by Claire Brandow
Every Sunday night at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one might find students gathered for a shared meal of any type of theme or global cuisine. Dinner could be Vietnamese banh mi, a feast of Indian aloo mater and kheer, or an impressive spread of ramp pesto and sorrel soup for a local foods dinner. Though the food and atmosphere change weekly, the objective stays the same: with each of these Family Dinner Nights, the members of Slow Food University of Wisconsin put the philosophy of Slow Food into action. Every meal is a chance to educate and promote the value of good, clean, and fair food in a convivial atmosphere.
Slow Food University of Wisconsin-Madison is particularly active in two venues: improving the campus food system and campaigning to raise awareness about food and agriculture issues. The Family Dinner Nights are at the core of SFUW’s work. Each night includes a cooking lesson followed by a communal dinner. SFUW recently received a gift of pots, pans, and kitchen gadgets from Anolon Cookware as part of the company’s “Creating a Delicious Future” initiative. Everything from the cooking to cleaning is communal: not only is the food prepared and enjoyed together, five people each week sign up to help with cleaning in exchange for a free meal.
The two-year tradition of Family Dinner Night now attracts as many as 100 students each week. SFUW uses each night to educate on a different topic, whether it is a cultural lesson on the country of that meal’s origins or a lecture on the food movement and food sovereignty. Dinners also often serve to benefit local family farms and promote local producers and vendors.
SFUW co-leader Danny Spitzberg insists newcomers should always feel welcome. “We don’t bite until dinner is ready! We’re an evolving community. We always welcome anyone interested in eating good food, meeting new people, and having good old fashioned fun.”