Nurturing a (female) network in the heart of H Street
When I signed up for Pineapple Presents: An Evening at Sally's Middle Name I really didn't know what to expect. I figured a night chat with Aphra Adkins and taste of the new restaurant would be interesting, at the very least. What I really did not expect was to have a transformative experience and actually walk out with a new friend.
Pineapple, run by Ariel Pasternak, is a a series of gatherings that brings DC women together through food. This evening was the first one I've ever attended.
I arrived via a work shuttle, bus, and coffee stop at Maketto while reading that article about 'Yuccies', which put me in a bit of a cynical, sour, yet slightly caffeinated mood. When I walked in I thought, on no, now I'm surrounded by Yuccies. It was hot and I immediately felt a bit out of place, like I hadn't properly commodified myself for this setting. I had already spilled coffee on myself, had a dying phone in my backpack, and I could feel the lack of instagram followers and blog readers as some serious downsides to my individuality as I signed my name on the guest list.
Why did I come here again? Who are these people?
And then I looked around and took in the space. The event took place in the upstairs retail part of Sally's Middle Name, created almost by accident to fill the space, which is not zoned for a restaurant business. It was beautifully crafted with shelves filled with, what some might call, nice things--those fancy, quality or handcrafted pieces you want to buy for your apartment but usually just buy for others as gifts. There was a small children's section and what looked like a space for oils and scents. Everything was pushed to the side walls to make space for a center table area set like your hip grandmother's dining room, if she were into farm tables and mismatched cloth napkins.
I recognized some faces, and decided to give it a go. I can handle this, I thought. I can sum myself up in a few words and talk to these other women. I caught up with the few people I knew, and tried to make small talk with those that I didn't. Soon after, we were ushered to be seated and the event started.
I sat between Alexandra Dawson of In My Bowl and Kim Bryden of Cure[ate], (they both had very nice, succinct, introductions) though it wasn't until the end of the night that I really got to chat with both of them. As I settled into my seat I realized my back would be facing the speakers and I would have a long few hours of awkward turn-around seat adjusting. The evening started with Ariel introducing Aphra and followed with a candid discussion of what it was like to open a restaurant. Meanwhile, her team brought out delightful dishes with simple, fresh, local ingredients. We'd pause to taste the salad or order another glass of rosé, and then the discussion would continue with insight on working with a spouse on the endeavor, motherhood/boss life, and what it means to be a part of a community while simultaneously re-creating it.
"If we don't open a restaurant, I can't be married to you"
"Sometimes I feel really guilty, sometimes I feel really lucky"
"Why conform to what you are trying to get away from?"
"I'm literally a super human. I made another human. I can do anything."
Aphra Adkins on fulfilling relationships, working motherhood, not compromising and self motivation.
In between we chatted across the table and I slowly settled into the environment. Then the guests asked their own questions and as the discussion went on I realized, these were good people, open, seasoned, passion-driven people. Was this the most diverse crowd I've ever been in? Certainly not in color of skin, but definitely in experiences. These's weren't bright-eyed entrepreneurs or cookie-cutter MBAs looking to sell an over-tried idea, but inspired women unwilling to conform and deciding to make a different kind of life for themselves. The way in which it manifested in each individual varied - from artist to blogger to craft food creator to marketer to project manager to small business owner. Each in her own way had crafted a new kind of career and a new kind of life, many of which were messy and hard to define. And, of course, we all loved good food.
At the end, we did those introductions. I stumbled over my own, forgetting to mention cocktails+craft, my blog or the fact that I love food. Then I tried to not let my jaw drop as everyone else gave their own intro and shared a bit of themselves. I was literally surrounded by the women changing the world. Each person sitting around that table is making a tiny little dent in the universe. And it was magical.
I was incredibly impressed by the openness of Aphra and thankful to her and her team to welcome us into their restaurant, which really did feel like a home, and of course, terribly grateful to Ariel who organized the event. I don't know what was more touching - the space, the gifting of food or the intangible nourishment the event provided.
I could go on and on about what an amazing concept restaurant Sally's Middle Name really is, their upcoming ESL classes for restaurant employees in the community and a variety of other things I experienced during the night, but the most important takeaway for me is that magic happens when you least expect it. And a community of inspiring women changing the world might be just around the corner, or up the stairs at a small restaurant on H Street.
Thoughts for upcoming gathering -
- it would be great to do introductions in the beginning, it really helped to get to know a bit about each person.
- send out a list of all the attendees with name, contact info. so everyone can stay in touch.
Did you attend Pineapple Presents? Are you a part of a women-run, female network in your city? I'd love to hear about your experience and your own background - leave your comments below!