A true story though the names have been changed to protect the innocent

Photo: Samer Daboul Pexels

As I sat in the overcrowded parking lot of the local grocery store, tucked away in a shaded corner, my hands shook as I went to dial the number. Only minutes before, I ran from my house as if my life depended on it. Which, I thought it did. I left the door askew, and with a package tucked under my arm, I grabbed my keys on the Shaker-style front hall table.

Right before I left, I received a brown box delivered by an unmarked white van. Curious and not remembering what I had ordered I ripped open the box…

How can restaurants help boost the number and quality of our social connections?

Today, I have three adults — not children, and many adult friends, so I look for restaurants that have a relaxed atmosphere with no imposed timeline pushing us through our meal too quickly. A place that allows me to make eye contact and hold a conversation with someone I’d like to get to know better.

Years ago, as a young mother with three children four years apart from top to bottom I would have answered this question differently. …

Photo: From the private collection of the author

I am a lawyer by training. It was not the wisest career choice for someone who does not like to argue — or debate.

Some people get sheer delight from arguing, I am not one of them. After a short stint as a litigator, I headed in a direction where I believed I could apply my legal skills in negotiations — what I thought was a more genteel way of advocating for my clients.

Much to my surprise, I found that negotiating was contentious and adversarial as a debate. “Law”, I thought, “may not be my thing.”

What is a negotiation?

Quite bluntly, negotiation…

Cultivating Social Connections with a Potluck Spirit (Photo by Denisse Leon on Unsplash)

Potlucks make me uncomfortable. This is crazy considering how much I enjoy hosting (and attending) food-centric events. I do not think that it is due to a ‘letting-go-of-control’ issue for me. Nor is it a ‘concern-about-cleanliness’ issue. My concern is for the people on my guest list. It’s an ‘I-don’t-want-to-impose-on-other-people’ issue.

Typical reactions like, “What do I bring?” “I am pretty busy that week, do I need to bake something?” or “I don’t want to bring something someone else is bringing, can you tell me what everyone is bringing?” make me wonder if my invitation is an imposition. I can…

“Her name is Wilhelmina, and she is vibrant, unique, and has a free spirit.” He speaks of her with reverence. He is her caretaker. And she is his sourdough starter.

Winnie waiting for her next meal (Photo: From the writer’s private collection)

About 8 months ago, my neighbor acquired a sourdough starter. Before long, he said, she had a name, and he acclimated to her moods and preferences. Winnie, as he calls her, is tenacious and patient. She doesn’t get fed every day, but she forgives him because he feeds her fresh milled flour. In return, Winnie consistently delivers a thick tangy loaf on demand. …

Many childhood stories begin with “hunger”. A stomach growling type of hunger like that found in Hansel and Gretel. A hunger-to-belong™ like depicted by Ariel in Disney’s, The Little Mermaid. Ariel who longs to be among humans sings with great passion, “I want to be where the people are”. Or a hunger to succeed which is central to the message in Mulan who in the song Reflection sings about her struggle to meet her family’s expectations.

“Food is a powerful vehicle for storytelling.”

This is a sentiment that is all over the internet. A google search using the search term: “power of food for storytelling” comes back with over fifty million results in less than one second.

When I started Culinary Communities with the goal of harnessing the power of food to satisfy our hunger-to-belong, I imagined community building. I imagined bringing people together over food and ‘lengthening our tables’ while telling stories. I imagined gatherings that fostered mutual understanding and cultivated social connections because of the collective vulnerability that takes place when we eat together…

“What’s for dinner tonight?” How many times a week do you hear that question?

As a young child, growing up in Venezuela with her Italian father and mother from Oklahoma, it did not occur to Sonia DeMarta that this question and dinner menus would be central to her life. Sonia DeMarta is one of about 5,500 personal chefs open for business in the United States.

Photo Credit: Sonia DeMarta

Personal chefs are no longer for just the rich and famous. They sell cost-effective convenience, and their clients range from busy professionals to the isolated elderly and from young parents to people with health issues…

I am the youngest of four daughters. We are close in age, 6 years and one day from top to bottom. Having all grown up in the same house, with the same parents and the same pets, one would think our memories would coincide more often than not.

This is not the case. The number of times that my sisters’ memories diverge from mine and from each other’s is notable. Sure, as we reminisce there are memories that converge. For example, we can all recount our weekly or bi-weekly weekend treks into Brooklyn to visit our mother’s parents. As we…

Kyle Nieber @unsplash

We were sitting at the bar in a city that wasn’t our own. The conversation next to us became heated, and I turned to take a peek. I smiled, and within a few minutes, we had company for dinner. Bob and Jen (not their real names) were also from out of town, and the heated words were just their way of communicating. They were in good spirits and interesting conversationalists. We moved our food, drink, and discussion to a table for what turned out to be a lively evening.

No dispute sharing a meal brings people closer together and fosters…

Irene Fassler, JD, MSW

Writing about food’s intrinsic ability to bring us together & satisfy our hunger-to-belong — you can find my blog @ https://culinary-communities.com

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