Are You Missing Collective Effervescence?

Ono, Choco, Oakley, and Wynn – our cats and dogs – have been our only dinner companions of late.

We recently had a group of human friends to dinner here in Glen Ellen. There were 7 of us, 2 from Madrid, Spain, 2 from Medford, Oregon, and 1 from Los Altos, California – and Andy and me. Getting ready for this dinner seemed unusually stressful for me. It’s not that the guests were unfamiliar. I’ve known the women for 59 years. It’s not that I never give dinner parties (see our blog about Dining In). Rather it’s that I haven’t given a real dinner party for almost 2 years!

There’s been so much in the news lately about what I just experienced. Getting back “in the groove” and meeting up with folks after our long Covid isolation doesn’t necessarily come easily but it’s so necessary. This NYTimes Opinion piece helps explain it all: “Post-Covid Happiness Comes in Groups.”

This NYTimes essay also caught my attention because I thought I could one-up Andy, the Sociologist, with this blog and refer to one of the most famous sociologists of all time, Émile Durkheim. Durkheim was the one who coined the term referred to in the article – “collective effervescence.” Instead of being in awe of my sociological awareness, Andy in today’s Andy’s Corner, ignores sociology and focuses on cinematography.

The essay’s writer, Adam Grant, a psychologist teaching at Wharton, summarizes it this way: We find our greatest bliss in moments of collective effervescence. It’s a concept coined in the early 20th century by the pioneering sociologist Émile Durkheim to describe the sense of energy and harmony people feel when they come together in a group around a shared purpose. Collective effervescence is the synchrony you feel when you slide into rhythm with strangers on a dance floor, colleagues in a brainstorming session, cousins at a religious service or teammates on a soccer field. And during this pandemic, it’s been largely absent from our lives.

Lots of collective effervescence at our friend’s recent Boulder, Colorado, 50th birthday party!

Even if we need the energy and harmony that being with others provides, getting back to socializing seems to be causing anxiety for lots of us – not just dinner-party-givers but also dinner-party-guests. There’s lots in the news about this phenomena.

These wedding guests don’t appear to be experiencing post-Covid anxiety as they enjoy their collective effervescence. Which makes me wonder: do women possibly experience collective effervescence more than men? You can get a glimpse of our grandson Moss – in a long-sleeved white shirt – toward the back of the dancers at this recent Oregon wedding reception.

Though the article references singing in choruses, running in races, or participating in yoga classes as activities that bring about collective effervescence, I have no doubt that dinner parties do the same thing. After our recent dinner party, my Madrid friend emailed a sweet thank-you with the comment, “I haven’t laughed so much for quite some time.”

So here’s my recommendation for getting your dinner-party groove back. Make everything ahead of time and keep it all simple. SIMPLE. Then when the evening and guests arrive, you can kick back and laugh and enjoy every bit of the long-absent collective effervescence. And your being relaxed will relax your guests. It’s a win win situation.

We find Late July chips hit all the right notes (and, no, I didn’t get paid to write that). 🙂

Getting-Your-Groove-Back Dinner Party

Tortilla Chips with store-bought salsa or guacamole (we’re especially into blue corn – or blue multigrain – tortilla chips these days).

Chicken Posole Verde (use store-bought rotisserie chicken, and a good quality brand of chicken broth, rather than making it all from scratch; the roasted tomatillos and poblanos have enough unique, strong flavor to make up for any store-bought weaknesses :))

Cabbage/Radish/Cilantro Slaw to serve on top of the posole (this comes together very quickly and easily: thinly slice the cabbage and radishes, chop the cilantro, and toss it all with a little lime juice. Slicing and chopping can be done a day ahead of time, and then add the lime juice before serving).

Buttery Cornmeal Muffins – recipe below (make and freeze them ahead of time, wrapped in aluminum foil. About 25 minutes before eating pop them in a 400 degree oven. When you’re ready to take them out of the oven, cut one in half to be sure the middle is defrosted.)

Mexican Chocolate Cake – served with whipped cream (a simple cake to make; bake it and freeze ahead of time)

Buttery Cornmeal Muffins

Buttery Cornmeal Muffins

Muffin pans vary in size.  I got about 16 muffins from this recipe, filling each individual muffin cup almost to the top.  This is a riff on a recipe from Melissa Clark and the NYTimes.

  • 1 c butter (2 sticks), melted and cooled
  • 2 c cornmeal (original recipe calls for stone-ground or course, but I much prefer fine ground)
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • 1 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 c sour cream or whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 c whole milk
  • 2 eggs

Heat oven to 400 degrees and generously butter the muffin tins.

In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

In a separate bowl, whisk together melted butter, sour cream, milk and eggs. Fold butter mixture into dry ingredients, then scoop batter into muffin tin, filling each to almost the top.

Bake until golden on the edges, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from muffin tin and cool to room temperature. Freeze if you’re serving more than a day later.  If frozen, wrap in aluminum foil and reheat in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes.  Serve with even more butter.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

3 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Since I was one of the lucky 7 dinner guests, I can attest to the wonders of collective effervescence. Ann’s dinners, ably assisted by Andy, were incredible, but the gathering with friends I’ve known for (gasp!) 59 years was memorable and so much fun!!! Thank you, Ann and Andy.
    Becky

    Like

  2. theRaggedys says:

    What a beautiful poem about hummingbirds in the garden, Terry! I love Emily Dickinson’s poetry but didn’t remember that one. Admittedly, I had to look up the meaning of “evanescence.” A good word for this day and time. Hope you’re well.

    Like

  3. Terry Thibodeaux says:

    A Route of Evanescence, (1489)
    BY EMILY DICKINSON

    A Route of Evanescence,
    With a revolving Wheel –
    A Resonance of Emerald
    A Rush of Cochineal –
    And every Blossom on the Bush
    Adjusts it’s tumbled Head –
    The Mail from Tunis – probably,
    An easy Morning’s Ride –

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: