I forgot about this, but late last month was the 10th anniversary of Dining With Strangers.
The first blog post went up on November 25, 2008, in which I announced the launch of the site. I also linked to the inaugural dinner with a stranger, #1 My Dinner With Joseph. It was a mostly accurate tale about a lunch with my friend Joe where I told him how I came up with the idea for the site, while also doing a brief profile of him.
Since then I’ve done 114 interviews across the United States, a few meals back in my home country of England, one in Italy and one aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean Sea. I’ve been lucky enough to dine with actors and actresses from some of my favorite television shows and movies for a meal. I’ve met some good friends and stay in regular touch with more of them than I can count on one finger. I’ve had experiences I never thought possible: I’ve made pizza at a restaurant, seen how the Sesame Street puppets are made, gone behind the scenes of a poor boy shop, seen two of the strangers perform as Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln immediately before we dined, taken part in a gypsy dance class, and held a reunion lunch with several New Orleans strangers for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Each interview was memorable for its own reason. The handful of times that I’ve been interviewed about Dining With Strangers I’ve said it was a way for me to get back into broader reporting than the environmental policy I write about for my day job. And that’s still true. This site has let me learn about people and jobs I would never otherwise have met, and if I have one regret it’s that I could have done a better job with the writing in the early years. Back then I was going for flippant humor and the profiles were short, but these days the articles are much more in-depth.
I don’t have any end goal in mind for this site because it’s just a hobby, and I still enjoy meeting strangers for dinner. Apologies that there isn’t a consistent schedule of, say, an interview a week, but this project has to fit around my work and personal life. I remain on the lookout for new interviewees, and urge you to sign up for a dinner.
Although I’ve moved away from trying to make myself sound funny in the articles, there’s one line in the very first blog post that still rings true a decade later and explains why I had time to write today’s post: “I had nothing to do tonight other than find creative excuses for not going to the gym, so here we are.”