Social Dining As a New Urban Food Community

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: 424
Oral Presentation
Naja STAMER , University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg C, Denmark
A new form of communal meal where total strangers eat together, often in intimate or homely settings, has become increasingly popular in urban environments. This phenomenon has been dubbed ‘social dining’ and encompasses meal-events where the social aspect of dining is paramount. In a time where the communal meal par excellence – the family meal – is under threat social dining might be a new way of creating commensality. This paper seeks to develop an understanding of social dining and examine its cultural and economic implications and discusses reasons for its apparent popularity. Examples of social dining include weekly communal meals at regular restaurants; arrangements where unfamiliar people cook and eat together; or the now global ‘Restaurant Day’ where people set up 1-day restaurants in their own home. To understand the phenomenon of social dining we outline different cultural and economic characteristics of the meal-events, such as whether it is arranged by professional or amateurs, whether money is transacted, whether it is a shared everyday meal or a special event. We argue that its popularity relies on four different factors: 1) The dining events are arranged through new social media or the internet that easily facilitates the meeting of strangers. 2) Social dining can help overcome financial problems in a time of economic crisis, through sharing the costs of meals or events as an income source for the host. 3) Social dining caters to a search for ‘authenticity’ in cultural consumption as the social experience can never be copied or repeated. 4) Social dining fits in a society where food has become both individualised and informalised, where ‘neo-tribal’ groups based on momentary, aesthetic experiences increasingly substitute more static social groups, e.g. based on family, class and geography.