The Communal Table

For me the joy of eating is the act of sharing it with others. One of my favorite trends these days is that of communal eating, shared tables, and eating experiences. Illustrator Caroline Hwang has a new project, Communal Table (that’s her work above), which is a new series of cookbooks devoted sharing the love of eating and gathering together. But there’s something more about sharing a meal together than just, but it’s also about knowledge exchange and often about finding a way to give back. While this series celebrates the art of eating, any money made from each book in this series will be donated to a food-related organization. The proceeds for the first book, A Casual Setting is slated for The Food Trust in Philadelphia.
Outstanding in the Field is a new [to me] event I learned about this week after Jordan posted about it. An event that that’s been happening since 1999, this dinner series moves across the US, and hits parts of Europe, as a restaurant without walls taking place in gardens, at vineyards, on beaches and in barns. But the idea isn’t just to have dinner, but rather it is their “mission is to re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.” Meals include as many local ingredients as possible, and are often prepared by a celebrated local chef. Tickets go fast, so find your closest dinner and get it while it’s hot!

Most of my favorite restaurants in Paris take the communal approach, from the classic Le Chartier, where each pairing of tables is filled whether you know your neighbors or not; the charmed Chez Gladine‘s basque restaurant in Buttes-aux-Cailles, whose red and white checkered table clothes make you feel at home while cozying up to your neighbors; Bob’s Kitchen‘s communal tables where you can savor my favorite Fukomaki rolls and maybe join your neighbor’s conversation; even the intimate (aka small!) space of Candelaria means more interaction with those sitting next to you and talking to the people making your food, learning the story behind it. Then there are the famous Jim Haynes dinners which he’s been hosting every Sunday for over 30 years, which are designed to bring together strangers over food. Meanwhile Hidden Kitchen, is a more modern spin on the collective dining with friends, old and brand new.

Even the latest OpenIDEO challenge looks at our relationships with food and the ways which we can better connect the production and consumption of food. While still in the inspiration phase, there are wonderful ideas emerging on how we can start thinking differently about food.


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