When you invite a large group -- say, 1,300 -- of some of the brightest young people from 180 countries to your home for dinner, what do you serve?
Pittsburgh is serving up a very warm welcome to delegates, in their 20s, to this week's One Young World Summit, by inviting groups of them to home dinners around the city and the region after breakout sessions Saturday.
"What better way for people to feel welcome than to have citizens of the city open their doors and homes to them and share a meal," says Steve Sokol, president of the World Affairs Council, which jumped on this idea and has helped organize dinners by about 100 Pittsburghers of all types.
Those who wanted to host were asked to be prepared to serve some kosher, halal and vegetarian fare, but otherwise, what to serve and how was up to them. The gatherings range from swanky to scary.
At his Squirrel Hill home, Pittsburgh Foundation president Grant Oliphant and his Leadership Pittsburgh president wife, Aradhna, are serving a multicourse American menu (catered by All in Good Taste) that aims to reflect this place (Boyd & Blair vodka for those who are old enough, Sauteed Pierogies) as well as the season (Petite Phyllo Cups with Pumpkin Cheesecake).
In Shadyside, Boyd & Blair's Prentiss Orr is having about a dozen vegan or vegetarian and/or gluten-free delegates in for lasagna and "I don't know what it's going to be except it's going to be made with a vodka sauce."
In Squirrel Hill, lawyer Steve Irwin and his wife, Andi, take it a step farther with a Halloween-themed bash that will include pumpkin pierogies, as well as a pumpkin-carving contest and a firepot for roasting marshmallows, plus "makeup for willing guests by Tom Savini's shop." They'll have about 20 delegates, plus an equal number of local young people.
Ms. Wheelchair America 2012 Josie Badger, a One Young World delegate last year and this year, is doing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, with turkey and all the fixings, plush wines from around America, at a friend's home in Ross where she lives.
While most of these gatherings are private, you can get in to one of them. The New Pittsburgh Collaborative, a coalition of 10 young-minded groups, is hosting 50 delegates for a "'Burgh Meets (One Young) World" party at East Liberty's Shadow Lounge. A $25 ticket gets you eats from BRGR, Spoon, Salim's, Bangkok Balcony and Silk Elephant, plus Eat'n Park Smiley Cookies and a drink (NewPittsburghCollaborative.org).
There are dinners at Chatham and Robert Morris universities. The latter's 40 delegates will join about 30 staff and faculty at the home of Vice Provost for Research & Graduate Study Derya Jacobs, whose culinary themes are "Pittsburgh Sampler" (with pierogies, BBQ Chipped Ham Sliders and more) and "International Favorites" (including Adana Kebab from her hometown in Turkey).
UPMC Health Plan chief financial officer Scott Lammie is hosting a healthy but tasty one -- choices include whole-wheat pasta, brown rice and lots of fruits and vegetables, but also a fro' yo' sundae bar -- at the Clemente Museum in Lawrenceville. UPMC's Madelyn Fernstrom said, "Why not show how you can make healthier choices?"
Some dinners are grouped -- around one intersection in Squirrel Hill, on one street in Fox Chapel.
On the North Side, the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, the Mattress Factory and the City of Asylum all are doing dinners. City of Asylum spokesperson Elizabeth Baisley says that because a number of its 20 guests require halal or vegetarian cuisine, they're having their food catered by Salem's.
In Fox Chapel, Thar Technolgies' Lalit Chordia's wife, Supriya, plans a mix simple homemade and catered vegetarian food, but she is making her eight guests Mixed Dahl of seven types of lentils, tomatoes and spinach.
At their appropriately green home in East Liberty, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre executive director Harris Ferris' wife, Janet, decided to make Cowboy Chicken, with apple pie and ice cream for dessert. She also invited some neighbors, including a couple whose parents are German and Indian, "to show what a melting pot this is."
Logistically, the World Affairs Council's Mr. Sokol notes, it's very complicated to bus the delegates from their sessions to the dinners and then back Downtown. But he believes this is how visitors can get a true taste of Pittsburgh, and vice versa, no matter what everybody eats.
As he puts it, "The emphasis is really on bringing people together, breaking bread together, and having a conversation."
Bob Batz Jr.: email@example.com or 412-263-1930; Twitter: @bobbatzjr.