In a time that feels divided, people are gathering for food, drink and conversation.
On Tuesday, folks will gather at 10 locations around Indiana for a different set of conversations over a meal as part of Indiana Humanities’ Chew On This series.
On Thursday in Goshen, 100 people are expected to gather for coffee and snacks at Goshen High School as they talk about community and building bridges.
“It’s one of our most popular programs,” said Meg Telligman, program manager for Indiana Humanities. “We really do believe in the power of food and drink to bring people together in conversation, to bring strangers together in conversation.”
In South Bend, people will gather at Tapastrie, 103 W. Colfax, for dinner from 6:30 to 8 p.m. or so. Micah Towery will facilitate the conversation. As of Thursday, a few tickets remained for the event and are available via https://indianahumanities.org/programs/chew-on-this. The ticket cost varies slightly by location, but at Tapastrie will be $26.04, including fees.
Another gathering is planned at Rua in Warsaw, but is already sold out. Other locations include Fort Wayne, Carmel and Indianapolis.
This is the third round of Chew On This, according to Telligman. The last one was on technology and the first one looked at the impact of the Pan-Am Games on the state since they were in Indianapolis a quarter century ago.
This third gathering centered around the question of what divides us isn’t just about politics, she said. It’s about urban/rural, as well as race and gender. Part of the goal is to name what divides us so that it can be explored more fully with other events this fall..
The goal is similar for the gathering in Goshen, where Goshen Community Schools and the city’s Community Relations Commission collaborated to convene a community conversation. Though the initial announcement said it will be over a meal, Jes Stoltzfus Buller, who will help guide the conversation, said it will have snacks and coffee.
Nonetheless, “A Community Conversation: Growing Goshen Together” is intended to pull in people to discuss how Goshen has changed demographically. It’s a first step, an introduction if you will, that will result in more conversations and events this fall.
GCS is inviting parents. Mayor Jeremy Stutsman and the CRC are also inviting people, she said.
The school system people to gather to talk about race and ethnicity and the CRC hopes people expand their notion of diversity, said Stoltzfus Buller.
In Goshen, the late Phil Thomas was at the center of the conversations about how to bring people together in new ways to have conversations in the classic manner of sitting around tables listening to each other over food and drink. He was working with the CRC. He was talking with me and Myron Bontrager, owner of The Electric Brew, about pulling one together. Since Thomas’s death in November at the age of 53, Bontrager and I have continued the conversation with others and then learned of the one the CRC and school system are doing.
I just want people to talk, to find ways out of their bubbles. As Stoltzfus Buller said, “This matters because communities thrive when they value diversity and when different sectors can work together to build a stronger environment. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Gathering at a table to talk about what’s important to us and our community may not change a place overnight, but it should be part of the change. The mere act of breaking bread together, of sitting with someone who is different than us, can both change us and that place in which we live together.
It turns out that social media does more to divide us than unite us. Cable news channels give us news with the slant we prefer. The question of where we come together to focus more on what unites us than divides us isn’t new, but may need new answers.
Food and drink, the process of gathering around a table to share food as well as our feelings and ideas, has the potential to unite us. I’m eager for those kinds of conversations, particularly over food and drink. (I’ve been asked to live-tweet the South Bend event.)
Chew on This and Goshen community conversation are formal ways for this to happen and may yield other events. A cup of coffee with a stranger or someone different than us can also work. We need these kinds of conversations, particularly in 2019.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat. And hear from each other.
Marshall V. King is a food writer based in Goshen. Find him on Facebook (DiningALaKing) and on Twitter and Instagram. (@hungrymarshall).