Community Dinning Themes

Food serves as a great vehicle for self-expression, and community dining provides an outlet to connect with others who share certain lifestyles, passions, or beliefs.

According to Duke Law Professor Jedediah Purdy,

“There is evidence that Americans are withdrawing, both into their own lives and into communities of the like-minded.  For all the quibbles it produced, Robert Putnam’s conclusion in Bowling Alone stands:  Recent decades have devastated traditional social networks that were often cross-class and quasi-civic.  A 2006 study found that between 1985 and 2004, Americans reported the average number of people with whom they can “discuss important issues” falling from three to two, with a quarter saying they have no one with whom to discuss such issues and 80 percent saying they turn only to family members.  These networks are weakest among poorer and less-educated people.  So is the share of those who say they more or less trust others.”

Community dining provides the opportunity to engage in thoughtful conversations about issues affecting our lives.

One particular interesting type of community engagement dinner is a Jeffersonian dinner.  This kind of dinner is not meant for people to talk to the person next to them or for one person to monopolize the conversation, but rather to collectively engage the group of 8 to 14 guests in a collaborative conversation about a particular topic and question related to the mutual interests of each guest that the moderator has communicated prior to the dinner.

Because the moderator follows up with each guest regarding their questions, comments, connections sought, and desires for future meetings and there is no product or service being pitched, this unique setting creates a comfortable forum to build relationships and take part in a mutually beneficial experience.

Environmentalist, author, poet, and biodynamic gardener Marjorie Spock artfully describes this kind of experience in her essay entitled “The Art of Goethean Conversation”:

“To make a composition “all of one piece,” as it must be if it is to rank as art, the conversing circle needs to take unusual measures to preserve unity. Here again, there is a vast difference between a discussion and a conversation. In the former, few feel the least compunction about engaging in asides. Disruptive and rude though these are, and betraying conceit in their implication that what one is muttering to one’s neighbor is of course of far more interest that what the man who has the floor is saying, they are not as final a disaster as when they take place in a conversation. Discussions base themselves on intellect, and intellectual thinking tends naturally to separateness.

Conversations are an order of thought in which illumined hearts serve as organs of intelligence, and the tendency to hearts is to union. The conversation group must make itself into a magic circle. The least break in its Grail cup wholeness would let precious light substance generated by the meeting drain away. Sensitive participants will feel asides and interruptions to be nothing less than a cutting off of the meeting from the spiritual world.

Many individuals feel that no conversations could ever match the inspiration of a top flight lecture. Hence, they tend to think conversing is a waste of time much better spent reading lectures or listening to them. No doubt, lectures serve important functions. Painstakingly prepared, they convey concentrations of spiritual substance to listeners, who sit down as it were to a meal someone else has placed before them. But, extending the analogy, dyed-in-the-wool lecture goers do all their eating at restaurants, never learning the lovely art of homemaking.

There is something woefully one-sided in such a way of life. Not only does it avoid responsibility and neglect opportunities for creative growth; it remains childishly dependent in the most important phase of human evolution, when one should be progressing from having truth revealed to discovering truth by one’s own activity. Rudolf Steiner was no friend of dependency in any form. He seldom told people the solution to a problem, and then only when exceptional pressures of time required it. This is what the times demand of us, that we become spiritually self-active, learning to draw sustenance from the spiritual world for Earth’s renewal. Goethean conversations will be found an ideal schooling for this foremost task.”

Dinners focusing on health and wellness provide a great opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with people having shared interests.  In addition, these face-to-face connections carry special significance because we typically think of diet, exercise, and pills when we think of health and wellness, yet we don’t typically consider the health benefits of social interaction and the how developing complex social relationships enriches our lives.

To illustrate, according to a study from the Public Library of Science, a nonprofit publisher and advocate of open access research, “the influence of social relationships on the risk of death are comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality such as smoking and alcohol consumption and exceed the influence of other risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity.”

