Over the last few months, I have been attending a series of pop-up restaurants known as The People’s Kitchen. Not only do they serve up amazing, organic food, but a healthy heaping of community, as well.
The first event was not just a culinary experience – the night also centered around the impacts of colonialism on various African and Indian cuisines. Naturally, the group in attendance was very interested in food politics.
It took place in the Betti Ono art gallery in Oakland, CA. The floors were covered with large cushions upon which the guests sat as we were served course after delicious course. The food was prepared by the family members of my friend and clearly, there was a great deal of love put into it.
I went alone, but by the end of the evening I felt as if I had experienced the start of two beautiful friendships. I sat next to two women who own a catering business and who prepare all their dishes using local, organic, seasonal ingredients. The do not drop off the food or hire servers – they attend all the events they cater and serve the food themselves. Their idea is that they want to truly nourish their clients, both body and spirit. We exchanged emails and, by the end of the night, the ladies were hugging me goodbye.
At one point during the meal, a few guests stood up and shared stories about significant meals in their lives. One woman recalled past meals shared with her recently deceased mother. The memories brought her to tears – and I found my eyes beginning to well up, too.
It was truly a magical evening. There was an incredible sense of warmth and camaraderie among a group of mostly strangers. We all knew the host and many in attendance had brought a friend, but those who had never met before were opening up and forging new friendships in a truly incredible way.
The second event, which I recently attended with my fiance, was equally magical. The event took place at an Oakland restaurant called Cosecha, where we enjoyed delicious sangria, inspired dance performances, and an incredible meal made from local, organic food, much of which was grown in an urban garden in Oakland. We met new people who shared our interest in social justice.
It is both the power of food and the power of inspiration that make these events what they are. Food truly has the ability to create community. Throughout the course of human history, breaking bread together has done a great deal to build new connections and strengthen old ones. It is the reason why a first date often includes dinner – and why holidays often revolve around meals. Food bonds people.