It’s 2020 more people are opting to dine in seclusion retreating to their smartphones, ordering takeouts or even avoiding people. Arguably, the art of conversation is slowly erasing, and people are missing out on the real value of the dining experience. Now certain countries are reviving the art of conversation and food appreciation by introducing communal dining experiences.
While communal dining is not a new concept, it’s being revived from the past. Restaurants and businesses are hosting events to allow strangers to dine together over a meal. I’ve participated in many occasions in the past year where I’d be eating with 12-15 strangers. You’re probably thinking, why would I want to share and savour food with strangers?
Benefits of Communal Dining
Well, let me tell you the benefits based on my experiences. In the time of our ancestors, communal dining was probably less sophisticated but fun. Nowadays, these events are very finely tuned, you have set menus, neat culturally, and drinks supplied in an exceptional facility.
When you attend this event, you are made to sit around one big table with acquaintances. Before the meal begins, there is often a brief introduction about who you are and what you do, to break the ice. Once formalities are done, the chef comes to the table introducing their menu. I feel this is the best part as when you undergo a communal dining experience you gain education about the food.
Education about Cuisine…
It’s not just a typical what’s on the menu form of education; it’s a full-on history lesson about the cuisine — likewise, pairings, why food is served that way and how it’s made. I’ve learnt about many cuisines through these events. The menu is selected explicitly by the chef. This saves going to a restaurant and just going off the chef’s recommendations.
At a communal dining event, you’ll often try 7-10 of the chef’s recommendations; it feels like you’re being taken care of. As you will be sharing food in the table (several dishes brought out). This allows you to learn and explore different foods that you wouldn’t usually choose — likewise reducing the chance of food waste.
Throughout the event, you’ll be more than likely able to bond with the rest of the guests. The conversation of food opens up other barriers. Little did you now as the dinner progresses, you will learn some interesting facts about your dining companions. I recall meeting some diplomats, mountaineers, entrepreneurs, restauranteurs and many more during these experiences. The conversation that crops up is often rather unique, as opposed to the standard small talk or gossip with friends or family.
Beneficial for the Chef’s
It’s not just beneficial for the guests either; the chefs get to promote their business. Whether it’s hosted in their restaurant or an external place, it allows more exposure for chefs. Often to people who would normally not consider or have tried their food before. If the events a success (in which my experience, all of mine had been) positive praise is spread by word of mouth. Likewise, it’s often diners will return to dine at their restaurant at a later point. As well as a good income, of course.
One thing that frustrates me is as more gadgets launch into our world, the connection in reality declines and a virtual one increases. The real art of conversation is being eradicated in what is meant over mealtimes. Likewise, the sense of community is slowly being lost as such tech gadgets make people more isolated.
Communal dining is a great way to get involved with the local community, gain knowledge about food, network and if you’re a chef, allow your work to gain exposure to a variety of people. Please go on, go check them out in your home city. Have none? Organise one, bring the community together.