This week’s tip: Make (and enjoy!) a delicious, homemade meal with friends.
Whether it’s a one-on-one occasion to catch up with a close friend, an intimate dinner party with a small group, or a big pot-luck gathering, getting together with friends over food is a great way to boost your happiness (and depending on the food you make, maybe your health too!)
Here are five reasons to consider putting a dinner-date with a friend on the calendar:
- Quality time with friends is good for your soul (and maybe your body, too!)
The saying “couples who eat together, stay together” makes a lot of sense to me — and I think it applies to friends, too! It’s kind of a given that connecting with friends is going to make you feel happy — that’s why we have them in the first place. And, in a 2011 global study involving 15,000 participants, researchers found that 43 percent of respondents believed that their friends have the most impact on their lifestyle as it pertains to health (after themselves). So, if you surround yourself with people who prioritize smart nutritional choices, spending quality time with friends over dinner is good for your health, too!
- Trying out new recipes makes you feel proud and productive
Novelty tends to make us feel excited, and successfully accomplishing something for the first time makes us feel proud! We might even get a little shot of dopamine, the “pleasure chemical” from completing a difficult recipe (or from the pleasure of eating it after!). Eating is one of the top three needs for survival, so cooking food for yourself is one the most important productive activities you could focus on. You’ll look back on the accomplishment and feel happy that you used your energy towards such a useful activity.
- Cooking with whole ingredients is good for your health
The Whole 30, Paleo, or plant-based diets are proven to be beneficial for your health — and they all involve cooking with real food! It’s easy to grab a frozen dinner or order take-out, but you never really know what ingredients went into making what you are putting in your body. If you cook a meal with whole ingredients, you’ll know everything you are eating, and you can make sure that your food choices are healthy and informed.
- Appreciating food and drink makes you feel grateful
There is a reason why many cultures have traditions of giving thanks before a meal or after a harvest. Not everyone in the world is so blessed to have easy access to food, let alone delicious food that you cooked for yourself. Whether you are enjoying a basic meal or an elaborate feast, you have something incredibly valuable to be thankful for.
- You have to eat anyway… so why not?
If you’re going to be eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner anyway, you might as well invite a friend to join you! The social connection will make you feel good. Most people could always use a listening ear, so whether you are providing support as the listener or sharing your thoughts and receiving the support, meal time is a great time for social time. (Unless, of course, what you really need is alone time — and then you should cook and eat with your best friend — yourself!)
I can tell you from my own personal experience that cooking (and eating) with friends is one of my favorite things to do. In fact, I’d like to give a special shout-out to my friend Mark for putting on the most amazing dinner party I’ve ever been to last weekend! Mark planned an intimate gathering for 6 of us, and served us a phenomenal 8-course meal inspired by Julia Child’s cooking — complete with 5 wine parings! I was so blown away that I have to share his menu — and my photos of the evening.
“The Dinner” Menu — March 5, 2016
Amuse-Bouche: Sliced Chourico baked over Chevre garnished with parsley
Pairing: Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale
Soup Course: Potage Parmentier – Potato and Leek soup garnished with diced cucumbers. Served with homemade French Bread
Pasta Course: Pates Italiennes – Spaghetti baked with parmesian cheese topped with meatball and red sauce
Pairing: Bordeaux Chateau Fages
Fish Course: Coquilles St. Jacques a la Provencale – Scallops gratinated with wine, garlic and herbs. Served with asparagus
Pairing: Cotes de Provence
Salad Course: Salade Niçoise – Mixed greens tossed with tuna, roasted red pepper, kalamata olives, shallots and a soft-boiled egg
Main Course: Boeuf Bourguignon – Beef stew in red wine with bacon, braised onions and carrots. Served with string beans
Fruit and Cheese: Roquefort, Brie, Gouda accompanied by grapes and strawberries
Dessert: Chocolate Lava Cake with Creme Anglaise
Pairing: Port Wine
I had a fabulous time throughout the evening enjoying my friends’ company. The food was fabulous and the drinks were delicious, AND Eric and I had a blast leading up to the dinner preparing the homemade french bread and the Salade Niçoise.
Not every dinner party has to be as fancy as this one, though. Sometimes just getting together with one friend and making some mac and cheese is all it takes for a little happiness boost — whatever works for you!
What do you like to cook with friends? Let me know in the comments!