This Viral ‘Perpetual Stew’ Has Been Cooking for Over a Month

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This Viral ‘Perpetual Stew’ Has Been Cooking for Over a Month

If you find yourself in Bushwick, Brooklyn, anytime soon, you may come across a park where hungry people are huddled around a Crockpot bubbling with a stew that’s now been cooking for over a month—44 days at the time of writing. The stew is the brainchild of Annie Rauwerda, a Wikipedia editor and content creator who came across a Wikipedia article for perpetual stew. Perpetual stews came to the fore in medieval times, when random ingredients would be added to a constantly boiling pot. Although portions of the stew are ladled out and eaten, the pot is never fully emptied, leaving broth and stray ingredients to be incorporated into the next iteration of the stew.

“I saw the perpetual stew Wikipedia article in the middle of 2020. I didn’t edit the article, I was just reading it,” says Rauwerda. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that is such a fun idea, and I would love to do that sometime.’ But it took three years to get around to it.”

Now, the stew is going strong. Although Rauwerda originally just intended to keep it boiling on the stove to share with friends, the project quickly gained ground as videos of the stew went viral on TikTok. She hauled out her Crockpot and headed to a local park, posting an open invitation to the internet in the process.


stew is forever

♬ original sound – Annie Rauwerda

The response has been overwhelming. News outlets like Insider and the Washington Post have reported on the stew, which has been drawing crowds of hungry, curious stew-eaters. Guests are required to bring something to add to the stew, but it has to be vegan. Sometimes, Rauwerda says, the stew is delicious, like when someone brought a particularly flavorful spice mix. Other times, it’s less than impressive on the flavor front—one particular batch was mostly comprised of watery tomatoes and a can of chickpeas, so it’s kind of the luck of the draw what kind of stew experience you’re going to get when you show up.

Rauwerda says that the perpetual stew project has been a great way to connect with her community. I just moved to [Bushwick] in March. I didn’t know that many people nearby… and now, I know tons of people who live nearby, so that’s been really exciting.”

Although most of the stew-goers are locals, either to the neighborhood or to Brooklyn in general, a few people have traveled from far away to get a taste of the perpetual stew; attendees have come from as far as New Jersey and Connecticut.

Admittedly, some are skeptical about the idea of eating a stew that’s been boiling away for well over a month, but Rauwerda says that the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. “I didn’t expect people to be so positive overall. Like, the idea is a little gross. There are many people that find it really disgusting.” Others may be turned off not by the stew itself but rather by the idea of eating stew in the blistering NYC heat, but Rauwerda doesn’t buy into the summer stew naysayers. “I don’t really believe in such a thing as stew season,” she says.

Regardless of whether you would personally dig into a bowl of the perpetual stew or not, it’s hard to deny that it’s a particularly clever way of connecting with your neighborhood. Other than physically sustaining us, food plays an important role in our lives by fostering community; what better way of coming together is there than breaking bread? Or, in this case, ladling stew? But Rauwerda has created a kind of coming-together over food that’s more democratic and accessible than most. You don’t have to pay $50 to sit down at a restaurant with the friends you haven’t seen in a month to enjoy some human-to-human connection over a meal—you just have to dump some chopped celery into a Crockpot in the middle of a park in Bushwick.

The fact that the perpetual stew has gone so viral says something about our food culture: We’re all hungry for community and novelty and continuity in this age of loneliness and sameness and impermanence. “It’s kind of beautiful to imagine that there are some things out there that never end, and perpetual stew is one of those things that appears to never end.”

Currently, Rauwerda does have a tentative end date in mind. You’ll have to grab a bowl of perpetual stew before August 6 if you want to get a taste. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean her stew-based community-building days are coming to an end forever. “I’ll put some in my freezer, and if I want to do a revival, I’ll at least have the option.”

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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