Anyone who’s watched Downton Abbey can attest to the idea that important conversations often seem to take place around the dinner table. Food, eating together – it’s not just about nourishment of the body, but also the soul. So what happens if we start seeing communal dining as a social strategy to talk about important issues? In particular, a setting to start talking about the subject literally closest at hand: food.
When we start talking about food, we quickly realize it’s a complicated issue. There are lots of trends and ideas about our relationship with food, health and sustainable food consumption. So before taking a nose-dive into the actual dinner conversation, it might be interesting to look at some communal dining events that have taken place or are taking place…
Eating together can be as simple as inviting over some friends. Or, in the case of neigbor, inviting some friends and asking them to invite some of their friends as well. Emily & Archie Lee Coates host a dinner party in their Brooklyn apartment once a month and anyone can sign up. Now they invite +/- 20 guests in their apartment each month.They noticed that eating together and doing the dishes quickly created bonds and lasting friendships.
The big lunch
The big lunch was initiated by the Eden project in the UK as a way to tackle social isolation. What is it? Nomem est omen – it’s a big lunch event that’s organized in various places in the UK, open for everyone in a community.
Innocent 5 for 5
In 2012 the Innocent company launched a pop-up café as part of the promotion campaign for their new veg pots. For five pounds, visitors could enjoy a meal that incorporated the 5-a-day requirement for fruits and vegetables.
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Damn food waste
The damn food waste festival was organized in Amsterdam by different organizations and research institutions to increase awareness of the fact that a lot of food is thrown away – by producers, supermarkets and consumers. Visitors were invited to share a meal made of products that were still edible, but would ordinarily have been thrown away.
These examples give a sense that communal dining projects are already taking place at different scales, for different reasons and organized by different parties. When reading reviews of those who were there a striking similarity is that the visitors seem empowered by the atmosphere that was created by sharing a meal.