This week’s spotlight: all things food.
Do you hunger for a deeper connection to new cultures when you travel?
Do you thirst for closer friendships with your neighbors?
Does the thought of eating home-cooked meals away from home make your mouth water?
If so, join the (supper) club!
We may not have full agreement on what to call this trend yet—I’ve come across “meal-sharing platform,” “collaborative gastronomy,” “community-based alternative dining,” and “the social food movement”—but a rose (or rosé) by any other name is still all about eating and drinking with strangers near and far to gain broader cultural understanding, make new friends, and, of course, savor delicious meals.
Here’s how some pioneers are doing it:
Meals with a side of cultural exchange
- Cookening‘s motto is “Connecting people and cultures through food.” Sign up on their site to attend or host home-cooked meals and meet people from all over the world. Hosts post information about themselves and sample menus they might cook, then state their desired “contribution.” Guests peruse the host profiles (searchable by location, type of meal, languages spoken, maximum number of guests, and more) and send a booking request when they see something they like.
- Eatwith and Feastly are a couple of sites running similar operations, while Eat With a Local is more casual, with a meal-swapping format (more like Couchsurfing than Airbnb).
- Adentro Dinner Club in Argentina is a bit different: a Buenos Aires couple opens their home to travelers every Wednesday night for a traditional asado (Argentine barbecue) for about US$60 per person.
- An Italian counterpart, Home Food, began in 2004 in conjunction with The Association for the Guardianship and Exploitation of the Traditional Culinary-Gastronomic Heritage of Italy (talk about a mouthful). Guests join the association for €50 and can then sign up for various experiences (“Not only food,” explains the website, “but tradition, territory, love”).
- And Brooklyn, New York’s “part-time restaurant” Neighbor uses the tagline “What we eat in our house” and serves on the last Saturday of every month. A four-course dinner with drinks is $85, and attendance is capped at eight people, first-RSVP, first-served.
- Still other variations on the theme include NYC’s The Ghetto Gourmet, which organized roughly 400 “underground dinner parties” from 2003 to 2008 and lives on today as “a portal into the world of underground restaurants, speakeasies, supperclubs and other community-based alternatives for dining and entertainment.” On the site, you can start or join a “foodie group,” plan your get-togethers, and post menus and photos from your meals.
- Chaos Cooking organizes events across the U.S. and promotes ultimate collaboration, describing their model as: “Everyone brings the ingredients to make of dish of their choice. Everyone cooks together and then helps restore the space to its original condition.”
- UK-based Find a Supper Club offers a hub where visitors can “discover where and when your local underground restaurant/pop up/supper club is!”, both in Europe and elsewhere.
No matter how you slice it, supper clubs’ resurging popularity is testament to our deep desire for community, conversation, and sharing. And food. Definitely food.
Tell us how an alternative dining experience has been a positive influence on you or in your community.