Dinner Party Politics
As my parents and I discussed our plans to watch the final Presidential Debate, I asked the only safe question I could think of, “What should I make for dinner?”
Sure, I asked this question because I’m slightly food-obsessed, but I also asked because I believe that food is a universal language, and a good meal is one of the best ways to connect with people I may or may not know. It got me thinking – am I the only one using food and dinner to deal with the craziness of the news cycle in recent months?
Turns out I’m not alone.
In an op-ed penned by my favorite New York TImes columnist, David Brooks, I learned about a family in Washington, DC, changing their community on the micro-level by inviting friends of their son to their home for food, period. What began as an effort to make sure children were getting dinner became an empowering story, “Thursday dinner is the big social occasion of the week. Kids come from around the city. Spicy chicken and black rice are served. Cellphones are banned (‘Be in the now,’ Kathy says).” The dinners began to help feed hungry children, but these dinners are about more than just food.
Just as I do when I host dinners, Kathy and David ask each guest around the table to share something personal. Inviting everyone around the table to speak up nourishes thoughtful conversation and creates a communal feeling. And the impact is real, “Thursdays at Kathy and David’s has been a weekly uplift, and their home a place to be reminded of what is beautiful about our country and what we can do to bring out its loveliness.”
Well – I’m trying to change the world, one dinner at a time.
Through OneTable, I’m helping to plan a Shabbat dinner that reframes the conversation around civic engagement. #Shabbat2016 aims to unite us in a time where ideology divides us. I don’t plan to ask guests who they’ll vote for on November 8th. Instead, I want to know how guests define community, who they feel responsibility for, and what they care about. With the help of good food and community leader Erin Schrode, I have no doubt this dinner will build a sense of communal responsibility and solidarity. As I’ve learned time and time again, it takes a village to make a change. So I’d like to thank a special partnership with Jewish Insider and REALITY for getting people to this table, as well as our friends at Ballot Ready, Ask Big Questions, and Repair the World for providing me the tools to get these people talking.
I still don’t know what to make for dinner tonight, but I do know I’ll keep trying to change the world: I’ll canvass on the front lines, I’ll post friendly reminders to vote on social media, and I’ll bring people together for good food, and better conversation.