Sunday Dinner in Paris?
I’ll rewind a little. Something caught my eye just recently. On a notice board in a neighbouring town from where I live. It must have raised an eyebrow or two. A couple was inviting local residents over to their house to enjoy an evening meal with them. They explained that they just wanted to get to know the people living within their area. And if that was not altruistic enough, they reassured prospective diners that guests could ‘dine and go’, if they wished, untangling them from any awkwardness or obligation that may surface due to the nature of the event.
It instantly took me back 20BC –Twenty Years, Before Children– when my other half and I went to one of Jim Haynes famous dinners in Paris. He’s an American who has made Paris his home for almost forty years. Since the late 70’s Jim has opened up his flat to strangers each and every Sunday, bar a couple each year (to attend the Edinburgh Fringe), to people from all around the world, hosting the most intriguing dinner parties. So Circa 20+BC, my other half and I went along.
Dusting the cobwebs off my memory bank, I remember that we had to travel to the outskirts of Paris; 13th or 14th Arrondissement, I think. Once in his intimate flat, between the two of us, we met backpackers, an opera singer, a doctor, some musicians, a translator, a clown, writers, artists and teachers which are a heck of a number in one evening but Jim, I remembered, made an effort to try and introduce everyone to each other.
Jim is an extremely charismatic man with a very layered and colourful life I’d recommend reading up about. He opened up the first paperback bookshop in Britain in 1959. He also founded the Traverse Theatre and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. And that’s only the tip.
My memory jogged, I looked him up and was pleasantly surprised – yet not truly surprised if you’ve met the man- to see that his dinners are still going strong as he must be in his eighties.
And of course, it’s not at all about the food, though delicious. He loves people, describes himself as a world citizen and Jim’s passion is to get people talking to each other. He rightly believes that it’s the most powerful way of bringing about social cohesion and acceptance, regardless of who you are and where you’re from.
If it’s the sort of thing you like, maybe you could catch one of his dinners. There is a small contribution towards the food as he brings in a chef.
So in fact, this couple’s invitation to lunch in my neighbouring town could be the start of something bigger. Who knows?
Have you tried something like this or have you been a guest at something similar? Maybe you’ve been to one of Jim’s dinners? Would love to hear from you.