from Jim Harrison. When I frame a shot or design a new space, somewhere in my memory bank sits the cool images of Raoul Coutard, the filigreed humanity of Vilmos Zsigmond. That these visionaries - cue your own Quixote in here - are gone now does not erase their contribution to our lives. But in giving thanks for the gifts they left us, we need to do more than tip our hats and raise our glass. Prince was a brave artist, and if not with the same historic reach as Ali, of a similar mindset, that speaking truth to power comes at a cost you must be willing to make. For our part, we must be willing to listen.
We drag the past with us, but it should not be as weight so much as a ballast. And, if we’re listening carefully, the mast to hold tight our sails. Aaron Taylor’s “I Ain’t Worried,” reminds us of another brave voice from past who spoke hard truth, with honesty and hope. We send it out to you, glass half full, along with our heartfelt thanks for your support this past year, with wishes for a New Year in which you eat and drink well, and make exciting, meaningful, joyful choices.
Aaron Taylor, "I ain't worried (interlude)" on his Still Life album.