Food is the toffee-toasted mortar that binds people together, building stronger friendships that, when stacked sky high, create the most special of gatherings. Because of this, we're rather honored to announce the arrival of our very first cookbook, The Kinfolk Table, bringing together recipes, people, and stories from around the world. We hope it'll encourage you to clink china with those around you and form new traditions to sit alongside the old.
The Kinfolk Table shines a culinary light on the creatives of Brooklyn, Copenhagen, Portland, and the English countryside, inviting you into the lives and pantries of a diverse array of enthusiasts and professionals. We've twirled to the ends of our Rolodexes to seek family favorite recipes from coffee connoisseurs to ceramicists, fashion bloggers to florists, photographers to farmers, and even an addition from one of our sweet retired grandmothers. These delegates from varying walks of life will provide you with inspiration for gatherings that begin as morning teas, drag into afternoon finger sandwiches, and whirl all the way toward midnight pitchers of punch.
An edited excerpt from Nathan Williams's introduction to The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings:
A home with an open-door policy that friends find irresistible can be anywhere, yet place is integral to the traditions we grow. Ask anyone from Alberta, Canada, where I spent my childhood, about the harsh winters and windy summers, and he or she will understand why it made sense for my group of friends to develop a habit of making food and enjoying dinners together as early as in high school. Since then, I've noticed a disconnect between both "home cooking" and "entertaining" and the ways my friends get together to share a meal. We gathered in a small apartment and cooked meals at least every other day, but we weren't pressing table linens, printing name cards, or brushing up on dining etiquette. We often used paper plates and stuck with the same fork for dessert that we had used for the main course, buttering baguettes with a paring knife so we would have fewer dishes to wash. Our formula for those evenings was to cook, eat, and talk. Nothing else was necessary.
The idea for the magazine Kinfolk was born in the course of trying to describe those evenings spent with friends when the hours pass effortlessly, conversation flows naturally, cooking is participatory, and the evening ends with a satisfying sense of accomplishment. The fledgling Kinfolk had two goals: to offer an alternative idea of entertaining — casual, intentional, meaningful — and to make that kind of entertaining feel more natural and accessible to a younger crowd like my friends and me.
Our first objective has been to peel off the fluff and commercial layers that complicate entertaining. Next we have tried to put the social reasons for inviting friends into our homes — the relationships, traditions, community, and conversations — in the foreground and let the superficial details like fancy recipes and table decorations recede into the background. Today Kinfolk is a consistent source of active, meaningful things to do for both our team and our readers, and the concept continues to grow with the quarterly print magazine, daily online stories, and in-person workshops, dinners, and events held around the world.
Each of those channels serves its own purpose. The quarterly print issues explore traditions and the reasons we gather together with in-depth essays and photo series. Our website is more focused on practical stories, with tips and tutorials teaching readers how to do things on their own. The event series provides settings for learning hands-on skills and meeting like-minded people in the different cities where readers live. These projects complement one another in offering ideas for things to cook, make, and do while promoting the deeper purpose of helping to build communities around ourselves.
The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings applies the casual approach to entertaining depicted in our magazine to cooking and recipes. This book represents an effort to take the same communal neighborhood approach by welcoming you into the homes of our Kinfolk team, along with a diverse group of friends, family, contributing writers, artists, and other makers. Each person was asked to contribute because he or she lives a life consistent with the simplicity we try to promote in our magazine, embodying a balanced, intentional way of living and a genuine appreciation of food and hosting friends in their homes. I visited their homes for this book in an effort to capture a glimpse of what I think makes them each remarkable, and in these homes I observed the passion with which they embrace the Kinfolk spirit.
I can't help but be excited to introduce you to all the people in this book because they seem to understand that good food and community are just as important as the careers in which they work, that the rituals and traditions that bring us together are essential to balanced lives. The people in these pages personify the fact that there's something to be said for slowing down, sitting back, and breathing deeply.
Focusing on the locales of Brooklyn, Portland, Copenhagen, the English countryside, and beyond, these corners of the world seem to value simplicity, hospitality, and balance, pursued with intentionality every day of the week. In this book I wanted to bring to life some of the individuals who live there and have something unique to share. So I packed my bags and departed along with two friends from our Kinfolk team to spend time with each person individually, observing them as they prepared their favorite recipes and talked about the traditions that matter most to them. We sat at their tables and asked questions to figure out how they tick and how we could emulate their warmth and hospitality. We scribbled notes with lessons, tips, and recipes to share. I left each of their homes with a big, cheesy grin of satisfaction on my face and often stopped at the market for ingredients on my way home to replicate the dish I had just learned.
In each home we visited, the people living there reinforced my belief that "entertaining" has many more shapes and forms than what that term often brings to mind. It can be the most elaborate and boisterous thing in the world, and it can also be quiet, personal, and low-key, a meditative ritual we enjoy on our own. It can be planned, structured, and executed wonderfully, but it can also be last-minute, spontaneous, a team effort, and wonderfully imperfect.
Entertaining looks different for each of us, but as long as we're cooking and inviting people into our homes with a genuine interest in connecting, conversing, and eating together, then the way we do these things becomes insignificant and ultimately comes naturally. A burned dish or a missing serving piece becomes trivial. The humble soup or homely bread becomes a feast. It all seems quite simple.
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Nathan Williams is the founding editor of Kinfolk magazine and the author of The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings. He works with a team of photographers, writers, illustrators, and designers in a collaborative effort to encourage a natural approach to entertaining. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Books mentioned in this post
Nathan Williams is the author of The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings