Building community -- one meatball at a time

Annie's last post on the shrinking family hit me hard. My third child is a senior this year, so I'm reluctantly heaving myself aboard the she's-leaving-home-soon roller coaster. But for now, Maddie is home for a few weeks from New York, and Jordan arrives in Houston on Sunday. Then, for ten glorious days, I'll have all of my chicks under my roof. And then they will leave me. I find it all very rude.

As we've adjusted to our own shrinking family, we've found that the quiet (while often welcome) can, at times, become deafening. Also, we need people. And perhaps it's these very holes in our lives that made an idea like Friday Night Meatballs all the more appealing -- hopeful even.

 Photo by   carina romano  via  serious eats

Here's the story of Friday Night Meatballs: A couple in Philadelphia instituted a tradition of weekly Friday night meatball dinners to connect with family and friends -- and in so doing expanded their community on a global level (they have pics of people in the Ukraine having Friday Night Meatballs). Sarah Grey, the mastermind behind Friday Night Meatballs, sent out a Facebook message informing friends of the new tradition and asking for participants. Each week they had folks sign up, Sarah's husband Joe mixed up a pot of sauce and meatballs, and they had an informal but lively get-together that Sarah describes as "a comforting, relaxing, energizing cross between a Shabbat dinner, a salon, and a playdate." 

It was "salon" that got me. I've always wanted to host a salon.

The cool part about Friday Night Meatballs is that you can connect with your regulars -- your family and close friends -- but it's also an opportunity to get to know other people, those further outside one's immediate "group." The Greys have people sign up online (I'm sure in a safe and responsible forum), so they get a variety of interesting folks. And voila! Their circle expands! 

The recipe is simple and delicious (the meatballs can be made and frozen ahead of time). A few Sundays ago we had several families over after church to give the recipe a test-run, and I can testify that the meatballs were a success. And while I cannot wholly commit to Friday Night Meatballs on Friday nights in the crush of football season, I'm intrigued with the idea of branching out, moving beyond my comfort zone, meeting new and interesting people. Maybe in this season of shrinking and reworking our family life, marinara is one simple answer. If I cooked up a pot of meatballs, would you come?