There’s this thing about food. Sure, we all follow the same ritual to get it from Point A to Point B: 1) open mouth; 2) insert food; 3) chew; 4) swallow; 5) repeat steps 1-4. But there is a certain je ne sais quoi, an intangible it factor that wraps itself around that cogent part of you which sometimes likes to reserve judgment until experiencing. Food is the great equalizer—it can mend a broken heart (okay, maybe mend is a bit optimistic; perhaps placate and soften the blow?), show appreciation and gratitude (“Thanks for helping me move. Let’s go out for pizza!”), and it’s one of few things in life that everyone needs to survive. It crosses the great divide, whether affluent or of modest means, and we all want it and can’t wait to sink our teeth into it.
One of the most engaging traits about food—aside from the alluring aromas in various forms and flavors that roll across the surface of your tongue and playfully tickles the palate just enough to remind you that you are, indeed, alive and kicking—is its ability to be the catalyst of friendship.
As we live out our lives as strangers who have yet to meet, we pass one another on cracked city sidewalks, avoid eye contact as we endeavor to curl our bodies in on themselves in crowded elevators and give a wide berth to those we perceive as beneath the stratum which defines the very lives we live. Even so, every so often we take stock of ourselves, sometimes with a more critical eye than is necessary, and when we come up for air we realize we’re not such bad individuals after all. We grow, we learn and we expand … and I’m not talking about our asses, either. We live in our own protective bubble, but on occasion, when life becomes a skosh too predictable, we get a wild hair; we allow ourselves to bend back the smooth, never-ending arc of that sphere and we welcome newness into the fold.
We expand our circle of friends.
With each passing month … year … decade … as our faces get a little fleshier, our hair slowly begins its intimate and irreversible coupling with the bristles of a paddle brush and our gait has slowed the pace just a touch from its former agile self, we find that we increasingly take pleasure in the company of others (unless you’re a fiery curmudgeon with sixteen cats, all named Moe, and no desire for human contact). To share in a glass of wine or two, a well prepared meal and the infectious energy of laughter among friends is The Big Chill in real life. But what do you do when the Harold and Sarah Coopers or Nicks or Karen Bowens’ of the world are nowhere to be found?
You find the door to your inner circle, open it wide and invite others in.
I recently opened the door to my circle to allow strangers to step across the carefully guarded threshold. What led me to the door was a Meetup group, not wholly unlike Marietta Wine & Dine, a dining group open to people from all walks of life which I started in Marietta, Georgia 7 years ago. Unlike my former group, however, this new group has a specific demographic in mind: seasoned couples for Sunday night dinners. Yeah, I know … you’re probably smirking as you read this, allowing your imagination to run amuck in the fertile playground of your filthy mind. However, I assure you, there is nothing seedy about this group (and for your humorous edification, “seasoned couples” has nothing whatsoever to do with hot ‘n spicy middle-aged swingers looking to take a bite out of one another!).
This group, which I shall now affectionately refer to as “My Group” since I am a member, is all about exploring the local culinary landscape, dining out at our favorite restaurants (or finding new favorites) and making new friends. Listen, I won’t lie: it’s difficult for adults to forge new bonds of friendship. Most people of a certain age have already established their set of lifelong pals and some are loathe to add you to as a link in their coveted chain. However, when the walls of resistance are broken down, and you mix in the key elements of appealing cuisine, engaging conversation and open personalities, that chain can be extended as far as the eye can see.
…we allow ourselves to bend back the smooth, never-ending arc of that sphere and we welcome newness into the fold.
So far, my husband and I have been to one Meetup event with My Group, and it was a pleasant and comfortable experienced. We had the opportunity to meet four couples and shared wonderful conversation as we pleased our palates with an array of dishes at Dolce Cubano on the Stamford waterfront. That first event merely proved what I knew to be true all along and bears repeating: food is the great equalizer. Dinner brought together individuals hailing from different parts of the country, from different walks of life and with interesting backgrounds, careers and life stories. We came together and converged at the brown dinner table, buffed to a high gloss shine, with the same mindset—to meet, greet and eat. That was our commonality … our simpatico. Food played a pivotal role in the evening, but it wasn’t the star. The headliners for the night were the 10 individuals who stepped outside of their bubble and allowed others entrée. And there wasn’t a single swinger in sight.