Friday Night Meatballs is a heartwarming way to build community

spaghetti and meatballs
CC BY 2.0 Unsound Media

This weekly communal dining ritual was started by a Philadelphia couple in 2013 and has been growing ever since.

Today I read about the most delightful tradition. "Friday Night Meatballs" is a weekly communal dinner that was launched by Sarah Grey and Joe Cleffie, a couple from Philadelphia, in 2013. Grey, a work-from-home mother, describes herself as a "raging extrovert working long hours alone in a home office" who needed some kind of social outlet. Paired with her husband's love of cooking, they came up with the idea for Friday Night Meatballs.

Grey posted the following message on Facebook (slightly abridged here):

"We're cooking up a pot of spaghetti and meatballs every Friday night and sitting down at the dining room table as a family — along with anyone else who'd like to join us. Friends, neighbors, relatives, clients, Facebook friends who'd like to hang out in real life, travelers passing through: you are welcome at our table... The house will be messy. There might be card and/or board games. There might be good scotch. You might be asked to read picture books... This is our little attempt to spend more time with our village."

After writing about the tradition on Serious Eats, Grey's article went viral and similar communal meal events started popping up around the world. The idea of inviting a mix of strangers and friends to enjoy a simple yet delicious meal clearly resonated with many people.

I, too, love the idea. My husband and I have no extended family in the vicinity and I've long lamented the lack of a "Sunday night dinner" tradition, which I'd always dreamed of having with family on a regular basis. But after reading about Friday Night Meatballs, it's occurred to me that I should just try to create it within my own community with non-relatives. And so, I think 2018 will see the launch of Sunday Spaghetti in the Martinko household.

Grey suggests a few guidelines to streamlines the experience. First, don't spend more than an hour cleaning the house ahead of time. A slightly messy space makes guests relax and realize it's an informal, friendly event (a.k.a. The Crappy Dinner Party). Second, she advises specializing in a main dish. Meatballs are something everyone loves, are easily adaptable to dietary requirements (lentil 'meat' balls are delicious), and can be made in advance. Guests bring wine, dessert, and salad. Finally, limit the number of guests to a reasonable number. (For them, it's 8 adults and however many kids can play together unsupervised.)

Is this a tradition you'd like to adopt? Or do you prefer to seek community elsewhere than around the dining table?

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