Joanna Gerber spends one night a week gathering with strangers in a public park over a pot of stew they’ve all helped concoct — and it’s been cooking for over a month.
“I thought it was such a goofy and fun idea, and I was excited by the prospect of meeting people with similar interests and a similar sense of humor to me,” Gerber, 23, told The Post. And that’s exactly what happened.
The self-proclaimed soup enthusiast from Bushwick first heard about the communal stew nights in Fermi Playground from a friend who saw a post about the open invite online.
Although it might sound like a gross new Gen Z trend — it’s actually historic. Some legendary “medieval” broths have cooked for more than 300 years, according to food historian Reay Tannahill, author of the culinary classic “Food in History.”
Fast-forward to last month: Annie Rauwerda, 24, who runs the popular account Depths of Wikipedia across multiple platforms, posted a series of now-viral videos deeming this sweaty season “perpetual stew summer.”
One clip features the meal’s Wikipedia entry, which explains that “perpetual stew, also known as forever soup, hunter’s pot or hunter’s stew, is a pot into which whatever foodstuffs one can find is placed and cooked.”
And then comes the historic, albeit slightly stomach-churning reality: “The pot is never or rarely emptied all the way, and ingredients and liquid are replenished as necessary. Such foods can continue cooking for decades or longer, if properly maintained.”
Rauwerda began simmering potato leek in her Crockpot on June 7. She told The Post she planned to keep it cooking for at least five days — and now it’s been over a month.
After initially inviting some friends over to add to the stew, which was documented in a TikTok video that has now amassed over 2 million views, Rauwerda put out a call for prospective “stew-friends” near Bushwick to join the stew crew.
Her first public event at Fermi saw about 50 attendees, among whom it was generally agreed upon that the gathering and grub were equally “stewper-duper.”
The stews have carried on for several weeks now, with people gathering in the Brooklyn park to add their vegan ingredients to the cauldron and join the “stew-mmunity,” including Gerber, who has now attended four stew nights.
“Everyone comes with a shared curiosity and mild amusement, with the intention of getting to know the other people who come,” Gerber said.
“The technique of making the stew seems almost symbolic of the community it creates — everyone contributing to the meal turns the entire night into a communal, shared experience with a heightened sense of community,” the fan continued. “We’re all a part of creating this bizarre, and surprisingly delicious, thing together.”
She’s shared that some stews have tasted better than others (check out the June 18 update highlighting Gerber’s spice mix) depending on what ingredients her “stew-dents” bring — but she makes sure to keep the concoction simmering at 200 degrees Fahrenheit (she connects to a generator while at the park) for flavor and food safety reasons.
Perpetual stews are commonly associated with medieval inns. However, the concept has stood the test of time and traveled all around the world.
Historians have also documented a pot-au-feu in Normandy that has reportedly been burning for 300 years, and another one in Perpignan that began in the 1400s but didn’t survive World War II.
Food writer Arthur Prager recommended refrigerating the soup overnight if unfinished, then skimming the fat off the top — where bacteria tend to build up — and simmering for at least 20 minutes before serving again.
While leftover veggies and meat are discarded after two rounds of reheating, the broth, Prager said, “will never spoil.”
However, like Rauwerda’s, the pots are typically nearly depleted by the end of a meal, leaving behind only broth that will be used to start and flavor the next batch — one that Elaina Giannetti, 23, plans to taste.
The virology researcher living on the Lower East Side traveled across the bridge last week to sip on some stew after her friend who lives in Colorado begged her to go in his place. She plans to return.
“It felt like a group of genuine people who wanted to do something together that was a bit out of the ordinary,” she told The Post.
Garrett Zelada, 33, was a part of that group. He attended the event last week with his fiancée, Nafisa Khan, 27, after reading about the event online while trying to decide what to do with their night after their flight back home to San Jose, California, was canceled.
“The soup was balanced, had tremendous depth and left us sated,” the X-ray technologist told The Post.
“This perpetual stew experience not only gave us sustenance in the literal sense — but reminded us of how great it is to be around a sense of a loving community,” Zelada said. “It was a true New York experience.”