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Bringing Back the Family Dinner

Today we share with you a blog post from Shikha Kaiwar of Shikha la Mode, a self-proclaimed San Francisco pastry fiend. Read on to discover how she connects to the original social network – the dining table!

Photo Credit: Olivia Bodzin

Photo Credit: Olivia Bodzin

When you think of “family dinners,” images of awkward conversations and repetitive entrees spring to mind; it’s not the most glamorous way to describe a meal. But at its core, the dinners present a notion of communal dining and a gathering of like-minded people who come to know each other a little bit better.

In college, my friends and I sought to bring back that inherent concept by creating our own family dinners. Once a month, the lot of us met at the apartment of the friend with the largest kitchen and dining room (this friend didn’t really have a choice, but we made up for it by doing all the set-up and cleanup).

To jazz it up, each dinner had a theme. They ranged from American, for 4th of July, to beginning with the letter “A.” Once the theme was decided, every part of the meal – from appetizer to dessert to even drinks – had to fit in, and each person attending had to contribute something. Sticking to these rules allowed for everyone to be on the same page and lead to some challenges that we collaboratively solved – the Vietnamese-themed dinner took us on a chase around the city to find appropriate beer…and we ended up making Vietnamese coffee.

More than enough of this summer favorite to share. Photo Credit: www.shikhalamode.com

More than enough of this summer favorite to share.
Photo Credit: Shikha Kaiwar

But that was college, when friends lived mere blocks from each other and any night was an excuse not to study. In today’s environment, the circumstances are slightly different. Friends live one neighborhood, two hills, three bus stops, or four times the price of a car ride away; there are multiple friend groups rather than the core college crew; and everyone is on the “grind.”

Given these less-than-ideal situations, I present some pointers to circumvent all that and assure that you can still have a family dinner complete with the traditions and fun that I had in college:

1) Plan Ahead: People love to commit to everything and subsequently nothing at all. They like waiting for “the next best thing,” so be that next best thing. Send out invites and emails at least 2-3 weeks in advance so friends can mark their calendars.

2) Assign: Not to take it back to college, but giving people homework will not only lessen the burden on you, but it holds them accountable. Plus, the dinner becomes much more interesting when individuals have something to contribute and can share their own story of why they chose their dish.

3) Themes: If you haven’t noticed, I’m a sucker for anything with a theme, whether that is a onesie night or a Beyonce dinner (Crazy in Lentils, anyone?). Eating is supposed to be fun, so get creative with it!

4) Feastly: A key aspect of communal dining is meeting new people and exchanging ideas. Feastly does a great job of connecting cooks (and diners!) from many different places and lets them embark on a culinary adventure at each meal. They help you plan appropriately, scale accordingly, and highlight your passions for whatever type of dinner you choose to host. Through a few clicks, you meet people as curious and hungry as you and everyone walks away satisfied.

From the family dinners in college to the meals I plan today, the friends I eat with are some of the closest I have had. We live in a world of communal affairs, and eating should be no different. After all, there is something about sitting at the same table and reveling over dishes that begin with the letter “A” that can’t quite be duplicated without the notion of sharing.

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