There was a time not long ago (pre-Corridor Kitchen) when I wondered if I had lost the ability to come up with ideas. Seems crazyhorse now, but not all that much was going on and it seemed like not all that much ever would be. It’s obvious to me now that ideas don’t come from nowhere; creativity isn’t bred in a vacuum. Ideas spawn ideas spawn ideas, until one day you look at your calendar and there is literally not a spare space left. And ideas often involve more than just you and your brain; they involve other people.

When I met up with Katie at The Rag Land what seems like aaaaages ago (but really it was only January), it was a lot like when Elise told me her idea for a cookbook and The Potluck Club was born. It was a meeting of the minds in the truest sense, both of us at a loose end, talking about what we could do, what we could make, together. Because that’s all creativity really is – doing and making things.

We talked about so many things over those few weeks, but we kept coming back to the idea of gathering together, and of people (not brands or buildings or money or even food) being the essence of a good party. And so Pigeonhole Gatherings was born, Swah designed us the perfect logo, and the rest is history.

So what are we? Well, I’ll quote direct from Katie for this. ‘Pigeonhole Gatherings runs and promotes small, local, low-cost and free events centred around arts, culture, food and most of all, people. It’s already awesome and we are so excited!’ (Italics all mine). In a nutshell, we’re all about people coming together to do stuff. We fill the spaces that aren’t used 24/7. We could host a dinner in a local cafe. Or a wine tasting in the park. Or a life drawing class in an old warehouse. Or a how-to-sew workshop in a local high school. Or, our first gathering last week, a potluck at my house.

So last weekend, a bunch of people (orright, mostly food bloggers, but food bloggers are people too) met to share a meal in the kind of space we don’t see each other in all that often. It was an amazing day, and the food was more delicious than I ever could have hoped. We donated spare change to The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, and I think everyone had a grand time. But what struck me most, as we squished onto my sunny balcony and ate ourselves silly, was just how little was actually needed to make this happen, and how little inconvenience 10-or-so people gathering in my house caused. It was an absolute joy, and reminded me of why I started Corridor Kitchen in the first place – neccesity is the mother of invention. If I can cook a fabulous meal in my mouldy old corridor, the possibilities are pretty limitless. This is the next step.

Huge thanks to everyone who came out and contributed, including food bloggers Swah, Tara, Megan, Flick, Hayley and JJ.

And our next event? Yes, it is food related; a charity cake stall/bake sale, date and venue to be decided.

And yes, Pigeonhole Gatherings is all about ideas. So join us on Google+ and Facebook and share yours. And share your gatherings!

At the heart of it, we food bloggers are food lovers. We all started blogging for different reasons, but the reason we keep going is for the love of food. But it’s important to remember that there are some Australians who aren’t so lucky. Some for whom their next meal will be a struggle, not a celebration. Some for whom ‘bringing a plate’ is a near impossibility. That’s why a bunch of us bloggers came together to release The Potluck Club, an e-cookbook with all proceeds going to Foodbank, Australia’s largest food relief organisation.

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The book retails for just $5.95 and comes in both mobile device-friendly portrait and a pc/printer-friendly landscape formats. You get both when you purchase the book. But more importantly, each copy sold will fund a dozen meals for those in need.

Today I just want to take a moment to thank all the bloggers who have donated their work and their time so that Elise, Amy and I could put together a 50 page e-cookbook of fantastic recipes. We each brought what we could to the table; a recipe, a photo or two and after seven whirlwind weeks from start to finish, it’s done. So thank you.

