Circumstances recently smiled on a group of bright, entrepreneurial, foodie Philadelphians (and, since they weren’t checking IDs, me) when Zokos organized a private tasting of DiBruno Brothers’ bounty in South Philadelphia. I left the event with the same buzz I get from a great Curated Table, surprised and giddy that we all jelled in a way nobody expected.
This got me thinking: What are the elements of impromptu social bonding? Recalling my favorite Curated Tables and last night’s event, I can think of three:
- Curiosity. As a species, we gather around spectacles. Whether they’re good—solar eclipses, sporting events—or bad—natural disasters, Lindsay Lohan’s career—small marvels give us something to talk about. The monstrous Turducken Burger at Smokin’ Betty’s drew comments from everyone; not so with the barbecue sliders, which were delicious but not weird enough to wiggle their way into conversation. Similarly, we couldn’t help but turn to each other with a smile when DiBruno Brothers elevated what could’ve been a platter of cubed antipasti into salami raviolis, tucking nubs of Taleggio into crimped mezzelune of meat. Let this be an argument for ordering the oddity on the menu when you want to brighten the dialogue at the table.
- Hedonism. Professional hedonist Oscar Wilde advised that “an inordinate passion for pleasure is the secret of remaining young.” It’s also the secret of instant camaraderie. Sensualism is contagious. After one person ordered a dessert at Fiola another followed, with the result that all of us spent more time together over affogato. At DiBruno Brothers I dared to eat a candy bar right in the store. Mews of “We can do that?” turned into roars of “WE CAN DO THAT!” as pupils dilated, wrappings were shred, and sheets of chocolate were smashed to shards. Shared indulgence can transform polite strangers into a banded troupe of Bacchants.
- Imperfection. Things will go wrong. People will be late, the cork will crumble, and your waiter will be passive aggressive. Accept these blunders with a sense of humor and everyone else will relax with the knowledge that it’s ok to make mistakes. Fun mistakes, too, like telling a sausage party joke too soon at DiBruno Brothers, or spending rent money on handmade mozzarella cheese. People connect over trivial gaffes, not origami napkins. We’d know this already if we watched more Marx Brothers and less Martha Stewart.
So what did I miss? What other attitudes or forces make friends out of strangers?