When I was a little girl, Sundays presented a cornucopia of emotions. I woke up in the morning, immediately thinking, I sure hope my parents are too lazy to go to church today. If my wishes came true, and we stayed cozy in the house, then my mother would often scrape up a big ol' buckwheat pancakes or hashbrown-and-omelet breakfast. Then maybe I'd read, spend time with a friend, or crank out some environmental science project I was surely procrastinating on. The tricky thing was, a bit of my brain knew that the next day was a Monday. Even when my parents and I cuddled on the couch to watch a new episode of The Simpsons, I had my eye on Monday, gym uniforms, and waking up at AM to struggle through algebra.
Sunday night dinners, however, were an exception. Sunday night dinners often meant sitting around the table in our familial foursome and discussing the current ongoings of our lives. Mish would cook, asking my father and my brother to help pour water or set the table. I was at her right hand, chopping garlic and asking, "what next?"
In college, Sunday night dinners were often eaten with the improv team in the student union or in the unhealthiest of university eateries, PC Dukes. (They had a bucket of pasta available for order, which could then be topped with both alfredo AND meat sauce AND a breadstick.) We'd laugh and shout things like, "TOUCH MY NECK" and then go upstairs to play a few rounds of Bear Country.
Now I'm a grown girl who sobs over her parking tickets and squeals over $5 happy hour, but I still long for these Sunday night dinners. I want to sit at a table and break bread with the stranger across from me. I want to pass salt and plates of charred broccoli. Like most people, I want to connect.
Luckily, my friend Robin Chang and his wife, Jojo, came up with a brilliant idea. Sunday Suppers. Exactly what we all need. Each Sunday night, Robin organizes a gathering of 20-25 friends or strangers (mostly found through acquaintances or social media, and brings them together for a meal and some chitchat. In addition, Robin brings in a professional chef, who then prepares a handful of courses that illustrate his or her vision. Great way for the chef to snag some publicity, and a great way for us Sunday-dinner-junkies to get our fix.
I brought my friend Joe, and we brought beer and pinot noir, because pinot noir is not only awesome by itself but it also pairs with peppery brisket like a dream. Yes, there was brisket!! The chef was inspired by Asian influences, which he then combined with Austin-style BBQ to create a menu that was like dining with Matthew McConaughey in Tokyo while drinking beer out of a sake glass. The rest of the menu was as follows:
Throughout the meal, we swapped stories with the strangers across from us, witnessing stories of car deaths in Mexico and online romances blossoming and then succeeding. And we passed plates, people! You never forget how much you love to pass plates until you're dining with a bunch of strangers, passing plates.
The food, like the company, was nothing short of amazing. Joe is a picture-perfect example of southern boy, having grown up in Nashville and graduating from Ole Miss, and said the food was, "out of this fu**** world." True that. I had never had brisket before, and the flavor and texture was unlike anything I had ever indulged in. It was fatty (like bacon) and smokey (like a campfire) and served over wonderbread. The starchy faux-white wheat absorbed the juicies from the meat, creating a soaked pillow of salt and fat. I was in heaven. I meant to save half of my key lime crack pie for breakfast the next day, but then I accidentally ate in the car ride home. OOPS.
Regardless of how delicious the food was or how loudly Joe and I raved about everything, the overall experience was one of connection and community. Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a giant competition, with people illustrating their accomplishments and others chasing to follow suit. In these moments, I forget that I am human, but instead feel like a broken robot who is not performing at the same speed as her fellow robots.
But we're not robots not are we competing with one another. We're all on this floaty globe with one another and indulging in intimate moments is a great way to remember that.