Food Brings Us Together!

How Communal Meals Can Help You Save Money and Make Friends

 
 
Communal Dining
 
 
 

Food gives us a sense of identity: a connection to our past, present, and future. It helps us foster community, even when we’re thousands of miles away from home. Through the food we eat, we can create a home away from home, or a new sense of what it means to be home.

First-generation immigrants know all about this.

Having traveled across the world to build new lives, with new sights, sounds, and tastes, many immigrants still yearn for a taste of home. Many bring their family recipes with them (or make urgent phone calls to mummy ji or bebe ji in case they forgot!). Through cherished dishes they hope to recreate the same flavors they grew up with, and while doing so, create a sense of belonging in their new homeland.

Sometimes in the process of recreating old recipes, melding together different ingredients creates something surprising; a fusion that mixes the old with the new. Hello chicken tikka masala!

When you make a dish and share it with others, you’re sharing more than just the dish: you’re expressing parts of yourself. And you’re connecting. Food is a way to share your heritage with people from different backgrounds. Cooking as a family or with friends brings us together.

The benefits of eating together

Many arguments can be made for setting aside a time and a place to eat together. Communal dining can help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation. The table is a place where the family gathers, be it a family by blood or a family of the heart.

The act of sitting down and sharing a meal with other people is a symbol of solidarity. It’s a small act with a not-so-small impact. You eat, you talk, and you bond. It’s a community-building exercise!

Eating together with friends is also a way to develop a regular mealtime schedule, which has positive effects both physically and psychologically. When you share meals, you’re less likely to stress about overspending on food and about meal-planning. You’re also less likely to overeat or make other unhealthy choices. Finally, you’re more likely to be relaxed and happy when surrounded by friends and loved ones.

Another important benefit of communal dining is that it’s incredibly cost efficient. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average amount a single person spent on food in 2013 was $3,654 (more than 40 percent of which was dining out). In contrast, a family of four spent about $2,400 per person. This is because larger quantities of food cost less per unit, and buying perishables in bulk isn’t conducive for single people.

Make communal meals part of your routine

Give communal dining a chance, beyond the Thanksgiving holiday! For example, you and your friends might consider taking turns cooking for each other. Each week, one of you could be in charge of preparing a meal for the group. The leftovers could then be divided among everyone. This way you could all save money while benefiting from the sense of togetherness created through shared meals.

Impress your friends and neighbors with your cooking skills, share your culture, and enjoy the cultures of others. You’ll be happier and healthier if you eat together!