Everyone has that one thing they can look forward to each day, whether it be going on their daily jog, seeing their friends, or even returning to their own comfy bed. I look forward to a good meal.
Food has always been the highlight of my day, keeping a consistent rhythm to my life. Every single evening I know that I can come home to a good dinner, thanks to a carefully crafted dinner schedule with my roommates. My apartment cooks family-style dinners, with enough portions to feed six people. It might sound daunting to cook for so many people, but it is incredibly helpful for three main reasons.
First, family-style dinners save me so much time during the week. It is very convenient to come home from a busy day of classes to a hot meal ready to be eaten. Rather than scrambling to find leftovers in the refrigerator to eat for dinner, one of my roommates will be cheffing it up in the kitchen. You budget an hour of time once a week to cook for five others, and then you are rewarded with five cooked meals during the week. Sounds like a fair trade to me!
Next, these family-style meals allow me to eat a wider variety of foods than I normally would. If I was left to cook for myself 7 days a week, I know that my diet would most likely consist of boxed mac and cheese, ramen noodles, and takeout pizza during my busy school week. Instead, I can rely on my roommates to choose what dinner I will be eating most nights. It is an absolute luxury to not only have dinner cooked for you but have the option of what is being served chosen for you. We all know the phrase, “I’m hungry but I don’t know what to eat,” and the family-style meal stops these words from being uttered into existence in our house. It’s always a joy to look at the whiteboard hanging in the kitchen and read what I’ll be having for dinner that evening.
Jon draws his inspiration from whatever he is feeling at the moment, generally trying to remain on the healthier side with a good amount of vegetables and proteins in his dishes. Just this past week he cooked a pasta stir-fry with an abundance of greens. Similarly, Jameson cooks mainly vegetarian meals, subbing meat for a plant-based alternative in his buffalo chickpea enchiladas and teriyaki tempeh. Andrew specializes in homestyle Asian cuisine, trying out new recipes from shrimp tempura and Cantonese steamed cod to simpler dishes like miso soup. Peter loves to cook and always makes a dish that he thinks will turn out delicious. How much time he has dictates what he’ll be cooking, if he has to study for an exam he might make a quick recipe like Sazon-seasoned chicken thighs, or if he has more time he might make a more labor-intensive dish like carnitas (which takes upwards of six hours to cook). Jason isn’t the biggest cook, so he might make a simple dish like grilled cheese or fried rice for the house.
Like many of my roommates, I love to play around and experiment with recipes I find online. I cook every Tuesday, which is the one day of the week where I have only one class. I can then put time and effort into my dinners, whether it be replicating Babish Culinary Universe’s Swedish Meatball recipe or going rogue with a recipe-free creamy chicken and green bean dish. It is so rewarding to introduce the completed dish to my roommates, almost like I’m on an episode of Iron Chef. While I love the praise, I also cherish the feedback they give me. I always ask them what they think could be improved upon, and if they’d ever like to have it as a meal again. The whole part of being a chef is learning from others and consistently practicing and trying out new things. If I didn’t receive constructive criticism that my dish needed more salt or would taste better next time with spinach over green beans, I’d never improve as a chef-in-training.
Finally, there is something sacred in the act of eating as a family unit. Having everyone assembled together for dinner each night helps us bond and catch up with one another. No matter how busy you have been that day or how many classes you’ve had, it’s nice to see each one of my friends around the table and chat over a good meal. While it might be hard some days to make the scheduled dinner time, the trouble is worth the reward of sharing a meal together. Eating breakfast and lunch alone or with one other person makes sense, but dinner is different. Dinner is not only about sharing food with friends but time with them. Environmental activist Laurie David famously said “a great dinner must include not only yummy food, but good conversation,” and I couldn’t agree more. Even if our dinner conversation consists of jokes in light-hearted conversation, time spent with one another is invaluable.
Eating family-style meals has become a custom in my apartment that I take pride in. Whenever I tell anyone that my roommate and I eat dinner together every night, I’m usually met with shock and admiration.
“That sounds so nice,” they always say. “I wish my roommates and I did that.”
To which I respond, you absolutely can.
Cover photo courtesy of Eat This, Not That