Last year I heard that Jasmine and her roommate had started a group they call The Supper Club for sharing meals with friends on a regular basis. In this first interview on The Serviette, Jasmine talks about the what and why of The Supper Club, and gives us all some ideas for hosting others. I could see a similar concept being used with international students or newcomers, too. Jasmine lives, works and writes from Alberta, Canada. Thank you for starting our interview series with such a good idea, Jasmine! —Julie
Tell me a little bit about your background. Did you grow up in family that practiced hospitality?
I grew up in a small town north of Toronto, Ontario. Yes, my parents often had people over for dinner! And there were always friends and family with us for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.
How did you decide to have The Supper Club?
You could say that The Supper Club started when my roommate and me started living together 2.5 years ago. I don't mind eating breakfast alone, but I don't like having dinner alone. I also don't particularly enjoy cooking for myself, but when I have someone else to cook for, I enjoy coming up with a meal.
Thankfully, my roommate was (and is) keen to share dinners, though it took intentional planning to make shared meals happen with our different schedules. At the beginning of each week, we decide which nights we can make a meal and which nights we can't. On the nights when I commit to cook, I am responsible for the cleaning up, too.
Our supper-sharing plan works great because I only have to cook a few times a week, and a few times a week I get cooked for! We enjoyed sharing dinners, and found we wanted to involve more people, especially singles who live on their own. We decided to present our idea to a bunch of friends and see if any of them wanted to give it a try. And so The Supper Club was born!
How exactly does it work? How many people attend and how is it organized?
Members of The Supper Club need to commit to cooking about once a month for the other members of the club. They only have to commit to one month at a time, ie: we don't make a schedule more than a month in advance.
The benefits of being part of The Supper Club are as follows. First of all, members of The Supper Club can attend everyone else's Supper Club meals. Currently we have about six people in The Supper Club, so members can get a home cooked meal in someone else's home about once a week, if they have time to come eat it!
"Everyone needs to eat, so why not eat together? If someone needs to eat and run, that is totally acceptable."
Secondly, the person who cooks is responsible for cooking and cleaning that night. If someone needs to eat and run, that is totally acceptable. Trying to get people to come for a whole evening for dinner can be challenging, because people have other things to do in the evenings. We often do stay around and talk or play a game or something, but it is not required or expected. The idea is simple: even if they have other plans later, everyone needs to eat supper, so why not eat together?
This is how we organize it: we have a Facebook group made up of The Supper Club members, and if a person wants to host a supper, that person picks an evening and creates a Facebook event. The members of the group RSVP. Not everyone comes all the time, in fact I think only once in the past year has everyone been there together.
Is there a particular reason why you chose to focus on single women for The Supper Club?
It just happened that it was our single friends who responded most positively to the idea of The Supper Club. There were a few couples invited as well, but both lived further away, making it harder for them to take part. I think it would be really cool to have some families and more different ages involved, but we just haven't found those people yet.
Are only The Supper Club members invited to your meals?
No, it's not an exclusive members-only meal. Often other friends have come and enjoyed supper with the group.
What was your most memorable evening so far?
One really cool night was when one of the girls had a Canadian friend visiting who worked in Morocco and she cooked a Moroccon meal for us. That was The Supper Club where everyone was actually able to attend. We also went on a little trip together one weekend, which was very unexpected because a few of us had just talked about going and then it turned out all except one of us could make it. So, that was great to see our supper group spending more than just a mealtime together.
Do you see having the supper club as an outflow of your faith and worldview? How so?
Yes, definitely. I think our lives are meant to be lived in a more communal way then our society allows. The Supper Club is one way we have tried to foster community.
How would you say hosting the supper has made your life better? How has it benefited others?
For me The Supper Club has been super helpful in building friendships in a new city. I moved here with my roommate about 2.5 years ago and I make friends slowly. Through meeting so often for supper with all these people, I have begun to develop deeper friendships with them.
I assume since the others are still involved, it is of some benefit to them in some way as well! Some of the girls didn't really know each other or only casually knew each other before, but I think relationships have grown deeper between us because of more frequent get-togethers.
We probably all eat a little healthier too when eating together!
What else would you like to say about The Supper Club?
Just do it! I think that sometimes we are afraid to invite people over, don't want to go out for supper to someone's house all the time, or don't want to commit to something regular. But I say, give it a try. There is something valuable about eating together in each others' homes. You get to know people differently when you spend time in their house.
It has been really neat to observe the various dynamics that come out in our relationships because of The Supper Club. Our roles are always changing: one week we are the guest and the next week we are the host. It is neat to see each person in each role. Also, because usually someone can't make it and we are a different group each time, it is neat seeing what each person brings out in the other people.
What would be your best piece of advice to someone interested in starting a supper club?
Don't be too strict on "the rules". We have become quite relaxed about the cooking-once-a-month rule, but we still find that everyone is participating. Be flexible, and keep in mind that the purpose of the club is to create community. There is something to be said for committing to the group, but it shouldn't be a burden! Don't be scared to heat up a store-bought pizza for dinner if that's all you have time for. The purpose is to enjoy and serve each other! Do what works for the people who are willing to participate. If you all work night shifts, you can start The Breakfast Club!