Due to some slightly unusual circumstances, I’m eating alone a little more than normal these days. This is fine, as long as it doesn’t happen too frequently. While I enjoy the occasional quiet evening when it’s just me, a bowl of pasta and a pile of New Yorkers, in my experience too much eating alone eventually leads to no good.
This has got me thinking about all the ways and reasons people come together to eat. I’m immediately reminded how universal gathering for a feast is. Crossing all cultural, class, race, age and gender divisions, as a species, we’re a beast that likes to feast and have been doing so since, well, forever.
It’s hard to think of an event that doesn't require the organizing of food and drink (and napkins and utensils, cups and plates.) Weddings (hello Faith!), graduations and all rites of passage, birthdays, the harvest, promotions, retirements, births, deaths, holidays. We gather together to participate in one of the oldest and deepest rituals we know: sharing our food as an act of celebration.
I especially love a good pot luck where folks from different food traditions come together. Recently, I attended one in which my plate held sushi, kimchi, spare ribs (southern US style), corn on the cob, hummus and pita and a nice sauerkraut. I went back for a taste of fish tacos and pork tamales and a stunningly tasty saffron risotto. Dessert choices included chocolate chip cookies, mochi ice cream and rose geranium panna cotta.
I say let’s do this more often and for no specific reason except that it’s fun. Wouldn’t it be wild to put on a grand feast just because? Neighborhood pot lucks are on the rise and block parties, too. I see this as a sign of hope, that we’re starting to learn, or perhaps re-learn, what it means to be a community. Recently in the New York Times there was an article about a neighborhood block in Oakland, CA that had been meeting for a monthly potluck for eighteen years. Now if that’s not going to save the world, I don’t know what is.
(Image: Gillian Laub for The New York Times)