Typically when we think about eating, we think about the actual food. We think about how we’ll prepare it, we calculate calories, watch our salt, gauge our sugar, consider how much protein and fiber we’re getting and even what time we’ll be scheduling it all in. I think they call this healthy lifestyle management. And, while all this is important pondering, there’s a little more that should be considered. Something that may have even bigger health benefits. Who you will share this food with. Who you will actually sit down and eat with. Sharing a meal with people is just as important as the food you eat. It has so many more benefits than we may realize. Not long ago, having dinner together [at the dining room table] was the most important meal of the day for a family. It was when we were growing up. We all had our particular seat at the table and we gathered together to chat about life. It wasn’t about the food, but more about seeing each other and connecting. Even when we were kids, we were busy with sports, music and school, so the only time we had together really, was dinner. When I was single and living in San Francisco, I grabbed a meal with someone every day. It was the culture, it’s just what we did and we made time for it. Even if it was just to eat a plate of potstickers and slug down a beer, that time with someone else was vital to my well-being. While working at Santa Clara University 100 years ago, I came up with a dining concept called Friends Eat on Fridays. We needed to increase participation and I needed a new concept that would draw in staff, faculty and people in the surrounding neighborhoods. Students were going to eat on campus no matter what – capturing additional dollars from our on-campus community and people who lived near by was my challenge. We created a menu that two or more people could share. It definitely increased participation, but what grew even more from that menu concept was mind-blowing. People loved having that time in the day to connect with someone they worked with or lived near. So people came and they came often. Making time for a coworker or friend and sharing a meal together quickly grew into a routine outing. Eventually we had to require reservations. That didn’t seem to bother people, in fact the feedback from our customers was primarily appreciation. We learned that customers not only enjoyed the food and sharing the food, but more importantly to have that time with someone brought them joy and energized their day.
Hanging with your peeps is good medicine and as we all know, here in the cloudy, cold northwest, calibrating mental health is as important as your physical health. Sharing a meal together, whether it’s a four course meal with cocktails and wine or a simple plate of potstickers, cultivates connection and polishes our emotional and spiritual being that supports our mental and physical self. This engagement contributes to the blueprint of everyday life and kind of empowers one to be the architect of their happiness.
The pandemic separated us from our people and that very important connection we need to have to feel whole and happy dissipated. It was definitely more cloudy during those many months of covid hell. Even in the summer. We’re back in the swing of seeing one another now and life is much better because we can reconnect. But even now, it’s easy to feel a bit isolated from time to time. I know I do when I spend a grueling week working and have not an ounce of energy for even a phone call. We are often consumed with work and life which can leave us with little time to connect with others. But practice. People need to practice socializing. Like, write yourself a prescription to share a meal several times a week with someone who makes you happy. It’s as good as going to the gym or seeing your therapist. It will keep you healthier. Guaranteed.
We’re a busy culture. We work too much and have too many activities that disable meals together. It’s sad to me. Of all my resolutions for 2023, this is one I want to reestablish, not only with my family, but my very busy friends as well. I’m comin’ for ya. 🙂
Here are a few ideas that can help you get into a routine of sharing meals with your peeps :
- Pizza night with your family ~ make them or just buy one! (this could be salad roll night or burrito night or ramen night or whatever…)
- Happy Hour Date ~ easy peasy
- Breakfast or Brunch Date – such a good way to kick off the day
- Soup Swap Party – (I know where you can get some soup) Here’s a link for how to do this: (https://www.thekitchn.com/soup-swap-101-how-to-throw-a-soup-swap-gatherings-from-the-kitchn-214884)
- Wine Tasting Date – nothing bad about this idea.
- Neighborhood Progressive Dinner Party (this could be brunch, lunch, happy hour or dinner) here’s a link for how to do this (https://recipes.howstuffworks.com/menus/how-to-throw-a-progressive-dinner-party.htm)
- Picnics – always fun, but we don’t always have sun. So dress accordingly and do it!
- Food Cart Day – Ummm, where to go? There are so many, you could do this twice a week for a year!
- Mixology night ~ everyone bring something to nosh and your favorite cocktail fixings to knock everyone’s socks off. Great fun.
- Potsticker & Beer day. I’m telling you, this got me through the 80’s!