A meal starts with a desire: to eat and be nourished. To know and be known. To slow down and grow in body, spirit and mind.
In his book “The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection,” Robert Farrar Capon teaches us how to have a dinner party. His main theme — from the guest list to the seating chart to the food served — is that it’s all about being intentional.
“Have at least one solidly personal reason for inviting whomever you call to your table, and be sure that that reason looks chiefly outward at your guest and not inward at yourself. To ask a man to break bread with you is to extend friendship, to proclaim in love that you want not his, but him,” he writes. “Try your best to summon guests who will enhance each other as persons. … [The host] simply does the best he can in his own judgment, and then graciously commits his party into [the guests’] hands.”
And that is true: this practice is personal. At a dinner party, we must sit across from each other, look at one another and be looked back at. We must receive and then contribute to whatever conversation topics present themselves. And we must admit our humanity — which is to admit our frailty, imperfection, lack of self-sufficiency — through letting others see us as we do something fairly unattractive: eat. All with people we may know really well or hardly at all.
Because it is personal, it is vulnerable. For both the hostess and the guests.
And that’s exactly why we should do it.
So, we decided to have a dinner party. We invited to our table people we wanted to know more deeply and asked some of them to make food for us that matters to them. We cooked together, and then we gathered to eat together, letting the conversations amble where they would, finding commonalities amongst our lives and sharing the differences, sweet, intimate moments that wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t all come to the table. To have a dinner together is to become one with others; we can do this with our family, our friends and people we don’t yet know well.
“Your dinner party is an act of love,” Farrar Capon writes.
Here, we share the fruits of that love.
Thank you to Gary and Wendy Rust for opening your home to us; Ebb & Flow Fermentations, for opening your courtyard to us; D Duncan Floristry & Boutique, for creating the beautiful tablescape; Lisa Essmyer, Maria Wade, Stephenie Gardiner, Mary Gentry and Belle Schott for cooking for us and sharing your recipes, time and company; Erica Robbins, Paige Garner, Jamie Phillips and Jasmine Jones, for your presence at the dinner party. We are grateful for you.