Scholar George Myerson has recently written a study of happiness. After 250 pages tracking moments of joy throughout history, he concludes that humans are happiest hanging with friends, gathered around tables with good food and conversation and laughter. If as you dine together you can also provide help for others — then, according to Myerson, you’ve won the lottery of life.
“How epic would it be if we could have huge family meals with all our friends every week?”
“To have all OUR friends, we’d need the biggest table in the world.”
“You know what I mean 😜”
“Hey, I’m not ruling that out.”
“Well, our apartment is only 550 square feet so we’d need to make some drastic changes. To seat, say, 24 people we’d have to replace half of it with a dining room.”
“Will that work?”
“Let me get my measuring tape….
It’ll fit but this is audacious.”
“We’re audacious. Let’s do it”
So we did.
We took apart the apartment we loved.
And we went to the woodshop.
Two weeks after that first conversation we’d put half about half our things in storage and were lifting 16’ (4.8m) boards up the back balcony and through the 3rd story bedroom window to assemble in our new dining area.
The reason this was so easy for us to jump on is because it is a fundamental expression of who we are as Whitney and Ricky. We are hospitable, extroverted and adventurous.
Let me explain each of these:
When Whitney was in college she started making pancakes in her room for her friends once a week. Her hospitality quickly drove up attendance to the point where they had to have volunteer security guards to manage the parking problems that arose. She recounts a day when she knew it had reached critical mass when someone she had just met invited her to her own party. These pancake night are still going on years after she left.
I grew up with a mother who had a degree in home economics and was schooled in all the fine details of hosting well. My family was huge on entertaining both friend and stranger, the cared for and the lonely. I also worked for the biggest hospitality company in the world during the FIFA World Cup.
Once Whitney and I joined forces these passions compounded and we quickly became semi famous for hosting parties and dinners.
We are both very social and easily make new friends. We love being in large groups of people we love as well as complete strangers.
We’re adventurous- not just when traveling abroad, we explore in our home town and our careers. We find joy in the discomfort of trying new and hard things.
So we were thrilled by the idea of turning our comfortable home inside out so we can have people we don’t know well over to eat our food.
Not only is this an expression of who we are, but it is the result of something we believe in. Gathering around the table is what families do. Gathering friends and strangers around your table turns them into family. Research show that when people eat the same thing at the same time they build trust in each other. (Shankar Vendantam http://www.hiddenbrain.org/)
“I haven’t had a table in my house in 15 years” — good friend of mine.
Sadly community around the table is disappearing. Sales of dining room tables and serving dishes is declining. One in four millennials reports never eating at a table at home. For thousands of years eating meals together was how relationships formed but modern lifestyle is corroding that tradition.
This is why we decided to be audacious and take this bold step. We are intent on building community around our epic table.
We don’t know exactly what this is going to look like but we’re committing to do it. We know we’ll be doing this weekly and we want to make sure we invite as many friends that we already love as strangers we want to learn to love.
Sometimes we might cook something elaborate (sorry, not sorry, it’s in our nature) and sometimes we might just have grilled cheese and board games.
What we do know is that we want to create this thing with our friends and family. We want guests to bring friends. We want feedback and we want help. Sometimes that might be help cooking or cleaning up. Sometimes it will be help bringing ice or wine.
We’ve built it, hope you will come.