“People think I’m crazy when I tell them we meet once a week. It seems to surprise them,” Ellen Weissfeld says. “But honestly, if you miss one week you feel sad.”
Simply called “supper club,” the group was founded by friends Samantha Shiffman and Brian Wright as a break from their draining work schedules. It’s since expanded to eight members and the occasional guest — all invited from the members’ social circle — who work in professions as varied as bartending, strategy at Planned Parenthood and analysis at the Department of Energy.
“One of the reasons the dynamic works is because it’s not people you see every weekend or people you work with,” Babington says. “It’s a different community, and you know if you don’t go to supper club you’re not going to see these people for a week.”
The rules are few: Every week, a member of the group hosts dinner at his or her place and is responsible for choosing a theme and cooking something he or she has never made before; everyone who attends brings two bottles of wine; you can’t bring someone you just started dating; and there’s no judging the food.
“Most people in D.C. don’t have the opportunity to have a family meal as much as they would probably like,” Babington says. “But here, if you’re in town and you’re free, you have a place to eat with your friends. It’s the only thing I do every week other than go to work.”
On a recent Wednesday, Babington interrupts the gaiety to tell guests about the evening’s literary-themed supper — the group’s 126th meal together. “This dish is called Grapes of Wrap,” she says, pointing to a piece of lettuce topped with a mound of chicken salad and grapes. One of the guests picks it up to take a bite and it crumbles on the plate. “An alternative name for it is Things Fall Apart,” she says.
Culinary talent in the group ranges from advanced to amateur: One night there may be a printed menu full of gourmet lamb dishes inspired by “Silence of the Lambs”; on another night they may pass around hot dogs with various toppings. And while food is the tie that binds them, the ritual of gathering in and around the kitchen is more important than what ends up on the plates.
Everyone in the club admits they’re surprised it’s still going strong after three years, but they credit its success to the come-as-you-are nature of the gatherings. Though there is one type of person they’d think twice about before inviting.
“What if someone wanted to be part of the club but had celiac [disease]?” someone asks at the end of the meal. “They’d be a really good friend we saw on Saturdays,” responds another.
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