This paper studies a Dutch meal sharing platform in order to understand what it means to engage in face-to-face sharing with strangers and what the performance of such transactions entails. I hypothesize that this meal sharing platform is a form of community self-organization, aiming to replace the anonymity of the food system by the creation of community relations through sharing. I used semistructured interviews, participant observations, and autoethnography to investigate the social aspects involved in this type of sharing. Focusing on rules of engagement, trust, exchange, and commodification, I argue that while first encounters in stranger food sharing may be awkward, people enter the transaction from a perspective of trust. While sharing meals through this platform is a form of true sharing and no direct reciprocity is required, consumers see their appreciation for the meals as a way to reciprocate. In that sense, positive reviews consolidate the relations between cook and consumer. Money also plays an important role in the transaction, enabling it to take place as it clarifies roles and responsibilities and shows genuine interest. However, commodification also means that users are looking for value for money, while simultaneously they expect the price to reflect the initiative’s “noncommercialness”. I conclude that there is a clear social element in this particular type of meal sharing that distinguishes it from more mainstream economic transactions. Being based on real connections, this particular performance of sharing is a way to socialize the economy, and to tackle local community problems. View Full-Text
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