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Norwich chews on the issues

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Which sounds more enticing: 1) a discussion of town planning, or 2) a steaming cup of homemade turkey, sausage and vegetable stew with a slice of fresh bread and some pumpkin pie for dessert?

Most folks would lean toward the latter. But why choose when you can have both? A group of concerned citizens in the tiny town of Norwich - home to world-famous King Arthur Flour - decided to make talking about the issues a little more palatable. How? By bringing politics to the table at an event called "Town Eating Day," which took place last Saturday in advance of this Tuesday's Town Meeting Day.

According to co-organizer Rob Gurwitt - the people behind the event don't share any particular partisan or professional affiliation - sharing food has the power to "bring people together and diffuse tension." Even after a heated discussion about the future of the volunteer fire department or the volume of traffic on Main Street. "We decided that everybody sitting down and eating together . . . created a better atmosphere," Gurwitt explains. Lisa Cadow, who coordinated the culinary offerings, agrees: "This seemed like a great way to bring people together on a weekend in a way that was welcoming and accessible."

Even though 50 or 60 people showed up to chat about the town's high taxes and then chow on brownies and coconut squares, Gurwitt was sure there would still be plenty more work on plain old Town Meeting Day. But not cinnamon-scented chili, an exotic beef stew with dates, or cream of mushroom soup.

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