Ai-ling Truong – Food Endeavors of the Blue Apocalypse
Alana Dimou – Alanabread
Anna Brownrigg – The Littlest Anchovy
Carly Jacobs – Smaggle
Cheri Flewell-Smith – Ms Critique
Christina Soong-Kroeger – The Hungry Australian
Heather Sharpe – The Kitchen Crusader
Helen Lee – Sassybella
Jacky Lo – Shared Plate
John Bek – He Needs Food
Jules Clancy – The Stone Soup
Lorraine Elliott – Not Quite Nigella
Manuela Zangara – Manu’s Menu
Olivia Mackay – Scoff & Quaff
Sandra Reynolds – $120 food challenge
SarahKate Abercrombie – Mi Casa Su Casa
Sarah Shrapnel – Love, Swah
Sharon Chan – Colour me plate
Shez Lee – One Bite More
Sneh Roy – Cook Republic
Sophie West – The Sticky and Sweet

And I also want thank anyone who has purchased the book so far. Your contribution makes a real difference in the fight against poverty. In the last three days we have already raised more than $100 for Foodbank! That’s more than 200 meals.

The other night, Elise was coming round to finalise the launch of our The Potluck Club (you can read more about it here) and offered to bring some takeaway, and also her husband, Chris. But the $35 Food Challenge had just begun, so this was out of the question. So I offered for them to have some pizza with us, as last week, we’d bought a ton of toppings for a pizza that never eventuated. They agreed and offered to bring salad, so basically it was a mini potluck. Since I still had the receipt from Aldi I figured I could subtract the pepperoni, olives and cheese from our big shop the next morning. And then I looked in the cupboard. And there was no flour.

We’d done the exact opposite of what I always advise people – be prepared and do one big shop. So I popped out to our much-loathed local IGA for some flour, only to find black and gold products have been discontinued. My 1 kilo of plain white flour suddenly jumped in price from $1.59 to $2.39. Shit. My stomach dropped. Oh yes, The $35 Food Challenge really has begun.

People who live in poverty are not able to participate in many of the activities we take for granted. This could be anything from sending your child on a school excursion, to a visit to the dentist, to having your friends around for dinner. Foolishly, we decided the first night of the Challenge to do the latter of the three.

Imagine your friend invites you round for dinner. Your automatic response? Great! I’ll bring a bottle of wine. But you have no wine. And you have no money to buy any. Or maybe you have enough cash for a really shitty $4 bottle of wine. Will that be good enough? Maybe you just tell them you can’t go, I’m sick, or I’m busy, or something. Anyway, I’ll never be able to return the favour.

That was the feeling that hit me in the supermarket aisle. And it occurred to me that since I was doing the Challenge, since I INVENTED the challenge, I could tell Elise and Chris about the flour, a funny story, and publish it on my blog. Nice one, Lauren, you’ve just created some content. But if this were really my financial situation I’m not sure I could laugh it off. It wouldn’t be blog material. And when my dinner guests showed up, I certainly wouldn’t be telling them this story. You want your guests to feel welcome.

In the end, we had a great night, ate up all the pizza and the delicious salad Chris had made and drank the last of our wine. It made me realise though that there’s a conversation we need to be having about poverty and about that taboo subject, money. It needs to be ok to say we can’t afford something this week or it is just not in our budget. I doubt very much that your imaginary friend who invited you round for dinner would want you to stay home because you don’t have the cash for a bottle of wine or a box of choccies.

This is exactly why we started The Potluck Club in the first place; to share a meal among friends, to contribute what we can. It’s why 20+ bloggers donated their work for free to put together an e-cookbook of recipes to share among friends, and to raise money for Foodbank.

Maybe having friends around for dinner wasn’t a wise financial decision that week, but it was worth that short lived panic in the supermarket aisle to enjoy an evening with friends.

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In support of Anti-Poverty Week (October 14-20) and in partnership with the $35 Food Challenge, a group of Aussie food bloggers have come together to launch an e-cookbook of simple and affordable recipes called ‘The Potluck Club’, at the low price of $5.95. All proceeds from the book are going to Foodbank Australia via The $35 Food Challenge. By purchasing a copy of ‘The Potluck Club’ you will be doing your bit to in the fight against poverty and not only cooking for yourself but cooking for a cause.

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