What ever happened to Progressive Dinners?
I was pondering this question as I thought about what people must do nowadays in place of the usual restaurant gathering with friends. With disposable income more prudently guarded, cooking at home has become a necessity for some, while I imagine others take advantage of timed specials or events offered at some social gathering eateries. Still, I suppose progressive dinners are still popular in some communities and regions.
What’s their purpose?
For those unfamiliar with them, they are a dinner in which a group of neighbors act as hosts and prepare a course such as appetizers, main course, dessert, etc. Everyone involved travels from home to home for each course of the dinner that is made. Usually 6 or 7 neighbors participate.
However, I always felt they represented a form of community; a gathering of friends and neighbors who share a great meal, maybe a glass of wine, and lots of conversation. Food can bring people together in many ways and in circumstances that might be unwelcome, such as disaster, tragedy or loss. But food also brings comfort, celebration and nourishment. It’s the celebration of community that most highlights the idea of progressive dinners.
There is something comforting about embracing community in this way. I live in an area where people tend to “mind their own,” avoid eye contact, and embrace self-interests—some even using pseudo names so as not to be identifiable in their own neighborhood. I admire towns where everyone depends on each other to weather winters until the first hint of spring approaches. It must be reassuring to know that neighbors have your back.
Progressive dinners are really more than just eating food courses hosted at different homes. They engage people to contribute, participate, and invite people into their homes, their cultures, and their lives. They challenge us to do for others and allow others to do for us.
I look forward to experiencing a sense of community again, but I also look forward to stepping out and putting vulnerabilities aside to cook alongside my neighbors and enjoy the unity good food and company brings.