*By Michael Kaethler
I grew up in a lethargic seaside suburb of Vancouver, largely populated by septuagenarians andover. Since then I’ve largely suspected that older people have some kind of primitive instinct calling for them to return to the sea to die. Such were the environs of my youth.
Out of sheer desperation, I saved up enough to leave as soon as I finished school. I moved first to Europe and later spent bouts in Asia and Africa. But Europe remains the closest thing to home. By and large, I am homeless, nonintegrate-able and ceaselessly restless for change.
I took Slavonic Studies at university and invested my life’s blood and energy in that part of the world for 6 years, including a rather brutal year-long stint in Siberia where I learned how to survive perilous drinking sessions and how to ward off environment-induced depression through a preoccupation with food.
Since then my life has taken a rather food-based turn, including working for a food-based humanitarian organization in Rome and Afghanistan and co-establishing an international socialnetwork based on sharing meals—KitchenParty.
In Rome 2011, a group of friends, instigated by the reckless passions of the Calabrese Andrea Sorrento, formed KitchenParty. We are food lovers and strongly believe that eating should be done with others. Seeing the creeping dehumanization of eating, i.e. the steady rise in ready-made-meals consumed alone in front of computers or TV, horrified us. The social culture of food was slipping away and we didn’t want to stand by and let this happen. We decided to sink our time and efforts into reclaiming food as a social medium.
KitchenParty offers a platform where people can host meals or participate in meals with new people, allowing a social exchange to occur. It seeks to forge connections between members and ultimately to establish communities of people regularly sharing food. It’s not-for-profit; we are working solely for a social –culinary objective/ revolution.
The first KitchenParty took place long before we had wanted to formalize it. In 2008 we snuckabout 60+ people on to the rooftop of our apartment and ate, drank and danced. Somethingstuck, we saw how easy it was and realized its social potential. The party was great but we were evicted a few weeks later.
The inaugural (official) KitchenParties were curious events comprised of friends, friends-of-friends, random people we met on the street and invited over, and so forth–a real hodge-podge of characters. But food is a great conversation piece and there were never dull moments.
When we started out we thought we’d need to focus on the quality of the food in order to really promote this idea. Indeed, everyone loved the food –and the culinary themes thrived, from elaborate Christmas-eve buffets to 6-course Italian meals. But as it progressed we realized it was the social elements of people meeting and eating together that became the key attraction for KitchenParty.
If you think about it, there’s something primordial about breaking-bread together that enhances a social experience, it’s extremely humanizing. There’s a closeness felt with others after eating together.
At the moment we have KitchenParty communities around the world and members in over 150 cities. Cultural components change the way the concept is used. In some places quiet dinners are preferred and yet while others, such as in Buenos Aires, there are many large food based gatherings, sometimes continuing through the night and sharing breakfast together the next morning.