Feminist artist, Judy Chicago; Photo ©Zoë Kessler, May 2011

Feminist artist, Judy Chicago; Photo ©Zoë Kessler, May 2011

I recently had dinner with famed feminist artist, Judy Chicago. Me, and about 85 select others.

The dinner was part of a series of events planned around Judy’s show, Judy Chicago: Setting the Table, which opened at our local Tom Thomson Gallery on May 13.

It is only now, several weeks later, that I’ve been able to digest what the dinner meant to me.

Here’s how I see the banquet of my life, pre- and post-ADHD diagnosis.

Course One (pre-diagnosis) – Dinner Disaster à la Zoë

In the past, this kind of affair was just the sort of thing to bring out the worst of my ADHD traits. It would have been my personal recipe for disaster. In the time-honored tradition of trading recipes, here’s mine:

Dinner Disaster à la Zoë

1) take 85 people (approximately 84 more than I could handle), dressed well
2) place in elegant dining room of exclusive golf club
3) add 1 impoverished & hungry journalist
4) (attempt to) mix well

Before my diagnosis, this recipe was inedible, leaving a bad taste in my mouth due to:

– incompatible ingredients
– too much of one ingredient (my chatter)
– bitter-tasting no-name ingredients (unrecognized ADHD traits of spontaneous, incomprehensible blurts; low self-esteem; social awkwardness, etc.)

The dinner with Judy Chicago proved to me that, yes, I have finally mastered the snooty-dinner-party recipe. I’ve moved to the second course of my ADHD life.

Course Two (post-diagnosis) – New and Improved Dinner Schmooze à la Zoë

1) take 85 people (one of whom I know well, several familiar faces, the rest – strangers, and me); dressed well
2) add free event ticket as professional perk for a journalist who appreciates a good meal
3) mix well, placing tasteful friend-of-friend next to journalist
4) sprinkle with interesting anecdotes
5) serve with excellent, but limited quantity of, red wine

The new and improved recipe resulted in a pleasant, but predictable and staid repast. I was left feeling hungry and dissatisfied.

The second course was presentable, but hardly worthy of presentation. Where was my usual flair? Where was the spicy conversation? Where was my courage and candor?

Sure, I managed to successfully blend in with the rest of the evening’s ingredients – but the result was bland.

I was left with indigestion. There were several things I just couldn’t swallow. For one, the pricetag was far beyond what many women artists could afford. Were they to starve? Were the very women who would normally have supported Judy Chicago to be excluded from the table?

Yet I said nothing.

I’m still fine-tuning the ingredients needed to create the perfect, satisfying final course. It’ll be the perfect blend of good taste and surprise; digestibility and innovative new ingredients.

Course Three – Dessert

Having digested the first two courses, I realized what I needed to feel satiated. None of the spiciness I’d been used to was at the Judy Chicago dinner.

I’ve saved the best for last:


1) start with expensive, but commonly found ingredients (wealthy patrons, swanky settings, adequate but lacklustre meal)
2) add one unusual, distinctive spice (me!)
3) blend, achieving perfect balance between the ordinary and the exotic & unexpected
4) serve on attractive dishes in manageable portions

My new recipe will boldly stir up the status quo, leaving the guests surprised, and with tasty food for thought.

If my meal planning goes as expected, dessert will be sweet, indeed.

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