Sharing Is Good

From the family dinner to the holiday spread, the idea of joining together for a meal seems the most natural thing in the world. Yet the act of eating as a social custom has a much deeper significance than simply sharing food. As Plutarch, the first century Greek historian, once said, “A guest comes to share not only meat, wine, and dessert, but conversation, fun, and the amiability that leads to friendship.”

“A guest comes to share not only meat, wine, and dessert, but conversation, fun, and the amiability that leads to friendship.” – Plutarch

Photo by EatWith.com, http://bit.ly/1dNusBx

Party like Its 7th Century BC:-

Historians trace the tradition of eating as a social custom all the way back to Ancient Greece. Poems and artwork indicate that meals in antiquity were almost always a social affair.Friendship, which Cicero believed, “unites human hearts”, strengthened over shared meals. For the ancients, great friends and good conversation deserved wonderful food, copious amounts of wine, and delightful entertainment.

Ancient Greeks often served guests from communal platters, what we call family style. Eating together established each other as equals and provided a forum for men to debate, plot, boast, or simply have a good time with others. In fact, Plutarch believed that individual portions “kill sociability” as they reduce the chance for conversation that comes when passing food.

After dinner, the drinking party began. Drinkers got down to partying, singing songs and playing Kottabos, a drinking game in which people threw their wine glass at a target (sounds awesome right?). Poetry, music, jokes, and storytelling also formed a central part of the pleasures of the group festivities.

This pottery depicts Ancient Greeks dining together and playing Kottabos, a drinking game in which people threw their wine vessels at a target.

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Photo by sebastiagiralt, http://www.flickr.com/photos/sebastiagiralt/

Paladares: The Guerilla Restaurant

In Cuba, the Paladar represents as much a part of the culture as cigars and mojitos. Until the 1990s, the Communist Cuban government outlawed privately owned small restaurants. In reaction to the oppressive restrictions, Cubans essentially gave authority the middle finger and started operating underground guerilla restaurants out of their homes. Although they have since become semi-legal, the Paladar tradition remains an important part of Cuban culture. Today, tourists dine at Paladares to experience a more rich interaction with Cuban culture and a taste of authentic homemade Cuban food.

The Paladar started as an illegal restaurant in Cuba that operated behind closed doors when the Communist government outlawed private businesses.

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Photo by Bruna Benvegnu, http://www.flickr.com/photos/bbenvegnu/

Underground restaurants similar to the Paladar have shown up in Communist China as well. The government crackdown on extravagance and banqueting has sent official fine dining underground. The Chinese host lavish private dinners in their homes or hidden clubs in order to avoid being caught indulging in public. During the secret feast, people drink the expensive Chinese liquor Maotai with the bottle’s label torn off or the alcohol poured into a water bottle.

Communist Chinas restrictions on extravagance and banqueting have caused people to open up restaurants in secret.

Paladares The Guerilla Restaurant

Photo by bittermelon, http://www.flickr.com/photos/bittermelon/

Counter Culture or a Return to Culture?

In places such as Cuba and China,political restrictions on private ownership have incited people to rebel against the establishment by opening underground restaurants in secret. Yet recently, these Anti-restaurants also known as supper clubs have become increasingly popular all over the world. From London to New York, people pay to dine in the private homes of complete strangers. So why do people go? Is it just about the food? Is it the illicit nature of these borderline legal establishments which lack proper licenses, fire escapes, ect? Or is it the atmosphere or sense of adventure in eating at a strangers home?

There’s something both rebellious and liberating about just walking through the doors of a strangers home in an underground fashion. Many may say – But you dont know the person! From the diner’s point of view, that’s what makes it better! All the boundaries of society collapse giving the dining experience a counter-cultural tang.

Photo by EatWith.com, http://bit.ly/1dNusBx

Perhaps the recent resurgence in social dining also indicates people rebelling against the disconnect and detachment brought on by the modern digital era of Facebook and the iPhone. The pioneers of the underground restaurant seek to reestablish real life personal connections by sharing their home and food with good people.In a restaurant, there’s a divide between the kitchen and the customer. Eating at someones home breaks down the barriers that usually exist in restaurants.

That’s the heart of it. Its not just the food or the anarchist thrill – it’s the significance of restoring eating back into a social ritual.Its a reaction against the family sitting in front of the TV eating dinner on individual trays. The underground restaurant represents a return to the Ancient Greek communal style of eating, when dining was a social event filled with good company, good conversation, and good times.

Underground restaurants or supper clubs have become an increasingly popular alternative to the standard night out for dinner.

About The Author:-Alison

American born, but a citizen of the world, with a commitment to life experience, Allison Michelle Dienstman is a lover of language, travel, music, cooking, dance, and spirituality. Allison graduated from the College of William & Mary with a B.A. in Chinese Language and Literature and minor studies in Spanish and Italian. Currently, she works as a freelance writer and marketing strategist for various projects. For more of her writing, visit her professional website, (www.amdienstman.com)or Facebook, Twitter

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