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The Journal Gazette

Friday, April 12, 2019 1:00 am

Enjoying a shared meal, pondering the big issues

John Christensen

Over the years I have been called many things, but a foodie has never been one of them. I tend to stay in a relatively predictable circle of sustenance, with a big open door to anything containing sugar, ice cream or frosting.

But despite my limited palate, as editor of Fort Wayne magazine, it was a no-brainer to devote a third of each issue to restaurants, food and the people who create it – because food has a unique way of inspiring us.

There is nothing that inspires someone to drive 20 minutes outside his or her ZIP code like a new restaurant. And if someone is willing try a new restaurant – or a new dish – then just maybe that person can try a neighboring retail store, or meet a new person, or listen to a new perspective, or ask a new question.

This is exactly the goal of Indiana Humanities' statewideINseperable Chew on This initiative taking place in nine cities on April 23. Simultaneous dinner parties in Bargersville, Batesville, Carmel, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, New Albany, Rensselaer, South Bend and Warsaw will explore the question, “What divides us?”

The host of each dinner will put his or her own spin on the question, but at the end of the day, Indiana Humanities is looking to use the power of food as a convener of people and catalyst for conversation to inspire thoughtful discussion.

In Fort Wayne, for example, we have the opportunity to explore unintended consequences of our growth, development and future expectations.

In the midst of our successes, where are we still struggling with racial, economic, gender, age, political and geographic dividers? And are our development efforts making those dividers stronger or weaker?

For you, personally, when was the last time you had a conversation with someone who didn't look, act or think like you? How often are you bringing new people into your circle?

Or still simpler, when was the last time you had a real, extended conversation with your neighbor or a co-worker who works side by side with you?

In the 2018 Pew Research Study, “What Unites and Divides Urban, Suburban, and Rural Communities,” it was found that even though residents of rural areas are more likely than those living in cities or suburbs to say they know most of their neighbors, they are no more likely to interact with them on a regular basis. What does this say about our willingness to engage?

There are still a few places for the Chew on This dinner gathering that I am hosting at Proximo restaurant on the 23rd. But even more important, you don't need me to bring this question of what divides us to life. All you need is your own kitchen table and the courage to invite people to join you for a meal.

Make it potluck or do the grill, just invite different people to the table and explore each other's worlds and perspectives. Some of history's biggest moments and decisions came from a shared meal – imagine what could be possible for you and your family.

I would love to hear what you and your new friends come up with. All of northeast Indiana benefits from hearing what divides and unites us.

Feel free to email me about your experiences at jchristensen@fortwayne.com.

More information regarding Chew On This can be found at IndianaHumanities.org.

John Christensen is editor of Fort Wayne magazine.