How can you not like a website with this as its “about” description:
In a world where things too often don’t work, GOOD seeks a path that does. Left, right. In, out. Greed, altruism. Us, them. These are the defaults and they are broken. We are the alternative model. We are the reasonable people who give a damn. No dogma. No party lines. No borders. We care about what works–what is sustainable, prosperous, productive, creative, and just–for all of us and each of us. This isn’t easy, but we are not afraid to fail. We’ll figure it out as we go.
Call it a new party, call it a 21st century collaboration, call it an army, call it your new home. Or just call it GOOD.
GOOD launched an idea I love — 30 days of good. Every day they put out a challenge, from emailing someone you admire but have never met to lending someone a book to supporting a local business.
#18 in the GOOD 30-Day Challenge was “cook dinner for someone.”
I love this challenge for several reasons:
- Cooking for someone is such a beautiful act of generosity. It’s a gift of your time and attention, even if it’s the final product is something as basic as grilled cheese and tomato soup. When I host, I think about who we’re having over and go shopping with those guests in mind because I want to prepare a meal they’ll enjoy.
- Sharing a meal in someone’s home is intimate. You aren’t surrounded by strangers in a restaurant and paced by a waiter who decides when to take your order and when to drop the bill. You see your host’s surroundings and you can get that wonderful, easy lingering time before and after the meal without feeling you’re holding the table. Want to wait an hour between the main course and dessert? You’ll have a lot more time for conversation, without wondering if the next table over is eavesdropping, and you can ask questions about their books, art work, vacation photos, whatever’s on public display.
- Not everyone knows how to cook. It’s still surprising to me how many New Yorkers take pride in never cooking. Never. Sure, there’s great takeout food to be had here, but that can get expensive and fattening, and it removes an element of connection to your meal. You don’t get the pleasure of making something exactly how you like it, and feeling invested in your mealtime experience. Cooking for guests can show them the pleasure of a shared, homecooked meal.
Mark Bittman, my New York Times food writing hero, recently wrote that the problem with Americans’ eating habits isn’t that it’s expensive to eat well, it’s that we don’t want to cook.
Slow Food USA organized the $5 challenge, calling on people to host dinners in their homes where the cost per person was $5 or less, to help demonstrate that eating at home can be cheaper than fast food. They’re doing it again Oct. 24, so check out Slow Food’s Tumblr if you’d like some pointers on a $5 or less meal.
What’s nice about the $5 challenge is that Slow Food isn’t just suggesting you cook an inexpensive meal for your family. They suggest you share it with friends — so the act of generosity can inspire a conversation about why you support Slow Food. It’s a point of connection.
You could do the same about almost anything — cook a meal for the coach of your kid’s Little League team to spark a conversation about parenting or sports, or cook a meal for friends who share your political leanings to discuss what you hope will happen in 2012.
The core of it is sharing the gift of the meal. John and I haven’t hosted a dinner party lately but I’m inspired to get out my apron, especially after visiting friends last weekend who fed us like kings.
Want some inspiration? I’m going to be interviewing Sara Moulton for a freelance piece, and here she is with pointers on an easy, inexpensive meal from salad to dessert:
Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express is about getting food on the table in 20 minutes:
Naturally, if you’d like to throw down for a full day of cooking, we’re happy to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
How about you? Do you like cooking for friends and family?