I’ve been wanting to do a little tribute to my friends that i live near in the Bay for a while since starting this blog and think this post is perfect for celebrating food and friends together. So since the start of the year my friends and i have been running a weekly mid week dinner party. We like to call it ‘Come Dine with Me’ which apparently is ripped off from a TV show where people cook for each other too. The dinner parties ran for 7 weeks with the basis that a different person cooks a three course meal each week of whatever they like as long as it was something they enjoyed themselves. It always brought up a healthy discussion on plastic too. The cook of the week could invite as many friends as they like for their night but the same 7 friends were always invited. So i have put some photos and explanations below of our mid week dinner parties. You may be wondering why i am talking about this on a blog predominantly about living without plastic but i realised during these weeks the benefits that sharing meals together has on our environment, our physical health, our mental health and our culinary education. So i have listed below how this experience may assist us in minimising our plastic consumption in between each week’s menus.
Buying in bulk = When you are cooking for one or two people you tend to buy smaller portions of food. Whether it be apples, meat, cereal, rice, coconut milk, anything. And so each time we buy these small portions we are buying them in packaging. When you cook altogether you usually use a similar amount of packaging for 1-2 people as you do for 7, therefore minimising the amount of plastic consumed in that night. So it gets you thinking that if we can buy in bulk and we can cook in bulk , then we can save these meals in the freezer or feed to the masses and not require the throw away material per person. Often buying in bulk becomes less expensive because you actually use less packaging than every single serve you usually buy. Im lucky in my area that i can buy many staple products in bulk from stores like ‘The Source’ http://thesourcebulkfoods.com.au and ‘Santos’ http://santostrading.com.au/home.html, which have all the dry goods you can think of from nuts to rice to pasta to powdered protein and powdered greens. I can even buy oils in bulk into using my own glass containers or brown paper bags. This really is a great way to minimise plastic use as it completely cuts out the packaging. However the produce itself is actually stored enlarge plastic containers which you then scoop out into your container of choice. I wonder if there was another way to store it all????? At least this plastic is being re-used and not thrown away after every use like our smaller portions we have coating our supermarket purchases.
Out of the 7 weeks we ran the group dinners, each person only had to cook once. Which meant that one night a week for 6 weeks, i got a three course meal served to me for nothing! There is usually always one mid week meal a week that i will go and eat out due to finishing late or being too tired to cook after work which is always more expensive than cooking it yourself at home. I used to get takeaway but due to plastic containers this is not always easy for me.So during this 7 weeks i noticed that i wasn’t spending as much money as the group night had filled this gap. And in terms of the others, there was a decreased consumption of takeaway containers because they too were using the group dinner as their ‘takeaway night’.
Portion control: When you cook for 7 there is generally not a lot of left overs and this stopped me from over-eating. Previously i’ve needed to maintain a large food intake to keep up my energy stores and muscle repair for the large amount of physical activity i used to do. Sometimes the temptation to eat like i used to can enter into my mind especially if I’ve made an amazing pasta or dessert. However i don’t need that much food anymore as i am not as insanely overactive. If we are patient and wait 20 minutes after eating , you usually find that you are full, there is just a 20 minute delay before we realise this. So often directly after our final spoon full we go back for more. These dinners gave me the portion i needed without the further temptation. I also found that you didn’t really think about seconds because it was a social night too and we were usually chatting about plastic (joking) or playing some form of entertaining game which was also a pre-requisite of the host: Along with your 3 course meal you also had to provide a form of entertainment.
Power: We also use less energy when cooking for a group. You use the same energy with an oven, stove top, blender, kettle for one person as you do for 7 people when making a meal, So we have also reduced our energy consumption once a week by 6.
This is Marlin, the Swede. She decided to do a Swedish feast, which i have to admit i had no idea what it would consist of but my taste buds were delighted at the end of the night! We had an entree of smoked salmon and creme fresh` on crusty toast as entree. Main was a pasty style pastry with minced meat and vegetables inside with cranberry salad on the side. But dessert was the winner for Marlin which was a chocolate brownie style pudding that was super soft in the middle and lightly crunchy on the outside. There is a specific Swedish name for this, however i don’t think i have enough letters on my keyboard to write it here and the pronunciation is really not that easy either. So lets just keep it to what i wrote above.
Variety: Australia is a pretty multicultural place, especially Byron Bay so our ‘Come Dine with Me’s’ were also quite educational when it came to new cooking ideas. Even i can end up cooking the same 7 things week in, week out when i’m having a busy month at work and this gave me a few new ideas and a good change to the stomach over the 7 weeks. I’l never forget , even before studying nutrition how important it is to have food variety. Not only for the many different vitamins and minerals we absorb from different types of foods that our body wants but, also the different types of good bacteria and enzymes food variety gives us for out stomachs. When i was 19 i had a friend who decided to be Vegetarian without any guidance on how to make vegetarian food. She was soon at the doctor with stomach cramps and it was due to having only rice , beans and salsa for almost every meal for a couple of months. The mysterious illness which we had nicknamed ‘Steve’ soon disappeared after a few changes.
Social Factor: I often work solely by myself seeing patients Monday to Friday at my clinic without anyone else to talk to in my breaks. This can get a bit lonely and can get me down, especially if you usually like to be a social person. I found the nights that we came together to share food was a perfect ‘mid-week-slump-breaker’ and if you’d had a bad day at work, it was soon forgotten once you were home with your friends. Staying social is so important. In Australia we have an alarmingly high rate of suicide, yet we are not a poor country or at war? Many scientists believe it’s because of our isolation and lack of communication that limits our ability to talk about problems and feel alone with them. Having a group dinner once a week maintains those friendships that can get lost when we are leading busy careers or families. I mean you are going to eat dinner anyway, so we may as well do it together every now and again!