Another example comes from Greek culture which has actual words used to describe the benefits of relationships:  parea and kefi.   Parea represents a “group of friends who regularly gather together to share their experiences about life, their philosophies, values, and ideas. The Parea is really a venue for the growth of the human spirit, the development of friendships and the exploration of ideas to enrich our quality of life that is all too brief in time.  In Greece, the Parea is a long-lasting circle and cycle of life nourished by the people who participate.”   Kefi outlines “a social activity that engages the relationship between self and collectivity”, and a word which has been described by various Greeks as meaning the spirit of joy, passion, enthusiasm, high spirits, or frenzy.”

What if every doctor’s office, yoga studio, exercise facility, and other wellness professionals offered their patients and/or members the opportunity to build meaningful social relationships, share their life experiences, and develop their “parea” and “kefi” through Community Dining in each Chicago neighborhood?  What if these opportunities began to spread to other areas?   What if sharing knowledge about our food system through Community Dining led to increased consumer demand for more humanely treated and healthier animals, an understanding of the connection between factory medicine and factory farming, an interest in reading speeches like University of Missouri farm economics professor John Ikerd’s speech on the economics of sustainable farming and books like Dr. Daphne Miller’s Farmacology, Chef Dan Barber’s The Third Plate, and Organic Farmer Joel Salatin’s Folks, This Ain’t Normal and Everything I Want to do is Illegal, and a desire to develop a deeper connection to our food and environment.

Imaging these possibilities provides a glimpse into how Community Dining can affect they way we live.  See this post for a further explanation of the connection between health and social bonds.

People who live in Chicago often feel a deeper connection to their own neighborhoods than the city itself.  For this reason, Community Dining provides an opportunity for people to connect with their neighbors and explore new areas of the city by holding events in many different Chicago neighborhoods.

The paleo diet focuses on whole unprocessed foods such as pastured meat, wild-caught seafood, and vegetables that our ancestors ate before the advent of modern agriculture.  It typically excludes foods that our ancestors would not have eaten such as dairy and grains.

The paleo lifestyle refers to the idea that human beings should eat based on how their ancestors ate, and that because modern agriculture began merely 10,000 years ago, we should avoid foods that came out of this system, as human beings who have evolved over millions of years lack the ability to sufficiently adapt.  People who live this type of lifestyle focus on developing habits that will protect them from the diseases and maladies which they attribute to modern agriculture since our ancestors never had them.

While much debate surrounds the paleo diet and lifestyle, the community they have created has great value because it connects people in a forum that stimulates substantive discussions of health, wellness, and nutrition.  Community Dining is taking this community to the next level by not only bring people together in high quality paleo-oriented restaurants with conscious food sourcing practices, but also introducing them to entrepreneurs who offer paleo products!

Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or poultry, while vegans avoid all animal products and by-products including by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products.  Vegan community dinners will adhere to these dietary standards.

Ayurveda eating or cooking is a method that involves using ingredients that naturally heal your body.  This method dating back thousands of years has a direct connection to Ayurvedic medicine.  In addition, Ayurvedic involves not only the right ingredients, but also the right combination that helps your body preserve its vitality and natural state.

The Ayurvedic cook derives his knowledge of herbs, spices, vegetables, legumes and so forth from the Ayurveda, which helps them maintain physical, mental, social, and spiritual harmony.

Ayurvedic foods are appetizing, flavourful, and aromatic and a way of offering love, becoming healing when served in an inspiring atmosphere.  The cleansing of toxins that have entered the body and the electrochemical vitalising of the body are main objectives. Ayurvedic cooking thus is an art and a science at the same time, when cooking becomes alchemy and food becomes Tantra.

The basic principles of Ayurvedic Cooking are:  the five Elements, the three Doshas, the three Gunas, the seven Dathus, and the six Tastes.  It also attaches a lot of attention to the effect of the cooking method on the quality of the foods, the importance of the vibrations of the cook and of the surrounding atmosphere, the compatibility of foods, the right time for cooking and eating, the cycle of the seasons, and the effects of foods on consciousness.