In the past few years, I’ve increasingly found myself at a certain kind of dinner… The tables are long, the chairs pressed close together and the guests a diverse mix of faces—some familiar, some not. These evenings are filled with wonderful conversations around interesting topics, discussed over delicious food. They’ve been in different cities and countries, at restaurants or homes, ours included. And they are most beautiful for the sense of community and belonging they foster, the sense of bonding and connection each person leaves with.
Two weeks ago, we had the wonderful opportunity to participate in another such experience, hosted by the Cologne supper club Dreigang and Masala Movement, a non-profit organisation that encourages intercultural interaction through creative projects. We’d gathered for the finissage of Indernet, an multi-format art and design exhibition showcasing works that use the Internet as a stage and an instrument. This year's event brought together a diverse range of artists and designers, that showed work in a range of media, from a gigantic, handmade snake to interactive digital artworks.
The menu was by DJ and food aficionado Todh Teri, and featured Indian-inspired dishes. We sat down at a table many metres long, decorated with much care, with baskets and small bowls whose contents were begging to be explored.
What is served at a meal and how it’s presented says so much about the spirit of the host and the chef. There was abundance at this meal, from the amount of food to the sheer variety of dishes and the explosions of flavours. I always love eating family-style, for me the beauty lies in the fact that diners have to communicate with one another, passing dishes and asking if anyone wants thirds.
It is true that I mostly banded around people I knew that evening, but I still left with a couple of new acquaintances and email addresses. I wrote down a few travel tips for India on the back of a menu; was inspired by a personal story and laughed at more jokes than I could count. This experience took me back to Sri Lanka, to our 9-day yoga retreat in February and the group of complete strangers that eventually all became friends, simply because we ate breakfasts and dinners together at another long table. With time to get to know each other, caught up in the joy of eating delicious food, the world seemed mostly right and, so importantly, a friendly place.
We’ve since hosted a few such dinners at our home, creating a makeshift table from supplies from the home store, with our guests sometimes bringing extra chairs. I’ve learned to let go of most of my desire for perfection and precision, and these evenings are free-rolling and easy. The pleasure of bringing people together always leaves F and I heady at the end of everything, that moment when the door closes behind the last guest. This is a tradition we’ll be continuing, inviting people new and old to share our table and cherishing every opportunity we get to be part of someone else’s. In today’s hectic pace, these tables are spaces of calm and belonging, for considered, slower living with heart. And that is exactly my thing.
Images: Vatsala Murthy