Potluck Luck

December 18, 2007 at 7:45 pm Leave a comment

Things have a way of winding down toward the end of the year. Then, too, the crummy weather signals many of us that it’s time to hibernate. But what if we warm up by surrounding ourselves with a few people we wish we knew better? I want to share with you a great local evening we recently had by some luck and a bit of social risk-taking.

It started out very simple: I invited a friend in my building for dinner, a seasons greeting celebration. As we e-mailed back and forth on food we might eat and songs we could sing, I began to think about having more people from the building and making it into a potluck dinner. We’ve been in our apartment for two and half years; we’ve met people in the lobby and at a few events, but actual socializing has been limited. I wasn’t sure how to start. My friend suggested a couple on her side of the building, both smart and fun. Why not? Next, I knocked on the doors of a few neighbors on the floor above us. They said yes. Then I asked the people on my floor, which yielded another 3 people for the mix. On the day before the dinner, my son and I crossed paths with a woman and her son, new to the building. We decided it would be nice to invite them, at least for dessert so as not to obligate them. We wrote up a construction paper invite and taped it to their door. (By this time, I wanted to invite the whole building, but that will have to wait for another occasion and more than one day’s notice!)

Not 100% sure what would show up food-wise, I made chicken and roasted Brussels sprouts and had a box of couscous and several bottles of wine and jugs of cider ready to go. We threw some tablecloths on the dining room table, lit a few candles, and turned on Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite.

Our guests arrived at six, beautifully dressed and laden with appetizers from Carmel, cheeses and breads from Trader Joe’s, an unforgettable sweet potato and banana casserole, a gorgeous salad, home-baked cookies, flaky apple turnovers, and wine. Everyone apparently had the same idea in mind: let’s feast and celebrate! Fifteen of us crammed around our dining room table in getting-to-know-you style, with food and conviviality to facilitate things. Let’s see—there were two painters, one pianist, one singer/actor, two writers, two highly regarded community organizers, former employees of the DOT and the UN, an analyst for a Japanese insurance company, a behavioral scientist, a consultant for nonprofits, and two Pokemon obsessives, and that just scratches the surface of how interesting and varied our guests were.

The dinner broke up at around 10, and by then so many walls of guarded formality had been broken down. We are neighbors now in a fuller sense, which gives all of us a warm feeling about each other and the building in which we live. The magic of this particular night was realizing what is always within our grasp—an elevator ride, a flight of steps, a doorbell away.

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Entry filed under: Forest Hills.

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