Thursday, December 23, 2010

Conversation: The S. Kitchen is...

The S. Kitchen is cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie through potluck dinner parties for a cause. Sure it sounds intriguing and fabulous, but what exactly does it mean? My hope is not to let it get lost in the land of lingo, idioms, and euphemisms. Rather, I want to ensure that we as a community -- as friends, fans, and family of The S. Kitchen -- hold a common understanding and experience. It's what makes The S. Kitchen, The S. Kitchen.

So here is my attempt to describe the ideas contained within the words. Think of it almost as a dictionary, thesaurus, and cookbook all wrapped up in one.
The S. Kitchen (n) 1. An event that brings people together. 2. A shared meal. 3. A community of individuals who practice exchange. 4. The name of the first potluck thrown by me, Jason, in 2006 inspired by cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie. Uses: people's education, constituent engagement, donor cultivation, intergenerational community building.
The S. Kitchen started because I was bored, and I needed to find a creative outlet. I always loved cooking. It was something I was getting better at, but still felt that I had a ways to go if I wanted to truly be a whiz in the kitchen.

So...I decided to start throwing monthly dinner parties based on regional themes. I researched recipes, stories, and cooking techniques and tried to copy them in my tiny kitchen. Sometimes I failed epically. The food being so completely inedible it ended up in the compost bin. But then... a magnificent breakthrough and a fabulously gourmet meal that I could replicate again.

The first dinner party was a blast, and everyone that came to eat and share saw the labor of love that went into the cuisine. It inspired the most amazing conversations and embodied camaraderie. It was only natural it would grow and morph.
Cuisine (n) 1. Food that nourishes. 2. Stylistic cooking. 3. A culinary passion. 4. One of three main ingredients in The S. Kitchen. Uses: bringing together, inspiring stories, sharing flavors, nourishing bellies.

Conversation (n) 1. An exchange of ideas, opinions, stories, and feelings. 2. An informal discussion meant to spark connections. 3. A practice of listening and speaking. 4. One of three main ingredients in The S. Kitchen. Uses: seeking understanding, connecting narratives, bridging generations, transcending barriers

Camaraderie (n) 1. Goodwill among comrades. 2. A spirit of trust, grace, merriment, and generosity. 3. The quality of being casual and welcoming. 4. One of three main ingredients in The S. Kitchen. Uses: building fellowship, strengthening imperfections, reframing resources, sustaining abundance
Over four years, I threw over 20 events. Each one had a different theme and group of people in attendance, but the three fundamentals stayed the same: cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie. I was having a lot of fun hosting The S. Kitchen events.

Then, something changed in me. I had been working in workforce, professional, non-profit, and youth development for over 10 years, and I started noticing how differently people connected over food. Food was always a component of my work in these fields; it was always something you had to account for. But it was never the central component. I decided to try something different: blend my passion for cuisine, conversation, and camaraderie as fostered through The S. Kitchen with my passion for people's education, community organizing, and awareness building.

Thus, a new and innovative The S. Kitchen was born: potluck dinner parties for a cause.
Potluck (n) 1. A meal where each guest brings something to share inspired by a theme. 2. Whatever food happens to show up. 3. The luck of the pot. 4. The way The S. Kitchen happens. Uses: gathering people and ideas, feeding appetites, cultivating luck, demonstrating imagination

Cause (n) 1. The reason something happens. 2. The one, such as a person, dedicated to effect change. 3. A story of principled action. 4. The inspiration for each The S. Kitchen event. Uses: sparking themes, sharing histories, unearthing motivations, honoring humanity
This past year has been amazing. We've explored school gardens, the dirty gulf, LGBTQ elder's stories, and more. We've tasted decadent macaroni and cheese, scrumptious kugel, smothered pork chops, and dirty martinis. We've listened to stories and shared our own. We've found the connections between us. And we are doing it one potluck dinner party at a time.

In its essence, The S. Kitchen is about sharing, exchanging, listening, and connecting. It is also built on a long history and tradition of shared meals, idea exchanges, and the salons of yesteryear. It is a blending of communities, cultures, tastes, and people. It has deep roots.

And I am looking forward to cultivating all of this fabulousness with all of you.

(Photo of Jason W. by Ginger Snap.)

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