The concept of 'perpetual stew' dates back to the 15th century, but her modern take has garnered unexpected popularity.
The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a significant blow to social events, disrupting group gatherings and raising concerns about one-on-one meetings. The necessary measures taken to control the spread of the virus, such as the suspension of social gatherings, had a profound impact on people's mental well-being. Now that the pandemic is gradually receding, individuals are making various efforts to restore a sense of togetherness in their lives. One such endeavor has been documented Annie Rauwerda—who goes by @depthsofwikipedia—as a 'perpetual stew.' This stew is always cooking and people are invited to come over and put in their own contributions or ingredients.
It is an old concept that got renewed in recent years. The 'perpetual stew' first came into existence in the 15th century. Annie Rauwerda began the stew on June 7 but had no idea that her idea would become viral, with hundreds of people standing in front of her house ready with their ingredients. In early June, Rauwerda announced on her popular Instagram account titled "Depths of Wikipedia" that she will be starting her stew. July 18th was the 40th day of her stew's continuous existence. She has titled the event a "perpetual stew summer."
The concept of "perpetual stew" was explained by British historian, Reay Tannahill in her book "Food in History." In medieval times, peasants hardly ever leave their cauldrons empty, until the beginning of the Lenten Season. For the rest of the year, except the Lenten season, food was cooked in the cauldron, with people eating from it and also adding to the preparation. There was no fear of foodborne diseases as the ingredients were constantly boiling.
Evidence of this concept put into practice was first seen in Poland during the 14th century. It was called "bigos" (or hunter's stew). This stew could be preserved and reheated for several days because of the presence of ingredients like fermented cabbage. Rauwerda has made some modern alterations and has recorded the whole process on her social media account.
The videos depict 'stew parties,' where guests bring ingredients like garlic, potato, and parsley. Potatoes seemed to be the most popular choice of element for the stew. The videos have garnered millions of views on TikTok and perpetualstew.club is a page handled by Rauwerda, which makes regular updates about the stew.
The viral response was a shock for Rauwerda. She shared her astonishment with TODAY and said, "I think the concept alone is pretty charming, the idea of things continuing. I feel that lately, especially where people can find community when you're in your 20s." She continued and said that the pandemic made individuals crave interaction. With so much of people's life online, they feel a lot of attraction towards in-person meetings.
The stew has undergone many changes ever since its creation. In order to keep it edible for everyone, it has vegetarian ingredients and is non-spicy. People are always invited to introduce ingredients, but some have been rejected by Rauwerda, like raspberries. The popularity has reached such heights that people are lining up in front of her house to become a part of this unique event.