I have long been a believer in the power of food to bring people together. It’s central to everything from first dates to fancy parties to friendly get-togethers. As we all settle back into our busy schedules and daily routines, we come together over food—sharing a meal is typically the way that we catch up with friends who we’ve missed over the break, whether it’s brunch at Usdan or coffee on Main Street. This semester, though, I’d like to suggest something a little different: cooking together.

Working with your friends in order to make a meal is a fun and simple way to become closer. It’s a great way to be exposed to different foods and different ways of eating, particularly if one person can share an aspect of their background or culture through the food that you help create with them. Even if no one in the group has any experience with cooking, and even if you end up burning your meal and ordering take-out, you’ll have shared something with the people you love and you’ll have learned together.

Over winter break, my friends and I got together multiple times to cook—everything from eggplant rollatini to cheesecake brownies to homemade vegan pizza. Not only did my cooking skills improve, but my friendships did as well. The act of working alongside other people to create something is intimate, and the ability to enjoy your hard work together is deeply satisfying and rewarding. It’s like the perfect internship—you’ll gain the hard skills of learning to cook for yourself, along with the soft skills of working with others and communication and whatever else we are supposed to have when applying for jobs.

It’s also a fantastic early date option, for those of you who are interested in dating here at Wesleyan, and also for those of you looking to take a friendship to the next friendship level. A close mentor of mine once told me that in order for a relationship to work, you have to know that you can work with that person through challenging circumstances. She suggested taking a hiking trip together, though that may be a little bit too much of a commitment. (Believe it or not, most people will turn down a 3-day backpacking trek as a first date. I know from experience.) In lieu of that kind of intensity, then, try suggesting that the two (or three or four!) of you prepare something to eat together. Not only will your potential partners be impressed with your somewhat out-of-the-ordinary idea, but it’s a great way to gauge your chemistry early on. Plus, dancing in the kitchen while your food bakes is an absolute superstar move.

But this is the food section, so I guess I shouldn’t be doling out dating advice. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s really easy to fall into a rut here on campus. Cooking is a good way to change up your schedule and make time for friends in a meaningful and creative way. Build some group cooking into your schedule, and you’ll strengthen friendships, whether they are years old or brand new this semester.

That’s one of the goals of The Argus’ new Food section: to give people the resources to come together over eating and cooking. We are going to feature recipes, restaurant recommendations, dorm cooking tips, and much more every week. Use us as a resource when you’re trying to plan out your social calendar. And please reach out to me if you have tips, or want to contribute. We are always open to new ideas and new voices.

Shameless plugs aside and regardless of your skill level, try cooking with your friends this semester. There is something really powerful about making food together, and it’s a power that I believe in. Start the year off right by doing something fun with the people who you care about, or people you want to get to know better. That’s what I’ll be doing. Feel free to join me.

 

Spencer Arnold can be reached at sjarnold@wesleyan.edu. 

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