On January 23rd, 2011 Social Potluck conducted its first dinner. It was a pre-test test with colleagues and friends; a dress rehearsal of sorts. The objective was to try out cooking in a new location, test the receptiveness of the food and to see if the format of the evening works for both myself and the guests. While there are things I will change as far as how the evening runs (like finish cooking before the guests arrive) the overall conclusion is that these dinners are a wonderful, entertaining and enlightening way to spend an evening.
I almost, almost, felt guilty doing these dinners as part of my thesis project because I enjoyed myself so much. While I was admittedly a little unorganized and distracted since it is hard to cook, serve and run the evening I couldn't help but notice how natural the gathering felt. At first the guests were a little nervous but that was quickly overcome once the first brave soul said, "I'll start because I'm nervous and I'll only feel more nervous if I have to wait to tell me story." After that first story the group felt like a bunch of old friends that were genuinely curious about each other. I am always amazed what can happen when someone puts themselves out there and takes a risk.
The stories that were told were incredibly varied; there were near death experiences, stories of coincidence, ineptitude, awakening and brushes with fame. Afterwards, I had to wonder if they were all true because they were all so… incredible and different, I guess, than my own experience even though I could see myself in most of those stories.
The most frequent question I get with this project is, "What kind of story do you want?" After this first dinner I'm realizing that the answer has always been, "What kind of story do you want to tell?" because I am not looking for a particular story. I have other projects in mind where I want to explore one idea or topic but for this project I am wondering what kind of story will people tell when they can decide the topic. Usually, when I am creating a project I will interview people looking for a particular story. Essentially, I am asking for people to "tell me the story I want to hear."This is quite typical as it is how our news, entertainment and anthropology functions. Rarely is the the question asked of the interviewee, "What story do you want to tell?"
On January 29th I will host the first official dinner. I am very excited to hear the stories that people want to tell.