Two months ago when a friend invited me to Diner en Blanc, a civilized picnicking flash mob that originated in Paris, it seemed like fun. It’s French! It’s serendipity! It’s chic!
Flash forward to a few hours before the main event and serendipity has turned to doubt and retribution.
You can almost hear the relationships of the 1,300 people attending starting to crumble faster than the walls of the Bastille.
“Who’s going to carry the table and chairs?”
“What do mean you can’t find the perfect baguette?”
“No, beige is not white. No way.”
For what is essentially a renegade group, there are a lot of rules. To achieve total “en blanc-ness” the portable tables must be square, and the chairs, tablecloths, napkins, dishes and picnic hampers must be white. Fine by me, since someone else was in charge of that.
However, participants must be dressed in white from head to toe.
Quelle horreur! As any woman who does not have the body of a 12-year-old boy knows, you never wear horizontal stripes or white. I spent days looking for a white dress that doesn’t make me look like a marshmallow. None exists. I began to wonder if this is the right event for a pale zaftig woman.
So, that is how I found myself standing in the heat on the corner of 17th and Vine streets with 50 other diners in white waiting for instructions to find our secret location. The concept is to coordinate it so that the groups begin converging from all directions revealing the destination. We try to guess. City Hall? Love Park?
A sharp right turn brings us to the Swann Memorial Fountain and Logan Square. Perfect … the Parkway and the Square are homages to the French landmarks the Champs-Elysées and the Place de la Concorde.
The sound of popping sparkling wine echoes around, and there’s a collective sigh of relief. Relationships heal as food — marvelous food — peach soup, a terrine molded in avocado strips, foie gras, cupcakes and tarts are finally released from their white wicker baskets.
As the Twitter posts and newscasts share the event, perhaps some of the naysayers, the died-in-the-non-white-wool Philadelphians who believe only an idiot would pay money to bring their own tables and chairs and food to dinner, were silently wishing they were a part of this.
With the fountain as a focal point, and a wonderful view of the city, it seemed even the sunset and the moon cooperated. More champagne led to dancing in the fountain.
And as a friend says, “Non, je ne regrette rien.” I regret nothing … except maybe that white outfit that makes me look like a marshmallow.