If reading is fundamental and eating a necessity, then it follows that Thursday's "Taste of Cooper-Young" is one important event indeed. Now in its second year, "Taste of Cooper-Young" is a fund-raiser for the Memphis Literacy Council, a nonprofit organization with 400 volunteers helping 650 low-literate adults each year to improve their reading.
"The issue for us is getting the word out — not only who we are but about the problem in Memphis. One in three people in Memphis is functionally illiterate," explains Debra Hall of the Literacy Council. "It's really a call to let the community know that we have a problem, because we can't solve it if the community doesn't know about it."
This is where the eating comes in. "'Taste of Cooper-Young' is a progressive dinner, with nine of the neighborhood's restaurants providing a signature dish. The participating restaurants are Celtic Crossing, Tsunami, Café Ole, Young Avenue Deli, Lou's Pizza Pie, the Beauty Shop, Java Cabana, Dō Sushi, and Blue Fish.
The evening begins with cocktails — including the Literatini, "a cocktail for the well-read," Hall says — at the Literacy Council offices, then it's off to sup, with seatings at 6 and 7:30 p.m.
"In a traditional progressive dinner, you go around in a group to each restaurant," Hall says. "With ours, we'll give you a ticket and then send you out to whatever restaurant you want, in whatever order you want."
After dinner, it's back to the Literacy Council for wine and a silent auction, featuring Cooper-Young-themed items from area businesses and artwork, including a painting by N.J. Woods and framed photographs of the neighborhood.
Last year's event was sold out, and $12,000 was raised. This year, there are 250 tickets being sold, or 125 tickets for each seating.
"Last year was a great success," Hall says. "I've been having people ask me all year long when the next one was going to be."
"Taste of Cooper-Young," Thursday, August 21st. Seatings at 6 and 7:30 p.m. $50. To buy tickets, go to memphisliteracycouncil.org.