Meal Sharing: The intersection of food and travel
The Wanderer examines Meal Sharing, an innovative concept bringing together communities and traditions through food.
One of the hallmarks of the journey is the constant exchange of cultures that occurs when you go to a new place, no matter how close to home. Meeting new people and learning new things: this is travel. Food is a large part of this experience, with the ability to bring together disparate people and ideas and meals can serve as the perfect setting to distill this part of travel into a memorable bite-sized piece.
The Wanderer recently met with the team at Meal Sharing, an organization that helps people to share a home-cooked meal in homes all across the globe. We spoke to founder Jay Savsani about his motivation behind the idea:
“I had the unique opportunity to be hosted by a Cambodian family for a meal in their home. It was such a magical experience to be in their home, eating traditional Cambodian dishes, and sharing tales from our respective homelands. The best part of the evening was when the host busted out his Casio keyboard and played some classical Cambodian songs. I definitely wanted to create a website that would help facilitate the spontaneity and beauty of the evening that I shared in Cambodia. Unique tastes with very kind people around the world.”
The idea behind Meal Sharing, thus, is not only to enjoy food in a home setting, but also to learn more about the cultures of the people cooking it. This is particularly interesting in the age of the ‘local’ food movement that stresses smaller scale consumption for the benefit of the environment. It’s no wonder that the idea has taken off, with the organization recently speaking at the British Parliament and partnering with UK organizations to meet the challenges of food waste. This partnership culminates on June 2nd, Global Sharing Day in which Meal Sharing, the Big Lunch, and the People Who Share will attempt the world record for most shared food in a single day, with Meal Sharing acting as the platform to bring the record to fruition. Last year’s event reached 60 million people from 147 countries, find more details here – http://www.compareandshare.com/thepeoplewhoshare/global-sharing-day/
The Meal Sharing team at the British Parliament, speaking about food waste and community building.
To get a further idea of what the experience actually entails, we asked Dom Harrington to share his thoughts on a recent Meal Share:
“I was kindly invited by my friend Jason and his cousin Matthew to share a meal and learn about Meal Sharing in London last week.
After a delicious starter of ceviche (a blend of peppers, chillies and prawns where the prawns are cooked in lime juice) Matthew explained some of his motivation behindMeal Sharing “what better way to experience a new culture and meet new people than to share good food and conversation?”
After a lot of traveling by myself I can see what he means, if you are in a strange city for work or travel then why eat by yourself in a hotel when you could go into a local family home and experience something genuine from the area you are in?
The idea however, is not just limited to travel, we agreed that a meal is something that should always be shared – whether someone is traveling or not. Too often when cooking for a small number of people there is leftover food that someone else could enjoy. “It’s not about making elaborate food to impress people, but more just to share what you have and to enjoy other people’s company”, although with the marinated steak Matthew had prepared us for lunch I suspected he did want to impress us a little!
Also sat at the table we were joined by two girls (a photographer and a journalist) who were there to write a small piece about Meal Sharing for a national newspaper. As a professional, the photographer insisted on only being there to take photos and wasn’t there to eat the food. But it didn’t take long for her to realise what she was missing…she soon put down the camera and tucked into a medium rare steak from the local Brazilian butcher.
A local Meal Share in action.
Stories were exchanged by all and the conversation often drifted back to other good food we liked to eat. After all five of our bellies had been satisfyingly stuffed it was time for us to go our separate ways and to spread the word of sharing meals, sharing conversation and making friends.
As an experience I would say that it was definitely worth it – not just because I got a free meal out of it and met some lovely people but because it was one of the most natural things ever – nothing felt forced, everyone could be who they were and there was nothing uncomfortable about it. There is of course always going to be a slight trepidation about being a guest and having breakfast/lunch/dinner with people that you don’t know and will not necessarily get along with – but because everything was so unique, new and natural that trepidation fell away for me – I would even encourage others to try it that weren’t necessarily open to the idea in the first place – you never know who you might meet!
I would certainly do it again – either with the same people, others or a mix of people.
How do I sign up?
Just go to the www.MealSharing.org, put a profile up, put some photos up and start inviting others to come over or ask yourself along! It’s not scary, it’s fun, natural and you’ll be part of a great community to boot!”