Our families, culture, and traditions are three deep rooted and influential factors that all play a significant role in shaping who we become as a person. At the heart of these three sectors is one unifying link… food! Food plays an integral role in our lives and understandable so it’s a universal necessity, but it also brings us together it a special way.
Take a moment to think back on some of your most cherished childhood memories. Do many of them involve food? The food that we grow up with not only represents the country we are from, but even more likely represents the culture and/or religion that we were raised in. Culturally significant dishes are often prepared in a distinct manner or with particular ingredients and spices that are unique to the region they come from. When people move to a new place they bring their cooking traditions and recipes with them – this preserves the culture in the home when the world around them may be drastically different.
Food is all about trying new things, being adventurous and figuring out what you like and don’t like – so don’t be afraid to mix it up. Being open minded to new foods also gives us the opportunity to experience another culture in a fun and extremely tasty way. In this sense, food is not only an identifier of culture, but it is also is an unofficially ambassador to the rest of the world.
Feeling inspired to step outside your food comfort box? We’ve got just the activity to let your taste buds explore, while also connecting to your community at large.
Let’s Get Started!
Hosting a community potluck dinner is a fun way to meet new people, learn about their heritage, and eat some incredible home cooked dishes. The meal is about bringing people to the table who you may not have had the opportunity to get to know otherwise and gives you all a chance to share stories, ask questions, and learn about one another. The concept of the meal is pretty simple and the first step is to invite your guests! Think of 5-8 ) friends, coworkers, or family members and another 5-8 members of your community who are from another country, refugees, or other newcomers that you may know or can reach (recommended meal size is 10-16 but go as big as you’d like!).
Next up, pick a menu. We suggest putting together a menu that encompasses different culturally significance dishes. This gives you a chance to experience a new culture, a new style of cooking, and gives your guests the chance to share a part of themselves that unfortunately today’s world has become irrationally fearful of. Ready to get cooking? Two ways this can go down:
- Potluck style! Everyone brings a home cooked dish
- Cook together! Incorporate the actual cooking of the food into your event. Even if it’s just one dish and the rest is prepared beforehand. By cooking the food together, you get to see and learn the authentic process, while also getting your hands dirty – interactive and fun!
The meal is all about connection and opening dialogue. If you get stuck, one way to help break the ice is to organize activities that promote interaction, such as games. A personal favorite is the toilet paper icebreaker. Gather your guests and present them with a roll of toilet paper. As the roll passes to each of your guests they are allowed to take as many sheets of paper as they’d like. Once everyone has had the opportunity to take their papers the twist of the game is announced – for every sheet that they took, they have to share something about themselves with the group! This is a witty and entertaining way to facilitate conversation and encourages people to share about themselves in a creative way.
Around this time the smells coming from your kitchen will begin to overwhelm your nose…telling you it’s time for everyone to sit down and eat! During the meal allow your guests to share with you why the dish is important to them, if they traditionally make it for a special occasion or holiday, or a memory of theirs surrounding the dish. Hearing the story behind the food elevates the experience to more than just trying a new cuisine, you’re learning in an unique way and making lasting connections.
As you finish your second and third helpings (the food will be that good!) shift the topic of conversation to wrap up the experience. Have a debrief conversation where everyone can talk about the meal: what their expectations were, what they learned, and how the experience has impacted them. This reflection allows the meal to come full circle. Everyone is leaving with a full stomach, but also a full heart. It is our hope that the connections you make turn to long lasting friendships and that the melting pot dinner becomes a new tradition of your own. Whether it’s around the dinner table or out in the real world it’s important to invest in other people and your community. Food is a portal into understanding culture. So get out there and try new foods and embrace the cultures around you. Everyone has something to bring to the table and odds are it’s delicious 🙂
Want some more inspiration? Come explore our get ideas page for other awesome projects ideas that you can bring to your community!