Last Friday, I spent an entire afternoon and evening cooking with one of my oldest friends. She arrived at my house around 2:30 and stayed until midnight. It was a blast! We made mac and cheese, collard greens, a black-eyed pea recipe called Hoppin’ John, a raw apple pie and a pitcher of almond milk. Whew! It was exhausting and energizing at the same time. All weekend, I’ve been thinking about the power of cooking with friends and family. Many of us cook primarily alone, even when we’re cooking for our families. But cooking alongside a friend or family member can be a profound experience. Here are some of my thoughts about why it’s worth it to take the time and invite someone you care about into your kitchen to cook together:
1. You’ll Strengthen the Relationship
Food is nourishing on so many levels. In addition to physical nourishment, food prepared with quality ingredients – and love – has the power to heal us emotionally and spiritually, as well. Imagine a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal you enjoyed as a child and you’ll understand the magic of sharing a good meal with loved ones. When you actually have a hand in preparing the food, that magic is multiplied. Preparing a meal with a loved one is a powerful tool that helps to strengthen the bond you have with that person. Plus, it creates some lovely memories.
2. You’ll Learn Something New
This is perhaps the most obvious benefit of sharing a cooking experience. My friend is very accomplished in the kitchen. On Friday, I learned from her two different methods of making almond milk, how to make a raw pie crust, the best way to cook black-eyed peas in a pressure cooker and countless other valuable tidbits.
I’ve often tried teaching myself to prepare recipes on my own. Most of the time it works out well enough, but having a someone watch my technique and give me pointers made the learning process much more effective and prevented me from developing less than helpful habits.
3. You’ll Prepare Dishes You Might Not Attempt On Your Own
I love beans. Maybe because my mother enjoys them so I ate them pretty often growing up. But I don’t own a pressure cooker and had never prepared them that way. My friend brought hers over last week and it was a revelation. The black-eyed peas were done in no time! Now I see how valuable a pressure cooker would be and I’m planning on buying one myself.
I’ve also always been a little intimidated by the prospect of preparing raw dishes. Anytime I’ve eaten at a raw restaurant, the food has been amazing. But it’s so different from traditional cooking – different techniques and recipes, different ingredients, different ways of combining flavors and textures. But making the raw apple pie with my friend (which was delicious, by the way) showed me that raw “cooking” isn’t as foreign as I had imagined. Now I’m eager to continue to learn more about preparing raw dishes.
It’s not always easy to find enough time to cook, let alone enough to invite a friend over and spend the good part of the day in the kitchen. But it is certainly worth it! And it doesn’t have to be an all day affair. Making pancakes with your partner on a Sunday morning can have the same effect. The important part is sharing the process – and the food – with someone you love.