In our fast-paced digital lives, we often only stop to celebrate 'special' occasions. What about those moments in between, just gathering for the sake of celebrating friendships? Social media is a wonderful tool to forge friendships near and far but it cannot replace the importance of coming together around a dinner table. Sharing your home, your sacred space and your favorite recipes are some of the purest acts of love and hospitality. It's one of the most natural and organic ways to foster conversations and meaningful connections, as we both tell stories and listen to stories over a shared meal.
Local Salem, North Carolina photographer, Kevin Glaser, recently planned an impromptu dinner gathering for friends. It wasn't anybody's birthday party, it wasn't a graduation party or even an engagement party. The celebratory reason for the dinner party was a mystery for everyone, proving once again, that celebrating life, friendships and shared meals is reason enough.
From Kevin Glaser:
Some time ago my wife and I sat with two friends, in the quiet hours after their children had fallen asleep, casually dreaming up an outdoor gathering. It was a bit of a surprise to all of us that we found ourselves, months later, having followed through on organizing a menu and having recruited a few friends to share their skills in “making things pretty.” After a few days spent in the kitchen and running around town to pick up table settings and florals, we realized that perhaps we had underestimated the difficulty of our adventure. The night came, though, and friends new and old began to arrive in their festive attire. What exactly we were celebrating was still a bit of a mystery to us.
A friend of mine once suggested that attempts to end hunger in the world were poorly named. He argued that the true goal wasn’t to end hunger but rather to ensure access to food. Hunger itself is our greatest uniting experience and its reminder that none of us are without need is to be embraced. Hunger is shared by all, crossing any divisions we create among ourselves. It not only connects us through our shared need but also in the sense that it calls us to join with others at the table. It calls us from our work and play and asks us to sit side by side with friends, family, and even those we have yet to meet.
At its heart, I believe our evening was a celebration of this common experience, a shared meal. It isn’t often that we decorate and adorn the table, putting it on display and drawing attention to its place at the center of our lives. Holidays and, of course, weddings come to mind, unique times in life that we single out as being special. In reality, there is deep beauty in even the most mundane communion. It takes a sincere intentionality to step out of our busyness, to slow down, and to patiently observe the ordinary… and I’m glad that we did. The common things of life often prove the most meaningful.
Our guiding idea in creating a guest list was that everyone should know someone, but no one should know everyone. The hope was that each person would would feel comfortable with some familiar faces, but also be encouraged to make new connections as well.
We wanted the evening to ask as little of the guests as possible, giving them the chance to unplug from busy lives and enjoy one another's company, so we kept the planning and cooking to the few of us that had dreamt up the event.
We raided our collective Food52 favorites lists for dish ideas, settling on a vegetarian friendly menu complimented with freshly baked breads.
Before the meal we served up a couple of cocktails from Shake, a book with plenty of great tasting but not overly complicated cocktails. Our favorite is a rosemary maple bourbon sour that never gets old. The only things we did let people bring along was a bottle of wine to be shared with the meal.
The lingering evening was set to the slower pace of life in Old Salem, a historic Moravian settlement in Winston Salem, NC. The home and its garden yard mirror the community around, full of preserved buildings and brick walkways where you’d likely spot staff in period dress on a weekend visit to the local farmers market.
Photography + Words: Kevin Glaser | Film Lab: Photovision | Florals: Amy Lynn Originals | Paper Goods & Letterpress: Manifesto Letterpress | Servingware: Lani Paul | Cake & Desserts: Bread & Butter Bakery | Candles: Creative Candles | Ribbon: Silk & Willow | Location: Private Home in Historic Old Salem