10 Things Anna Watson Carl Learned on Her Cookbook Road Trip

In June, I did something a little crazy. I drove from New York City to L.A., and then flew to Seattle, throwing a series of eight dinner parties along the way.

In June, I did something a little crazy. I drove from New York City to L.A., and then flew to Seattle, throwing a series of eight dinner parties along the way. I partnered with some of my favorite bloggers—including Joy the Baker, Love & Lemons and the Fresh Exchange—and held collaborative dinner parties in NYC, Raleigh, North Carolina; Nashville, New Orleans, Austin, Dallas, Los Angeles and Seattle. The dinners were held in homes and backyards, on a farm, and in a former factory turned leather goods studio.

The dinners were truly a community endeavor: I cooked (using local ingredients when possible) and chose the wines, and my cohosts and guests—a mixture of bloggers, food writers, designers and creative entrepreneurs in each city—contributed things like flowers, handmade menus or place cards, artisan bread or homemade dessert. For each dinner, I asked local photographers to document the evening.

The purpose of the trip was promoting my upcoming cookbook, The Yellow Table: Celebrating the Art of Everyday Gatherings (out early November), a collection of more than 100 simple, seasonal recipes designed to share with friends and family around the table. Because I am self-publishing, I decided to fundraise via Kickstarter to cover the costs of the first printing, and knew that to meet my goal I’d need help spreading the word. The road trip dinner parties not only helped me raise awareness about the project, it helped put into practice the mission of the book—creating community around the table.

The trip was, hands down, one of the best experiences of my life. It was a dream not only seeing the country through the car windows, but to spend time sharing meals with creative folks in major cities along the way. I felt like I really got a pulse of what’s happening in each of these places, and I have a new appreciation for the thriving creative communities in smaller cities like Raleigh and Nashville and Austin and Seattle.

But what really stuck with me was the hospitality. I have never met such warm and generous people in my life—everyone involved in these dinners went above and beyond to help me feel welcome, and to support my cookbook. People at each dinner helped me cook, clean, decorate the tables and often even offered me a place to stay! At the end of my Kickstarter campaign, I had not only met my goal, but far exceeded it. This trip renewed my faith in the power of collaboration, generosity and hospitality, and reminded me that the table is often the best place for these three qualities to thrive.

Here are 10 things I learned on the trip.

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