Some of my longest-standing friendships are rooted in food. This isn't a slight to the quality or level of companionship - it’s merely the savory truth.
Food is the ultimate leveler - no matter how different the culture or personality, a natural bond reveals itself if an exchange of food occurs.
I met my first “food friend” when I had the chance of a lifetime to study abroad in college in Dijon, France - the city that legendary food writer, M.F.K. Fisher, wrote about it “Long Ago in France,” and the capital of the Burgundy wine region:
The focus of the study abroad program just happened to be around the dinner table – an honors seminar about our relationships with food, dubbed “Eats 101,” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
I had my doubts about Avery. She was loud and loquacious from the get-go; I'm a little bit more reserved - at least at first. I wasn't sure we'd get along, until we sat down to our first group dinner together and collectively kvelled over Coquilles St. Jacques.
After that, Avery and I had a standing lunch date every Wednesday - mostly at restaurant La Ruelle, a small restaurant tucked away near the Eiffel-designed market. We feasted on frogs legs, lavendar crème brulée and the occasional döner kebab.
This was back in 2007 – and appropriately enough, three years later, we both ended up in the food world of New York City. She is currently enrolled in the French Culinary Institute and working the line at a restaurant, while I help edit this blog. I’m front of the house, she’s back of the house - and we relocated our old food antics.
When there is a new restaurant to try in the city or an old favorite in need of a revisit, we immediately think of each other: What night? What time? Opt for the tasting menu? Wine pairing?
We talk food - good food - where to get it and when. The type of food that makes you want to slap your mamma, kiss the ground, then do an Irish jig. We're each others' foie gras booty call. Rarely is there a request to just “hang” - instead, we brunch on boudin, or meet for a glass of Slovenian Tocai Friulano.
In the New York Times, Diane Cardwell recently profiled a dining club for previously unacquainted adventurous eaters. Of the Gastronauts, she writes: “dining clubs have proliferated, spurred by a combination of culinary restlessness and the easy connectivity of the Internet.”
There is particular delight in sampling another's primi of squid ink spaghetti while they extend a fork to your papaya salad. Much like Avery and I, the majority of these eating societies start as strangers - but with every meal, each just as quickly turns into a tribe of loyal friends.
As the wine kicks in, belts are loosened and conversation is flowing passionately and freely, it's evident these friendships are so much more than food. At the start of the amuse-bouche, there are separate entities – a lawyer, a teacher, a writer — at the end of the dessert course, there is but a band of eager diners.
Just as some have bridge groups and bowling leagues, we have eating partners - food friends - but that doesn't mean the company is any less appreciated.
Turns out, food really does bring people together.