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Photo by Matt Licari
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Richmond native Rebecca Parker Payne has been a contributor to the quarterly lifestyle journal Kinfolk for the past few years. She recently helped Kinfolk founder Nathan Williams pen The Kinfolk Table, a book that shares recipes and profiles of food-lovers stateside and in Europe. We sat down to talk to Payne about food, the book and her love for hospitality.
R•Home: How did you get involved with Kinfolk?
Rebecca Parker Payne: I first started talking with them the summer of 2011, and I wrote for their second issue. I wrote an article called "Wanderers at the Table." It was an essay about a community dinner series that I was leading with one of my friends. We were meeting every other week and [it was] just kind of [an] open invitation to friends and friends of friends to gather around the table and have a good conversation and add some intentionality and purpose to [ourselves as] meandering twenty-somethings.
R•Home: Was it modeled like a supper club?
Payne: It was a lot like a supper club. My wonderful and gracious parents hosted and cooked. We'd have anywhere from 10 to 30 people show up. And we'd always have some sort of topic for discussion. Having some sort of guided conversation is important to have purpose around the table.
Meet the Author
Join R•Home and The Kinfolk Table co-author for a book signing and culinary event on Thursday, Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. Space is limited. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a spot.
R•Home: What were some of topics of conversation? Payne: What is a piece of artwork that has inspired you? Where do you most feel at ease? Where do you feel most like yourself? What brings you a lot of joy? Those types of questions. R•Home: What would your mom serve for dinner? Payne: Things that were very crowd-friendly. Her Bolognese Italian meat sauce [that was] handed down from my grandma; she'd make like a gallon of it. More or less comfort food. Food that puts people at ease. R•Home: What's an example of a dinner party essay you wrote for Kinfolk? Payne: "Undocumented Hours," which was about letting go when you're in an environment with your friends or by yourself. Letting go and putting down your iPhones and paper … this idea of undocumenting and being there. R•Home: What is the benefit of writing about hospitality and these supper clubs? Payne: This has given me an opportunity to reflect on how our culture is influencing how we do life together and how we do community and hospitality. I've been able to reflect and move forward with my own experience in life through Kinfolk. R•Home: How did you get involved with The Kinfolk Table, and what was that journey like? Payne: It started in August 2012, when I got the random phone call from Nathan [Williams] to write content for it. I left the day after Labor Day to go to Europe and did about three weeks in Europe — Denmark, England, Rome. I had seven weeks to write all the content. I ended up writing 60 profiles. Half of them were from Europe, and half were here in the States. R•Home: What kind of people did you interview while in Europe? Payne: People who have the same ethos that pertains to hospitality or creativity, or they just love having meals together with their family. There was a family in Copenhagen. … Every Tuesday the entire three generations got together to have dinner. It's about people who believe in ... being intentional about coming together. R•Home: What is different about entertaining in Europe as opposed to here in the United States? Payne: Denmark has this concept of hygge , which is integral to their idea of hospitality. We don't have a word for it, and it means "coziness," or being at ease and lowering the lighting. It means being warm, having blankets. That's Danish hospitality. … And then the people in England, it was assumed you gardened and forag[ed] and that you were making food from what is around you. … And then in Italy — everyone knows Italian hospitality — it's over the top and loud and crazy and wild. And it's incredibly long dinners and more bottles of wine and more eating and laughing. It's uproarious. R•Home: And what about Americans? Payne: I feel like we have a great opportunity to continue defining what hospitality looks like in America and put our stamp on the uniqueness, whether regional or the country at large. People here love hosting and they love eating good food, and we are hungry for it. R•Home: What did this trip and interviewing these people teach you about food and entertaining? Payne: This isn't something to be intimidated by; it's something to work towards, because being a good cook and host, you have to work for it. ... You have to be thoughtful, but it's not out of reach. That's my major takeaway. R•Home: What's essential to host a good dinner party? Payne: I feel like a lot of hosting relies on the disposition of the host. Being able to prepare enough to completely relax when people come through your door and not being too wound up. …The dynamic of people around your table should be organic, and you shouldn't be getting in the way of that. Where your heart and mind are before your guests walk in, is the key to hospitality. R•Home: Do you have any dinner party rules that guests must follow? Payne: One of my favorite things that I don't have to say to my friends very often, because they are very mindful of this is, "Be here now." It's something that drives what I'd like to have at any gathering that I would host. I try to be that guest as well. If I commit to something, I need to go there and be there. And, that's half of the equation. Another half is being a good guest, being respectful and present.