Numerous authors, researchers, and public figures have recently spoken out about the importance of shared meals. Michael Pollen has discuss this in his well-known books and ahead-of-the-curve doctors have re-invented their practices to include meal planning. While living on the road, one of the things I have enjoyed even more than climbing is cooking food with other people, either at their homes, or our of the back of the car. I’ve already forgotten about some of the climbs I have done, but some of the meals I have shared are extremely memorable.
Eating together provides a chance to share food ideas and dishes, but more importantly, a chance to build lasting relationships as discussion topics turn from climbing (often the discussion on the road) to things that are often more interesting: politics, morals and values, personal stories and pursuits, relationships, careers and other things that impact each of our lives. It gives us a chance to focus on nourishing our bodies physically, with healthy food, and mentally, with stimulating conversation, smiles, and laughter.
Because I’ve been finding these shared meals and enjoyable lately, I wanted to share a few short tips that may help you to enjoy more meals with friends, family and neighbors:
- Let other people contribute where possible, instead of doing it all yourself. This can alleviate the feeling that you have to do all the work every time. Although I personally really enjoy cooking, and can become quite the control freak about each dish (sorry!), its fun to get other people involved. They feel like they have contributed, and you don’t have to take on the whole task yourself. Some people might not want to cook but might want not mind doing the dishes – let them!
- Find creative meals that will get people excited. While in Squamish, I had the chance to eat dinner quite a few times with new friends. As these folks worked during the day, cooking together at night provided a chance to sit down during the evening when our schedules aligned. Cooking interesting dishes made it even more fun. One night, Katrina, Justin, and Lindsey made several different Indian dishes. Another night we made pizza, including an amazing Cauliflower pizza recipe.
- Be considerate of other peoples dietary needs. There are a lot of foods that people choose to avoid these days: soy, dairy, meat, nuts, non-grass fed meats, sugar, and the list goes on. As someone who likes to adhere to a particular diet, I really value when people respect my choices, even if he/she doesn’t agree with them. Ask people ahead of time about what they do or do not eat, and be prepared to get a little creative or to be flexible.
- Be inclusive and worry about costs later. Sure, cooking food for a lot of people can be expensive. There are a couple ways to think about it though that you should keep in mind. First, people will often offer the things they can to reciprocate: food items, money, the next meal, etc. Second, isn’t the strong community of good friends that can be formed through eating together more valuable than the extra avocado you’ll have to use??