It is Monday night in Austin, Texas, and Sarah texts her friends Steve and Monica some photographs of the recipes she and her husband Jedd plan to cook that week. Steve and Monica review the recipes and excitedly reply, “Let’s make the roasted beet flatbread pizza… nom nom!”
About a year ago, Sarah and Jedd invited friends to cook and eat a meal with them. One year later, the event has turned into a weekly tradition.
Sarah and Jedd, who were cooking about three four-serving recipes a week, were in the habit of saving leftovers for lunch but realized that the extra food provided an opportunity to break bread with friends.
It is Thursday night and Sarah and Jedd ring the doorbell of the familiar home of friends Steve and Monica with recipe ingredients in hand. First at the door is Ruby, the couple’s dog. After Monica, Steve, and Ruby warmly greet their friends, all walk into a spacious kitchen, to settle into their usual roles and embark on the cooking experience.
On a typical night, Jedd and Steve take the lead cooking the meal, while the ladies congregate at the kitchen island supervising and providing input on critical decision points the men encounter. Conversation flows freely, Sarah and Monica practice drawing skills from an online drawing course, and Ruby scampers about melting the hearts of all with big longing eyes as food smells fill the kitchen.
From Sarah’s perspective, cooking with friends has provided a tremendous benefit. While Sarah has cooked for the last 10 years, nine of those years were spent cooking at a more “basic” level. Introducing new recipes and including friends with more cooking experience has given Sarah more confidence and skills in the kitchen. It also helps her and Jedd relieve the burden of cooking all of their weekly meals.
Sarah explains that while the friends could easily get together at a restaurant or order takeout, cooking meals together provides a more social and collaborative experience.
In addition, cooking meals together has allowed the friends to make progress on health and sustainability goals. Sarah and Jedd have recently adopted a more plant-based diet and cut back on food waste with the support of their weekly dinner parties, and Monica and Steve have adopted a composting system after watching how Sarah and Jedd saved food scraps for future composting.
Over the last year, Sarah and Jedd have enjoyed sharing this weekly model of social cooking parties with a variety of other friends. Sarah has enjoyed nights when she cooks with girlfriends, finding that she can include a larger group, as the same meals feed five or six of her girlfriends. The couple admits that they may have started a bit of a trend, as they have noticed an increase in invitations to similar dinner parties in their circle of friends.
It is the same Thursday night, and friends Sarah, Jedd, Monica, and Steve have eaten a delicious meal, cleaned up after themselves, and are now kicking back to enjoy the last few moments of their night with close friends. Perhaps in the back of their minds the friends remember to savor this moment, to relish in the experience of fraternizing with people they care about.
In the months to come Sarah and Jedd will move to England and will miss the camaraderie and proximity of close friends Monica and Steve.
Sarah is grateful for the quality time and experience of the last year and intends to establish the same practice in England. She hopes that the uniting experience will help the couple build new friendships and bonds in a faraway place, as it did in Austin.