I have been thinking a lot about the importance of communal dining and its value not only to families, but to friends and community as I write up business plans and think about the various things that I would like to do in the future. Something that I realized is that I’ve been participating in my own experiment in communal dining since 2001 and never really thought of it that way before.
I was considering what I’d make for dinner tonight as my husband and daughter have been ridiculously busy with school commitments and I wanted some family time together. It took a lot to not phone a bunch of people because they’re my family, too, and because of a number of things we’ve not seen them for about two weeks now and we won’t see them for another week – the regular Tuesday Night Dinner group. The idea of not inviting them was difficult as they have become aspects of my chosen family and seeing them is just as important to me as seeing my husband and daughter.
Some time in 2001, I discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer – yes, in its second-to-last series. I had too many people telling me that I should like it that I feared disliking it and disappointing them, so I just didn’t watch it for six series. Then I ran into a day long marathon on cable and was hooked. I am of a mind that television shows are not much fun if you can’t watch them with friends and I decided to invite my friends over on Tuesdays to watch Buffy with me. Figuring it was easier to head to my place after work than just before Buffy, I asked folks to come up to the house after work and bring a dish to pass. Thus was born “Buffy Night”. It was nice to spend time with people and we got to yell at the television together and generally emotionally support each other through what were two lackluster seasons of what had been a truly great show (except for Nathan Fillion, he’s never lackluster).
The true value of having created this habit didn’t reveal itself until Buffy ended and there we were, six people who had been eating dinner together every Tuesday for nearly two years. We figured, what the hell, let’s just keep having dinner together and find other activities to do afterwards. So, here we are, fourteen years later, still having dinner together most Tuesdays. Yes, the make-up of the group has morphed and changed over time as people’s lives changed or people moved (we still miss you, Chris). It is the thing that defines my week and I miss it when it doesn’t happen. I miss the hell out of everyone right now.
My solution? I’m making a giant pot of Tex-Mex Shredded Chicken soup and I’ll freeze a bunch for when we meet again so that I can hand it out to everyone because I love them. So, you can keep your Sunday dinners. I love my Tuesday nights of dinner and random games with the family that I chose. That’s why the communal sharing of food is important to me, and to others. It develops and strengthens social bonds through a shared experience of eating. All of this because I wanted to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my friends. I’m glad that we’re still doing this and look forward to many more years of sharing Tuesday Night Dinners.