Try this: Make a list of all your favorite people – friends, relatives, and neighbors. Everyone on the list must be someone you really like. Don’t include anyone who’s iffy. Now here’s the hard part: next to each name, write down how long it’s been since you last shared any significant time with that person. Do you like what you see? Has it been weeks, months, or even (gasp) years? Would you like to change that?
Here’s a suggestion: start a supper club. A supper club is a gathering of your favorite people for a meal. Think of it as friends, food, and fun. Caroline, I, and our friends formed our club about three years ago, and it’s been fantastic! We started with 15 people (since expanded to 18), and we get together about every 6-7 weeks (we found monthly was too often and bi-monthly was not often enough). If your group is like ours, you’ll find that your friends become friends with each other, you’ll get to eat wonderful food, you’ll see your favorite people more frequently – and you’ll have buttloads of fun.
To get started, you need to establish some ground rules, especially regarding food. You might take a different approach, but our events are not exclusively vegan – in large part because our friends aren’t either (but some are moving in that direction – yay!). It’s an opportunity to introduce some vegan dishes in a safe, encouraging, non-threatening way. We typically make one entrée, one side dish, and one dessert that are vegan. If you do that, you are assured to eat well, and your friends can sample a few different things. You might be surprised by the positive reactions. Plus, for you, it’s a great opportunity to learn from your friends – how they cook, what they like, and what they don’t like.
Another ground rule you might really enjoy is to choose a theme for every supper club night. Some of our themes have been: Irish Pub Nite, 1950’s Dinner Party, Family Traditions, and Cider Fest. People seem to love to suggest creative theme ideas. The theme provides a nice “anchor” to build the event around. You can tie in the theme through foods (for example, some friends found recipes in old cookbooks for the 50’s dinner party), through apparel (dressing for family traditions night was fun), and through fun activities (metal pub puzzles were a big hit for Irish pub night).
Be sure to add your own special touches to make your supper club events really unique. Here are a few ideas from our experience:
- Create and print artsy menus to use as placemats. By the way, we usually coordinate the menus in advance by email, but just recently, Caroline began using signupgenius.com.
- Pick up some dishes and place settings from consignment shops (mismatched ones are great) to use exclusively for your supper club. They create a much classier feel than you get with Chinet.
- Put name cards by each dish so friends will know what it is.
- Ask for volunteers to be the photographer, the music master, and the games funster.
- Have taste tests around a particular item (like mustards or salsas) that people can rate and comment upon. Bet you’ll enjoy how much debate ensues.
Try some variations to keep things interesting, too. For example, supper club doesn’t always have to be an evening meal. We did a holiday brunch last December that was fabulous. Another time, we focused on board games with food being the secondary interest (everyone brought a pizza from their favorite shop). Have an outdoor event during the summer. Let your creativity go bananas!
I hope you’ll start your own supper club. The benefits to all are fabulous. You even may be happily surprised and encouraged by the efforts your friends make, going out of their way to prepare a vegan version of one of their favorites. But most of all, you’ll be thankful for the deeper connections you make with family and friends – and that they make with one another.