Few organizations relish being brackish, but OneTable is a jarring enterprise. The social dining platform, which assists “post-college people” to create and share Shabbat dinners, was in Pittsburgh last week promoting the benefits of fermentation, pickling and Friday night get-togethers.
Specifically, while hosting a master class on the culinary and cultural heritage of lacto-fermented and vinegar-fermented foods, Sara Fatell, OneTable’s national community manager, delivered bubbly insights on her organization’s purpose and hospitality strategies.
“OneTable fills a void for young adults figuring out what to do with their lives,” said Fatell. As opposed to merely clinging to running, yoga or other activities during those years, “why can’t religion be a part of that pivotal period,” she asked listeners at the Oct. 30 function.
Founded in 2014, the organization has enabled more than 55,000 young adults to partake in a Shabbat dinner, said Aliza Kline, OneTable’s executive director in an October 2017 report.
Far from stale, those myriad experiences have ranged from traditionally infused spreads of chicken soup and matzah balls served on starched white tablecloths to random meetups in restaurants or even thematically planned feasts enjoyed without a table.
“We want people to experience Shabbat the way they want to,” said Fatell, a University of Pittsburgh graduate.
To deliver such varied offerings, the organization practices a particular recipe.
There is a digital platform, which is sort of like “Paperless Post meets Airbnb”: Shabbat coaches — event planners, rabbis and chefs — who are available to aid the planning process; and nourishment credits in the sum of $15 per head for an organizer’s first 10 guests, because we know that “hosting a lot of people can be burdensome and expensive,” explained Fattel, a former wedding caterer who co-founded Grassroots Gourmet, a Washington, D.C.-based bakery that operated between 2009 and 2016.
Carolyn Slayton recently became a Shabbat coach at OneTable.
“It gives me the opportunity to stay connected to other young adults in this community,” said the Squirrel Hill resident, who added that being a Shabbat coach also allows her to be helpful and creative.
Although many people are understandably nervous about organizing any sort of shindig, let alone a Shabbat dinner, there are simple serving tricks that can boast a host’s “competence and confidence,” said Fatell to the roughly 15 attendees.
“If you do a batch cocktail, then your hands are free to be a host or hostess, and guests can be involved in the recipe,” she said.
For example, when making a kombucha-vodka highball, bottles of kombucha could be placed adjacent to both a batch cocktail and a sign that reads, “1 + 1 = delicious.”
By allowing arriving company to mix one part kombucha with one part cocktail, “the guests are a little invested, and you’ve made an efficient drink,” Fatell said, along with an advisory against blending the beverages too soon before serving or the bubbles will dissipate.
Similar to mixing a kombucha-vodka highball, making pickles or sauerkraut are two other techniques that keep with the classical Friday night theme, as they, like challah and wine, are also fermented foods, added the speaker.
Seeking to spawn some excitement and education, Fatell then directed participants to don gloves, separate and stand around two tables. Situated at each station were ingredients. After identifying the elements, one group of learners was instructed to create sauerkraut, while the other fledgling fermenters were taught to make fridge pickles.
“I am obsessed with pickles and have always wanted to learn how to make pickles,” said Amy Cohen, as she joined peers in mixing fringes of foodstuffs in glass jars.
“I love pickling, but this method is a bit different from how I normally do it,” said Erica Kershner, who typically employs a preserving process “just on the counter with a cheesecloth.”
For Vlad Kaminsky, the gastronomic gathering had a familiar feel. “My mom and grandma used to do it, but it wasn’t passed on to me. But now I can continue the pickling tradition,” said the newbie foodie with a container of dill, pepper, onions and garlic in hand.
Others agreed that their freshly acquired skills would soon be applied.
“I think that we’ll pickle again,” said Shana Ziff, who attended the affair alongside her husband, Aaron.
Playing to the weekly Torah portion, Vayeira, Jonathan Loring of Squirrel Hill said that an upcoming meal would be garnished by the gifts garnered at last week’s course.
According to the Babylonian Talmud, when the three guests arrived at Abraham’s tent, the forefather prepared a piece of calf for each potential eater.
Said Loring, “I’m making pickled tongue for Shabbat because [that’s] what Avraham served.” PJC
In an earlier version of this article, which ran in the November 10 issue, Sara Fatell’s name was misspelled. Additionally, the article incorrectly stated the years Grassroots Gourmet was in existence. Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle regrets these errors.
Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@pittsburgh