Would you ever go to a stranger’s house for a Sunday night dinner with lots of other strangers? People from all over the world and from every walk of life. Maybe if you found yourself in Paris?
Author, artist, and lifelong traveler Jim Haynes, an American expatriate living in Paris, has held an open dinner every Sunday in his home for the past almost 40 years. Now in his 80s, Jim says there is no screening process for the guests; the first 60 to 75 people who call and ask to come are invited. He estimates that over 130,000 people have attended his weekly Sunday dinners. Jim makes sure to memorize all of their names beforehand, so he can easily introduce guests to each other. The food differs each week, with 12 chefs on a rotating schedule (the chefs are also from all around the world giving the menu variety).
Jim views it as a way for people, usually travelers, to come to a big city but spend a night in a quiet and intimate venue, meeting lots of other travelers who they otherwise never would have. While Jim says “the food is the glue”, he believes “the people are the biggest attraction.” In his words, “People from all corners of the world come to break bread together, to meet, to talk, connect, and often become friends. All ages, nationalities, races, professions gather here, and since there is no organized seating, the opportunity for mingling couldn’t be better. I love the randomness.”
In the past 40 years, people have taken Jim’s lead and started supper clubs in other cities around the world, like Barcelona, Chicago, and Bangkok.
I first read about these dinners in this post from one of my favorite blogs. This woman’s introvert personality and apprehension towards going to the dinner mirrored what my behavior would be in this circumstance. But she ended up having a wonderful time; “It was the most beautiful experience. I ended up talking with him about how I found D.C. to be a difficult place to create community. He said I should host dinners, even if I just make a big salad. It took me two years, but I did it.”
This sounds like it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and would make a trip to Paris that much more special. I think if I’m ever there, I’ll have to make this a priority.
Would you ever go to something like this? Or host a Sunday supper yourself? Check out Jim’s website. Also, if you want to know more about Jim and his traditional Sunday suppers, this is another interesting article. And hear his interview on NPR.
(photo credits in order: Alice Dison; Lily Keenan; Jesper Haynes x2; Kang L; Jesper Haynes)