“If time, so fleeting, must like humans die, let it be filled with good food and good talk, and then embalmed in the perfumes of conviviality.” - Vietnamese proverb
Flavio and I have been getting together with a group of people every Tuesday night for a couple years now. While we call it “social club,” it’s really a few families getting together for a once-a-week potluck (more on that later). When we were first approached to come, I thought “once a week!?” I can’t manage to make my bed once a week. How can we pull it off? How can we be put together, gourmet dish in hand, at someone’s doorstep ready to be social, every week? After over a hundred shared dinners, I have some clues.
Turns out, the secret to its success is that it is once a week. Sure, not everyone can make it every week, and that’s okay. It’s part of what keeps it interesting. It also seems to take the pressure off: no need to bring something amazing every week. It lets you just skid in the door, unshowered and disheveled, with a bottle of wine, a jar of whatever and a “sorry, this is where I’m at this week.” Everyone’s just happy you’re there. It seems even Epicurus approves, “We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink.”
More often that not, the food and ambience are amazing. We’ve had everything from rooster testicles (we have a farmer in our midst) and foraged ramps, to deviled eggs and chocolate mousse. We’ve had bonfires, ad hoc outdoor tables with hay bale seating, trees festooned with lights, and picnics by the river.
Over the two years, we’ve been lucky as a group. Celebrating birthdays and new births, book deals, a wedding, career changes, art openings, and new businesses. Hopeful stuff. We’ve also been challenged—with two families moving away, and some things a whole lot tougher. Either way, the group has rallied with support, humor, warmth and help. More than a “once-a-week potluck,” it’s a kind of family.
How it works
Every Sunday, via email, someone volunteers to host it and announces a theme. Themes can be anything from “Vietnamese” to “comfort food” to “foraged food” to “let’s not cook, just bring the garden.” The host lets everyone know what they’re cooking and most people email back with what they’re bringing, but not always. There’s no science. Sometimes it works out perfectly with appetizers, a well-balanced meal, and a lovely desert; and sometimes desert just doesn’t happen.
Secrets to success
While rule number one is to do what works for you and your friends, I believe this has made it stick for us:
- Do it once a week
- Rotate venues – different houses, or get outdoors
- Rotate food themes – both high- and low-brow
- Start with somewhere around 8 households. It spreads the hosting load, and also takes into account weeks when attendance is light. It’s also nice to go beyond your “besties” and include people you might not know so well.
- Establish a “come as you find yourself” forgiving attitude
- Try and include a variety of ages, kids included. Everyone wins with this one.
Whether you choose to take this “social sans media” challenge on or not this year… we wish you a wonderful new year full of love and community and sharing.
Xo, No. Six Depot
P.S. After writing this, I happened upon this article talking about the Dinner Party.org--informal groups that have formed around loss of a loved one and have spread across the country. It’s worth a read.