Welcome Irina Vishnevskaya, Tastemaker in Residence

by Cindi SutterFounder of The Spirited Table®

Irina provides a fresh take on bringing people together around food and BEER!

In her own words....

1. What is your favorite family tradition? 

"I grew up in a religiously mixed home- Dad was Jewish, Mom is Catholic. Holiday traditions in our home were a little more haphazard than in the movies or our next door neighbor’s. Sometimes we went to Christmas Mass, sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes Dad would fast for Yom Kippur, sometimes he would forget Hannukah. 

Instead, what I remember most dearly are our freestyle family dinner nights. Usually on a Sunday evening, all four of us would gather in the kitchen to create our own individual meals. I recall being a fan of uber-gourmet sandwiches, my brother cooking his amazing homemade pasta sauce (which he happened to master at age 6, by the way), Mom opting for a crazy mixture of leftovers from the week and Dad being flustered by all the commotion, complaining that there’s no organization to our madness. 

And then the craziness would subside, we’d plate our meals, make an attempt at packing away the counter tops and sit down together to enjoy the fruits of our labor. I loved it so much: we were all together, eating together, cooking together, laughing together. But everyone got to eat exactly what their heart desired in that moment."

2. What is the most memorable moment you’ve shared around a table? 

"I spent a month at an Ashram in India, and there we were encouraged (required) to keep complete silence in the dining room during meals. Complete and utter silence for someone who talks incessantly, particularly at the table, for someone who comes from a family who discussed all matters of importance and unimportance around a meal, for someone who traveled far and wide to eat local foods while talking to local people… for someone like me that was impossible. I was sharing a table with fascinating people I had just met from all over the world and I was literally itching to talk to them. I broke the rules a few times. I got in trouble. I promised to never do it again. 

And then one day I felt it. We were all sitting around the table in silence, and instead of fighting the silence I accepted it. I felt an indescribable communal energy, a sense of peace. I was able to focus on my food more precisely and intently (and it tasted better than ever as a result). But more importantly, I felt the same sense of re-charging that I would have felt if we had talked for hours, only not a single word had been exchanged."

3. What is your favorite toast?

"In Russia, the third toast is always raised towards women. All the men at the table stand, put their glass in their left hand and recite beautiful sonnets to the women in their lives. Often being a fish out of water and in the minority as a lady at a table full of men, I have always taken a particular liking to this tradition."

4. If you could only eat one food the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

"Avocado with gradeseed oil, salt and a little cumin. It’s my comfort food, and if it’s the only food I’m eating for the rest of my life, it better be a comfort food."