Why does Conviviality Matter? Connecting Over Food as a Tool for Self-Care & Community Care

By Alisha Eastep, Slow Food San Francisco Treasurer

In 2013, the Convivialist Manifesto was published.

The document arose out of the need for a new social, moral and political philosophy of living together, since many are convinced that democracy and ecological survival can no longer rely any on the idea of infinite economic growth and inexhaustible resources. The Manifesto defines conviviality as, “an art of living together (con-vivere) that would allow humans to take care of each other and of Nature,” and that in the search for conviviality there is a recognition of conflict “without denying the legitimacy of conflict, yet by using it as a dynamising and creativity-sparking force, a means to ward off violence and killing.”

There are four central questions that should be addressed in creating a convivial table–and world, besides of course, “What to cook?!” The first is a moral question – what can be hoped for and what should be forbidden? The second, a political question – what are legitimate political communities? The third question concerns ecological questions about what we can take and give from nature, while the fourth question is an economic question about how much wealth we can reasonably produce. It is only through a principled balancing of these four considerations does a new model for sustainable living arise. And much of that critical conversation is happening today all over the world across dinner tables.

A meal is a unifying force.

“Through the act of eating, the fellow conspirators were transformed into a “we”, a gathering which in Greek means ecclesia.”

A meal allows people to put aside conflict and connect over a universal need for nourishment, and to enjoy a moment together in a way that delights the senses, and stimulates the mind. If done right, that meal can be sustainable, too.

Toward the end of his long life, polymath and advocate of conviviality Ivan Illich (1926-2002) said, “I remain certain that the quest for truth cannot thrive outside the nourishment of mutual trust flowering into a commitment to friendship.” Forbes magazine wrote that conviviality allows us to be inwardly and outwardly playful. Playing together over the joy of a delicious meal brings us one evening of conviviality, and once step closer to a society that honors our connection to each other and our environment.

Join Slow Food San Francisco for a Convivial Potluck Thursday, August 15 at 7:00 p.m. for an evening of food and discussion to delight the senses.

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