Communal Dining Will Save Us.

I recently read a quote in the New York Times, “You may want the dinner party to come back, harkening back to another era. But it will never happen.” I believe that person has it backwards. Communal dining experiences can certainly be labeled an ode to the past; but they are being used now, more than ever, to create safe spaces for discussion in the future.

Recently, I had the opportunity to bring one of my friends, Clint Misamore, to my favorite spot in my hometown of Hilton Head Island, a 3,800-year old indian shell ring in the middle of the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. I spent my childhood running cross country around these rings, and sitting beside them for moments of peace and clarity. This site is one of the last remaining ties to the original dwellers on Hilton Head Island, a tribe of archaic creek-going Indians who travelled from island to island, eating oysters and fish. They would eat around the campfire together, in a concentric circle. After eating each oyster, they would discard the empty shell behind their back. After 40 or so years of discarding, thus formed a large ring of shells.

Clint and I stood in our moment and realized there was no accident we were standing there. Indirectly, we had returned to the most primitive spot on the island to spark our imaginations and internal craving for community. Clint broke the silence, “This is the circle of life here, Chris. I think what we can learn is just because we consider folks to be primitive, in a lot of ways they’re much more advanced and evolved. The activity of eating collectively with your community, is something that oftentimes is now overlooked. Coming together as one to share food and conversation, continues to be one of the most important functions of a society.

I think Clint is right.

I see the problem swelling before my eyes. In this digital, connected world that we live in, we’re actually more disconnected than ever. Digital profiles, digital forums, everybody having a streamlined outlet for opinions is great, but at what cost? By taking the emphasis off analog discussion and empowering every person to have a digital channel for distribution; we have shifted slightly towards ego-system rather than eco-system. With the ease of social posting, it’s your idea vs the world. The only problem is, the world’s rebuttals are limited to leaving a small comment in a stream full of others. It’s easy to hide behind a computer screen and blast your negative and untruthful thoughts. But try doing that face to face, even the best trickery can be spotted.

Where we used to turn to someone for information and advice, we now turn to something.

We need to return to the age old tradition of communal gathering, where the power of community creates transformation and a diversity of ideas. Shared activities and analog moments create bonds that will last a lifetime, far more powerful than a connection earned from the click of a button.

The shift is happening.

We see communities popping up across the country whose sole purpose is to facilitate profound human connection to inspire, engage, and create change; most of these revolve around the campfire or dinner table. Take Summit, for example: their mission is to create unique gatherings designed to catalyze entrepreneurship, creative achievement, and global change to create a more joyful world. They spent their first several years in dinners + events, then pooled together enough money to buy a 10,000 acre mountain resort in Utah. Now, they are focused on creating a permanent community of like-minded individuals in that natural surrounding.

Another example is OneTable: their mission is to help people shabbat together. Through funding, they empower people to host Friday night dinner parties, making the most out of life together. They nourish many of my dinners, empowering me to serve and connect my friends in different parts of the country. It’s as easy as signing up, posting your dinner online, and putting a group together.

According to Eventbrite, pop-up dinners are achieving 82% growth, year over year. Side note, I used to have free access to the highly popular Eventbrite article that I just reference. At the time of writing this article, Eventbrite has already started asking for email addresses to unlock the content of the article…that’s how fast the communal dining market has exploded.

Businesses are increasing their budgets geared at experiential marketing, where the brand interacts directly with the 5 senses of a consumer, increasing loyalty and awareness.

Last Saturday, myself and a few friends hosted a themed series of dinners in Los Angeles. We asked people to arrive as the highest version of their future themselves in 5 years, 2022. They came as astronauts, CEO’s, New York Times bestselling authors, and newly mothers and fathers…I showed up wearing an apron and a fanny pack.

Yes, I’ll still be wearing an apron in 2022.

In July of 2015, I began hosting weekly dinner parties inside my home to connect my friends. At the time of this article, I’ve hosted 84 times, serving over 2,200 people. The tipping point was at 2 a.m. on a Monday when I woke up realizing that community had cured me; and that the “Opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s human connection.”

My greatest insecurity was feeling like I was always being left out, the last one called to the party. I had accomplished great things, attracted many good friends, but what did it truly add up to without a way to connect them all and feel the energy of community. The minute I started making a commitment to facilitate human connection, I hit my stride.

I’ll never stop convincing strangers to cook me dinner.

You shouldn’t either. Hosting a dinner party or building a campfire is easier now, more than ever. I encourage you to make the effort, and reap the rewards that come from being the conductor of your community.

Here are my favorite organizations focused on community:

  1. Daybreaker — morning dance party to start your day with intention.
  2. The Big Quiet— massive meditations for modern people.
  3. Death over Dinner— dinner parties with a focus on death.
  4. Burning Man — a city in the desert. a culture of possibility.
  5. Nexus— global youth summit on innovative philanthropy and social entrepreneurship.

Hope ya’ll are having a phenomenal day on Earth, remember it’s Your World Go Explore.

With Love and Pasta Sauce,

Chris Schembra

P.S. Yes fanny packs will be mainstream in 2022, as predicted above.

Like what you read? Give Chris Schembra a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.