Over the weekend, I sent a text to a few of my friends asking, “Hey, do you want to come over for dinner on Sunday?”
To sweeten the invitation, I added an avocado emoji.
It may seem like a simple gesture, but that round of text messages served as the first step in something I’ve wanted to do for several years: Start a supper club.
Let me be clear. When I say supper club, I’m not envisioning fancy four-course meals or recipes that take hours or creating Pinterest-worthy table settings. The way I typically cook up a mess in the kitchen, I’d often rather there be no photographic evidence.
Here’s what I mean: Finding a regular time — I’m starting with every other Sunday night — to invite people over for food and maybe some wine and conversation.
As easy as that premise may sound, I’ve certainly been putting this bucket list item of mine off.
I first thought about starting a supper club about three years ago when I read a book by one of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist, called “Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes.”
She writes about the art and discipline of gathering people for scheduled and spontaneous meals.
Here's a snippet: “I’m not talking about cooking as performance, or entertaining as a complicated choreography of competition and showing off. I’m talking about feeding someone with honesty and intimacy and love, about making your home a place where people are fiercely protected, even if just for a few hours, from the crush and cruelty of the day.”
Her words also make me think of what Doug Rowland, a pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Davenport, told me for a story I wrote in March 2016 about why he and his wife host dinner for their Rock Island neighbors every Thursday.
"Food can be disarming," he said. "Something definitely happens when you’re around the table with people.”
And his wife, Kristin, said this: “It’s not about one-upping or showmanship. It’s not about keeping score, it’s just about creating a space for community.”
Most recently, I thought about starting a supper club in December when my cousin gifted me a copy of "Eat Like a Gilmore: The Unofficial Cookbook for Fans of Gilmore Girls."
But the cookbook — and my motivation to put this idea into action — had since been laying on a shelf.
That changed, I guess, when I moved into a new apartment in downtown Davenport about two weeks ago.
The first night I cooked dinner there, I posted a photo on my Instagram story saying something like, "This is my new kitchen and you can now find me here always."
Yes, I'm all about this kitchen.
A few minutes later, I called my grandmother, who lives in Lexington, Kentucky, to tell her about it. I learned from my grandmother that there may not be a more loving question than, “Can I make you something to eat?”
When I put the phone down, I had made my mind up: "Next weekend."
And you know what? It happened.
A few friends came over. We ate the simplest tacos ever. I don't have a couch yet, so some of us sat on the floor.
And we talked. We talked about our weekends, our summer plans, our memories of deciding what we wanted to be when we grew up.
I’ve had some of my favorite conversations out at breweries and restaurants and coffee shops, but I've long believed there’s something different, maybe more intentional, about opening up your home, making food and just seeing what happens.
On Sunday, that proved true. I'm not sure the specifics of how my supper club will play out from here (I'm not putting any rules on it to start with), but I'm already looking forward to next time.
Before dinner on Sunday, I re-listened to an episode of one of my favorite podcasts hosted by author Jen Hatmaker. Her guest was Shauna Niequist and they swapped stories about their own supper clubs.
“Nothing ever has to be complicated, or take a lot of time, or be incredibly fancy," Hatmaker said, "because it really turns out that's not what anybody is there for.”