Food is the glue that bonds people and places together in an experience that resonates with all 5 of the senses. It offers an opportunity to talk to anyone, about anything, with the mutual sustenance on the table serving as a simultaneous protection against unknown forces and bridge to the unknown sitting across the table. Food is magnetic, disarming and enchanting all at once, especially when it comes from the same plate as can be custom during shared meals. No matter the intention of a shared meal, both parties usually leave feeling more connected to the person sitting across the table from them.
There is, as far as I know, no scientific data that outlines the reason behind the food connection. It’s surely no coincidence though, that countless TV shows use shared meals as a way to build characters and bond them to each other and the viewer, that first dates in the real world nearly always happen someplace where food is present, and some of the most iconic religious and pagan images occur over a shared table. There is something humanizing about the fact that we all have to eat to live, and partaking in that reality with another party creates an empathetic and real connection that goes well beyond the surface of eating for sustenance. Inherent in eating a meal with someone is an unspoken but deeply shared understanding that there is something profound, maybe even spiritual, about the experience.
Shared meals are especially powerful when they take place outside of the realm of normal routines. When we share a meal, at a special occasion (like a wedding), to bring together a large group of people (like at a family birthday party) we often take for granted that food will be there and serve as some sort of centerpiece for the experience. Without food present, the experience feels incomplete.
The bonds of these connections are taken one step further when the intent of the experience is funneled through a shared interest in something new and unique. This happens at cultural dining events, where the central goal is to try something new, and the connections made through that complement the food.
Sharing a unique experience with others creates a memory that isn’t easily forgotten. To offer an example: have you ever taken a trip and met a stranger, who through your trip, became a friend, confidant and someone you felt connected to in ways maybe absent from other areas of your life? This bonding over unique experiences is the same opportunity that is present when partaking in cultural dining experiences, even right in your local community. Conversation over a shared plate about an unknown side dish, or the best ways to use chopsticks, breaks down normal conversational barriers that exist with a prerequisite knowledge of the way things are or are going to be.
It’s difficult to adequately articulate the underpinnings of the bond created through dining with others, especially when that experience is centered around something new and unique. It’s one of those things, like music or the sight of a double rainbow after a rainstorm that touches us in a profound and memorable way. The mystery of it all is what makes it continuously exciting and worth experiencing.
The Same Plate started through a desire to connect with my community more deeply and experience the vibrancy of different cultures that seemed to be hidden in the corners Denver, seemingly unavailable to those unwilling to travel outside of their comfort zone.
The first dinner we had was at The Ethiopian Restaurant and it was while I was sitting there watching one couple manage the entirety of the restaurant that I became interested in the story of the people behind these restaurants that paint the vibrant cultural tapestry that resonates across the city.
So, I set up an interview and talked with the daughter of the owners and it was at the end of our interview that she told me this:
“Our food is really reflective of our people. We all eat off of the same plate when we are together.”
Food is the glue.
And so began the initiative to highlight the cultural vibrancy of cities around the country, starting with Denver, and have everyone eat from “the same plate” as a symbol of community and connection across cultures.0