what the popup dinners taught me

Sometimes I write stuff for you, the reader, and other times I write for myself as a sort of “digital record”. Today I write for the latter…

Around the Table is a dinner series that I started with a handful of friends back in 2016. It started out with such a simple concept I hesitate to even call it a concept: we wanted a richer sense of community and decided the best way to achieve it was to host dinner parties. In the beginning, we served frozen lasagna, grapes, and lemonade. Quickly, we realized folks weren’t coming for the food, but for the sense of connection we’d fostered. There was something special about those little gatherings. Soon we had groups of twenty-five coming to our makeshift table and I was continually struck by how my desire for community was shared by many others.

At the end of one particular dinner, a guest who had just graduated from culinary school asked if there was a way we could cover the cost of food. If we could find a way, she wanted to cook for us free of charge. And that’s why we started to sell tickets and that’s how we went from serving frozen lasagna to serving four courses. With the chef’s addition, the dinners became much more immersive and gave our creative team a bigger canvas to paint upon.

Over the next few years, we hosted gatherings on rooftops, inside of coffee shops, and in various industrial spaces around town. When I look back on my life as a very old (very hip man) I think that orchestrating these events will be my one of great joys. Yet in the midst of orchestrating all of this magic, there was a dissonance that I sensed.

While I was gathering people on a large scale (i.e. paid guests), I wasn’t gathering them on the smaller scale (i.e. having friends over for drinks). I also realized (thanks to my life coach) that it was important for me to gather people, but also be gathered myself. I’m able to achieve a certain level of harmony in my life when I plan events and also attend them as a guest; I’m able to take care of others and others are able to take care of me. These twin flashes of insight convicted me about living out my values, not merely preaching them.

tl;dr throughout the rest of the year I want to spend my time gathering friends in the privacy of my home. As I gathered peopled around a table, I neglected to gather them around my own and I won’t make the same mistake again. I need more of this sort of thing: more community, more place, more home.

The table taught me this was all important. In some cosmic way, you could even say that I taught myself.

photo by   liz brown

photo by liz brown