Every Tuesday evening at the Fermi Playground in Bushwick, an increasingly large crowd gathers to share a meal together.
It's not a typical potluck, though... There is only one dish on the menu, and it is the star of the show.
This dish is called a perpetual stew, which is an obscure tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, in which friends and family keep a pot of thick soup boiling and add new ingredients to the pot every few days.
The logic is that if people continue contributing vegetables and stock to a boiling pot, the liquid inside will become fragrant and hearty while still safe to eat. In a definitive 21st century twist, this particular stew is vegan to include a range of diets.
At the event, guests bring an ingredient to add to the steaming cauldron. Annie Rauwerda, the event's organizer, presides over the pot to approve every addition to ensure the flavor stays balanced.
Rauwerda, a Brooklynite known for her popular and wonderfully bizarre social media account, Depths of Wikipedia, laid the groundwork for this particular stew on June 7 and has kept it simmering ever since, with no end in sight.
“I’ve always wanted to do it, and I’m finally doing it! It’s perpetual stew summer,” she said in a TikTok video on June 10.
Rauwerda keeps her community in the loop on the hilarious trials and tribulations of perpetual stew management via a daily log, where she confesses things like “Thinking big. Googling things like ‘dunk tank rental NYC’ and ‘price of cast iron cauldron’ and ‘how to fill the statue of liberty's torch with stew.’”
On June 13, Rauwerda wrote, “Looking for someone named Stew or Stu to be the guest of honor.” Finally, on July 5, the first Stu made an appearance, and he was crowned at the event.
At least a hundred people were in attendance at the stew event on July 11, despite the 90-degree heat. It was newcomer Pat Little’s first stew, so he joked that he was “brand stew” and said he was there “for a fleeting chance at a medieval moment.”
People stayed for hours chatting. Some attendees came with friends, but many came alone and bonded with other fellow perpetual stew devotees.
“What’s so beautiful about the stew is its versatility in puns,” said return attendee Izzy Bennett, who lives a block away from the park.
Attendee Michael Skidmore came all the way in from New Jersey for the event. A longtime Depths of Wikipedia fan, Skidmore called Rauwerda’s stew night series “another zany idea, and a really interesting cultural experiment.”
Rauwerda presided over an iron cauldron containing the one-month-old stew and kicked off the event by reading aloud a verse from Genesis 25:30: “He said to Jacob, ‘Quick, let me have some of that red stew, I’m famished.’”
And what of the stew itself? Despite Rauwerda’s fears that she had gone way too hard with the salt, most people cleaned their bowls.
“The flavor was definitely at least a week old,” Skidmore said approvingly.
First-timers Hannah Shaw and Emily Atkinson both enjoyed the stew.
“It was much better than I thought. It kind of reminded me of salsa," Shaw said. "I think it was pretty well-seasoned. I would go back for seconds; that means something.”
“The bottom line is, it’s surprisingly good," Atkinson said. "If the broth is bad, the whole soup is bad, but the broth is good, so the soup is good.”
Joanna Gerber has been coming to the stew nights since they first began. She said this was probably the best version of the stew yet.
“What is a stew, if not a time capsule?” Gerber said. “The stew is the zeitgeist.”
The next stew gathering will be on Tuesday, July 18, at Fermi Playground in Bushwick, beginning at 7:00pm.
Annie Rauwerda did not immediately respond to a request for comment.