No phones allowed at this picnic

It is common to see people occupied with their smartphones even as they dine with family and friends.

But at the picnic dinners organised by social movement Hygge, there is one strict rule: no distractions, especially mobile phones.

Hygge, pronounced "hooga" and named after the Danish concept for creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with others, is run by chef Pamelia Chia and urban farming specialist Wex Woo, both 24.

By candlelight at MacRitchie Reservoir, the host couple and their guests share food as they discuss topics such as where their food comes from and whether to buy from ethical sources.

So far, 10 such dinners with the purpose of getting people to discuss social issues and get to know one another have been held since July last year.

Hygge was one of the organisations featured at a recent exhibition by social movement Best of You, which wants people to consider the actions and values that have shaped their lives.

"We were inspired by the supper club and underground restaurant scene in the United Kingdom, specifically the idea of bringing strangers together for a meal. The menu always comprises food that can be passed around the table," said Ms Chia.

At the most recent dinner in September, guests discussed the sustainability of the food chain. "We felt that there was a lack of understanding about where our food was coming from and the ethical implications of our choices as eaters and as consumers," said Ms Chia.

One of the attendees, writer Clara Lock, 25, who went with three friends, said it was a nice setting to meet new people. "I thought the picnic centred on communal dining and conversation was a fun concept to bring people together," she said.

The food was prepared at Ms Chia's home. Dishes included Arabic salad barley feta tabbouleh, lemon and bay leaf posset, a kind of milk curdled with wine or ale, and beef cheek bourguignon.

Guests pay $25 to attend the dinner and are welcome to give more if they so wish to support charitable causes.

At one dinner, $250 was raised for the Singapore Red Cross' relief fund for the Nepal earthquake in April.

"Since Hygge started last July, what we have come to realise is that the best sessions were not those with the best food or the best locations, but those where people were open to sharing their lives and perspectives through conversations we shared," said Ms Chia.

Hygge's next event is slated for Nov 10 and will also focus on sustainability.

This article was first published on November 5, 2015.
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