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The Divine Meal

4 Aphrodite

"More wine!" Dionysus snarled, empty bottle in hand.

“Let them pace themselves dear.” Amalthea gently stroked his cheek and steadied him on his feet, before taking the wine bottle from his hand and filling it with fresh carnations and chrysanthemums. She placed it on the huge table before them, laden with 36 glasses, in front of 36 seats reserved for 36 unsuspecting mortals. “They’re fragile you know.” Dionysus said nothing, but grumbled in response, secretly aching inside, envious of their immortality, their beautiful damnation. Rather than let this show, he poured another glass of wine

“Not too fragile I hope,” quipped Aphrodite, with a sultry grin across her face. She circled the room and began removing copious amounts of jewels from her body, placing them along the table – diamonds from her neck, rubies from her ears, and even emeralds from her navel. Where jewels would be taken, more would appear, until she was content. She then scattered sugared seashells amongst them, to bring a touch of her birthplace to the humans’ lips. “I don’t do gentle,” she sighed, laying down next to Morpheus’ sleeping body, dousing herself with her signature scent – lemon, cherry and vanilla.

A pang of fear shot through Amalthea’s heart, as she would face the wrath of her son Zeus if Aphrodite seduced any mortals tonight. She didn’t need an oracle to confirm the inevitable, and so she shrugged off her worries and began preparing the feast. Dionysus had done a wonderful job with the harvest, and the meal was bound to be delicious, especially his signature dish - succulent lamb with stuffed vine leaves. Amalthea congratulated him and was met with a warm smile – the ill-effects of yesterday’s rendezvous wearing off, bringing him back to his light-hearted self once again. In his truly generous way, he pulled up a chair and helped with the preparations. Hades emerged from the shadows to steal a sweet cheese roll while Dionysus drizzled sugar syrup and sprinkled crushed pistachios over them. On his attempt to pocket a chocolate olive, his hand was quickly slapped away by Amalthea.

Narcissus could not tear himself away from his own reflection long enough to be of assistance. “Do you think the mortals will be intimidated by my beauty?” he asked, seemingly expressing genuine concern, which no doubt surprised the entire group. “Indeed, my dear,” answered Aphrodite, her lustful eye drinking in every ounce of his exquisiteness. Her desire for him was palpable. Amalthea knew she need not worry though, as even Aphrodite – the epitome of beauty itself – could not lead Narcissus astray from his one true love – himself. Aphrodite was more than aware of this truth, which was like poison to her heart.

The uncomfortable silence that followed was only broken by a loud yawn from Morpheus. He arose, looking far more exhausted than before his slumber. “Meddling with people’s dreams is exhausting,” he mumbled. Amalthea smiled and took him in a warm embrace. “The mortals will be here soon. There is no time to be exhausted,” she laughed. Morpheus sighed and drew in a deep breath. As he exhaled, a thick cloud of smoke escaped from his lips, and engulfed the room in a disorientating haze of coconut and vanilla. “That should exhilarate them,” he observed, smiling proudly at the fruits of his labour.

Suddenly, a burst of laughter and excited conversation erupted from somewhere outside. “It’s time!” Dionysus exclaimed. As footsteps drew nearer, everyone took their positions and froze. As the door swung open and mortals began to enter, Aphrodite drew in a deep breath and sang the first note of her enchanting siren melody.

Michaela Jenkins & Zunaira Muzaffar

Second-year Fine Art student Michaela Jenkins and second year Art & Design student Zunaira Muzaffar, both studying at Birmingham City University, worked collaboratively on The Divine Meal. The Divine Meal was part of a live project titled School Dinners organised by the university in association with Kaye Winwood Projects, Grand Union gallery and chef Chris Hughes. Jenkins' text accompanied with a photograph by Zunaira Muzaffar describes Dionysus & Pasithea’s first event intoxicATE, an immersive dining experience that aims to thrill diners through food-induced intoxication. It offers them the chance to dine amongst the Gods and allow them to control their physiological state through food and sensory overload.

Image courtsey of Zunaira Muzaffar 2017