Joshua Levine had a certain presence about him, standing at 6-feet-5-inches tall, with eyes that lit up a room. He was handsome, soothing and excelled at bringing the East End together — even in the wake of a tragedy.
In November 2010, a tractor accident killed the 35-year-old farmer, devastating his family and the community. As a coping mechanism, the family decided to carry out his mission with “A Moveable Feast,” an annual culinary get-together organized by Slow Food East End on behalf of the Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation.
And just as Mr. Levine would have liked, people come out by the hundreds, according to his father, Myron Levine, who spoke to The Sag Harbor Express in anticipation of this year’s dinner — which will feature small bites from more than 20 local chefs on Sunday, April 7, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Dodds & Eder in Sag Harbor.
What do you look forward to every year before A Moveable Feast?
I look forward to having so many people that are committed to teaching children about healthy eating and seeing people that are really dedicated to having their children experience a healthy life and learn to deal with a sustainable environment. It just brings a lot of nice people together in one forum.
It’s not the typical Hamptons event over the summer — and that’s not to denigrate any of those events, and I certainly don’t mean to. But at a lot of those events, you have people come that want to be seen. At this event, they really aren’t interested in being seen. They’re interested in being part of a movement that really is geared to teaching children about what’s important, as far as health and sustainability and the environment.
What is it like to actually be there?
It really is amazing. The food is outrageous. We have some of the best restaurants and caterers and food purveyors on the East End, and they donate the food for the event. I think at every single event, there are literally thousands of oysters. It is a moveable feast, in the true sense of the Italian term from which it was originally coined. It’s just a culinary delight.
The atmosphere is just wonderful because you have local people all there committed to something that’s very wonderful. And the room is always quite crowded. I think last year we had well over 250 people there.
Why a dinner to honor Josh’s memory and legacy?
He was very much interested in food and healthy eating. He was just a remarkable young man. He got a job as an apprentice at Quail Hill Farm and was eventually market manager at the Sag Harbor farmers’ market.
A woman told me a story about Josh, a few days after the accident, and she also told this story at the funeral. She had lost her sight about eight years before and she was gradually getting it back, and she found that kale helped tremendously. And one of the few farms growing kale back then was Quail Hill. Every Saturday, Josh would bring lots of kale to the farmers’ market and she would buy up all of the kale.
One steaming hot Saturday, she said, at four o’clock her doorbell rings and she sees Josh at the door and she says, “Josh, what are you doing here?” And he says, “You forgot your kale.” And she said, “But it’s four o’clock, Josh,” and the market ended at 1 o’clock. But she hadn’t come, and he knew she had a house that was for sale, and he knew it was on the water, so he went riding around looking for “For Sale” signs and, finally, he found someone who knew that someone at Provisions knew where she lived, so he went to Provisions and they told him and that’s how he found her. He had been doing this for three hours, and he had put the kale on ice for her.
I never knew this story. But that tells you a little bit about why something like this is appropriate in the context of Josh.
How do you feel, leading up to the dinner?
To some extent, it is a little bit of a bittersweet event for us. Some of the things that might stand out might not be necessarily positive, and they could bring up thoughts you don’t want always want to deal with, because Josh was really a very, very important part of the local community out here. He was a big presence.
What do you think Josh would say about “A Moveable Feast”?
I think he would love it. His passion was healthy eating and education and children. That’s what this is all about, and that’s why it’s so appropriate. And many of the people that he was involved with back then are still involved.
Tickets are $150 or $100 for Slow Food members. For more information, visit slowfoodeastend.org/moveablefeast_2019.