Dinner with Strangers

A common lesson taught to children at an early age is to not talk to strangers. Of course this rule is broken all the time and for good reason. We meet strangers in all aspects of our day. They become friends for life,  sometimes just for a moment in time and often they are in and out of your life in an instant. Usually the people you interact with fall into two categories, those with whom you develop a relationship such as your friends, family and co-workers and sometimes they are the people you speak with for just a little while such as a waiter, store clerk or passerby asking for directions. We feel most comfortable interacting with those that we know. That’s easy to understand.

What does this have to do with food you ask? Plenty. Last night I made the choice to spend an evening having dinner with seven strangers at Church (a restaurant, not a real one) though a meal organized by Grub With Us. I had willingly subjected myself to a potentially awkward social situation that falls between the fleeting encounter and long-term relationships and best of all I paid for it!

When I mentioned that I was signing up for this, most people that I spoke with thought I was crazy and said they would never do something like this themselves. The idea of sharing a meal with people I did not know is an interesting one. The possibility of starting an intellectual debate (read argument) about religion, politics, society or Casey Anthony just seem too scary for them and yet for me the unknown of how the evening would unfold from initial introductions to friendly good byes with stomachs full of delicious food was too good to pass up. What if we don’t get along they wondered? What if we have nothing in common? What if…? Well there wasn’t an “if”. We shared a love for food and socializing with others. It was fun.

The meal was shared family style, with each dish being described in decadent detail as it was placed on the table by the wait staff. The waitress had me at “lobster broth” when she described the ingredients for the mussels. Everything was so good. Each dish offered the opportunity for conversation about food and the sharing by passing around the dishes around the table seemed to break down all barriers of what could have been an awkward meal. We had become an instant family for the duration of the meal, sharing, savoring and serving seconds. The meal was pre-paid save for drinks thus removing the inevitable dispute of who owed what with someone leaving feeling cheated. Sharing a meal took away our individuality with respect to a food choice but allowed it to come out in other ways as part of conversation. It was a fascinating experience to watch and to be a part of. As someone commented at the table this idea would not have worked 10 years ago but it is one that will likely take off very quickly. I wish the Grub With Us team the best of luck.

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A funny change with food and life

I recently returned from a trip to Athens and Berlin with my family. It was an amazing vacation filled trips to museums, historical sites and of course a true pleasure for the palate. I was pleasantly surprised with the food in Germany in particular. Being so busy with work I didn’t do much research before the trip and was unaware of the variety of hearty and delicious food that I would enjoy on the trip. My food experiences are not the reason for this post believe it or not. Nope, the real inspiration for this post is something quite different and even more surprising.

It was 10 AM and we had just walked out of the hotel in Berlin to start the day’s activities. As we were walking, my phone started ringing. The call ended up being from my neighbor who was calling me urgently to tell me that there was a massive water leak in the building and they were looking for a way into my apartment to see if they could find the source there or on the roof. Long story short, they were able to get into my apartment, found that the source of the leak was a ruptured water heater and turned off the water in my unit. The leak had tripped the fire alarm and after an initial investigation, the fire department and electric company decided to turn of the power to the building until the walls and wiring dried out for safety reasons. This all made sense. Life would carry on.

As the week progressed and I had to deal with various insurance reps and members of my building a terrible realization went through my head. Yes the power was off and yes I was going to lose food in my refrigerator and freezer. The food loss is where my mind started to focus and then I realized I was going to lose 6 boxes of butter! “Oh no, not the butter!” I thought. Then I realized that I had also lost a batch of egg nog that I had been aging for a year and a half. How terrible. This seemed to be the worst outcome of all. I found this very odd and amusing. I don’t know if this is a sign of things to come, but I can say 2 years ago my thoughts would not have been on food. What a strange journey it has been.

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