7:01 pm my phone rang and it was Dorian, to tell me she had arrived. My husband and dog went down to pick her up. When they came back, the whole group of guest I was expecting came with them: Dorian and her boyfriend Michael, Patrick and his friend Christie. Nancy had already arrived, a bit early as promised, to give me an extra hand in preparing my feast. A feast to strangers. A feast of the sharing economy.
How to share your food
The idea of offering a dinner to strangers came up in the same day I started the sharing experiment. Having decided to live & breath the sharing economy for 75 days, my first experimentation was to attend a dinner at Amanda’s, which I found out through Feastly. There, along with amazing food came great conversation with 5 people I have never met before in my life. But the fact that we were strangers seemed to not matter a bit, to any of us, because, after all, we were just fellow humans sharing a meal together.
Motivated by the delicious experience, I soon enrolled as a cook/host with Feastly; was vetted and approved; prepared my menu and published my dinner.
I waited anxiously for people’s reaction. And it soon came! First to buy a ticket was Nancy, from Amanda’s dinner. An American with Taiwanese roots, she has incredible stories to tell about establishing a volunteering startup in rural Tanzania to help improve food sufficiency. Later I would find out that Nancy is also an enthusiast about and researcher of the sharing economy topic, with interesting articles published. Following Nancy’s, came Patrick’s, Christie’s and Dorian’s reservations. In less than a week, my meal was sold out. I didn’t even invited any friends, because I wanted to have the full experience of cooking for strangers.
This instantaneous success brought along a challenge: I didn’t have enough chairs to seat my 5 guests. I turned to the sharing economy to overcome this problem, through platforms for the sharing of objects. In few hours, with the help of Nextdoor, I found a neighbor willing to lend me 3 chairs. Yay!
How to plan a sharing economy meal
When I thought about the menu I was serving that night, I knew it had to be attractive and cost-efficient. As told above, I was well succeeded in the first part, but later I would fail in the second – fail hard! Since I’m not a professional cook, I chose to prepare a meal I had cooked before. And decided to charge a small amount to barely cover the costs: $10 per person. I was not interested in making a profit, but in the experience itself. Of course, I didn’t expect to have a loss, either. I really wanted to provide a special moment for my “strangers”, serving the best I could.
I started shopping for my meal two days before the date, since this is the deadline for cancellations. Having none, I knew I needed to feed 5 guest plus me and my hubby afterwards. My shopping was easy and cost-efficient until the last ingredient: the filet mignon. I knew it was an expensive cut of meat, but heaven knows why I made my mind that the meat my Grandma used to cook for Christmas was filet mignon – later I learned it WASN’T.
She used a much more affordable cut, the “bottom round.” Not finding the cut in my normal grocery store, I searched in Yelp (a sharing economy example for the sharing of information and reviews) for a nice butcher. Found a 5-stared one in Berkeley. Off I went…in a sunny morning. I found a beautiful cut of filet mignon and asked the guy to cut me a size to feed 7 people. He suggested 2 and a half pounds. I want blame the American resistance to the metric system for my brief confusion and immediate approval of the suggested cut. Browsing throughout the store I glimpsed the price of the mea I had chosen: $30/pound (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Quick math invaded my mind, followed by total terror. I turned to look at the cheese counter to disguise my desperation. Three thoughts alternated in mind:
– My husband is gonna kill me
– Run, get out of here, forget the meat. Just RUN!!!!!!
– Shultz, I wrote filet mignon in the public menu. What if I serve other meat and one of my guests is a “meat connoisseur” that ruins my “cook” reputation?
I chose to stay, put my I’m-a-very-very-very-rich-person-and-I-don’t-mind-paying-$75-for-a-piece-of-meat face, and deal with my husband later – he forgave me, but still teases me a LOT…
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