First, there are so many tangible benefits. More hands working in the kitchen makes cooking faster and easier. When you cook in large quantities with friends, you are able to quickly stock your freezer and pantry. People who cook together learn each others’ culinary skills and cultural history, and encourage each other to try new things. But we love Cooking With Friends most because of the intangible benefits. It gives us time to have real conversations and get to know each other better. It makes cooking a more social, less solitary endeavor. It helps us connect or reconnect with people.
Everybody! And we’re not just saying that. It works for people from stay-at-home moms who seek support and friendship while accomplishing the necessary job of feeding the family, to people who work full time and need to fill their freezers with weekday meals and connect with friends. Cooking With Friends is not gender, income or lifestyle specific. It truly speaks to all people who want to both eat well and connect with others. Cooking With Friends is for real people with jobs, families, and the universal need to eat.
If you cook often with friends and family, it will become part of your everyday life. You may even come to the point (like where we are) where cooking alone seems less the norm. We really believe it’s a revolution in the way we think about feeding our families and ourselves and that there is nothing more important in life than food, family and friends. When you’re sharing your kitchen with someone, you’re sharing your life.
Sure! First of all, you’re probably not as bad a cook as you think. Not only that, by cooking with a friend, you’ll bring strengths that you didn’t even know you had to the relationship. Where you’re not as strong, your friend can make up for it. You might even find that you enjoy cooking more with someone else than you ever could alone.
We don’t ever think that the shape, size or quality of someone’s kitchen is something that should prevent you from Cooking With Friends. In fact, we actually think that all kitchens are suitable to cook in. We encourage people to spread out into their dining rooms and use the rest of their house for the necessary prep work. It’s the process of cooking with friends that will give your kitchen (no matter what it looks like) some soul, not an expensive stove.
When Cooking With Friends, your cooking supplies and tools will automatically double as you share and coop your materials with your cooking friend. That’s another huge benefit of Cooking with Friends. Where you might have some good pots and pans but lack the mixing bowls, your friend can make up the difference. In fact, we’re at the point where we try not to buy duplicate cooking appliances among friends. One of us may get a new Kitchen Aid mixer while the other one invests in a pasta maker.
For starters, take our compatibility quiz in the How-To section. It’s a lot like dating. Ask a neighbor you’ve wanted to get to know better or someone in your school, church, or gym. Potential cooking partners are all around.
Your best friends aren’t always your best cooking friends and that’s ok. And, chances are, if you didn’t like your cooking date, than neither did she. If you’re truly best friends, then you’ll have to speak openly about it and use it as an opportunity to meet new friends and branch out.
You know, this happens all of the time. Often times, you’re nervous on your first cooking date as you get to know each other. You may fumble around each other’s kitchens shy to open cabinets and ask for things. It’s always a good idea (like with dating) to give someone a second chance. If you’ve tried twice and still didn’t get into a cooking groove, it’s ok to admit that there wasn’t a “love connection” so to speak and move on.
We’ve found that Cooking With Friends just works best with 2 or three people. That’s part because of how kitchens are set up and part because of the way small groups interact. But like we said, gathering together in larger groups after you have cooked in small teams can be lots of fun.
When forming a Cooking With Friends meal swap, you first need to find a group of friends who would be interested in the idea of cooking and swapping food together as a means to make their lives easier. This group will become your meal swapping community. Although there are many tips on how to throw various types of food swaps on this site, here are some general tips that will help you get started.
1) Choose a head coordinator and host (this will probably be you, though someone else can run the next swap).
2) Make a list of about 8-12 friends who you think would be interested.
3) Choose a date and time that works for you. Evenings tend to be more social and afternoons are good for those who want to bring kids, but it’s up to you! Give people about a month to cook and freeze the food.
4) Select a purpose for the food swap. (Family dinners, Soups, Breakfast foods, Appetizers, Kids foods, Sneakily delicious, Sauces, Marinades, etc.).
5) Send an e-mail inviting your friends to participate with the date, time, and purpose. The Denver group has had success using E-vites to keep track of attendees. Have them join the Cooking With Friends Club Yahoo group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CookingWithFriendsClub/ as means to connect with others who cook together.
6) Encourage people to choose their partners early and cook together in advance. As the coordinator, if you’d like, you can keep track of who is cooking with who. (There are loads of tips on our site on how to start cooking with a friend, including a compatibility quiz which is fun to take with a friend.)
7) Provide everyone with a link to the freezing tips on our site: http://www.cookingwithfriendsclub.com/index.php?/how/detail/six-steps-to-freezing/
8) Select an amount of food that everyone should make. This will depend upon the amount that you would like to take home. Generally, it’s nice to make a family-sized portion for each participant in the swap.
9) Divide into pairs to cook and freeze your food on your own schedules. Ask everyone to label their food including the type of meal, key ingredients and heating instructions.
10) Gather to swap. (We like to make it a social event with snacks and drinks. You can ask everyone to bring something so that the hostess doesn’t have to do it all!)
Yes! Start with simple foods that aren’t labor intensive and have a big bang for the buck. We often suggest people start with our Slow-Simmered Marinara Sauce. You can serve it that night or freeze it for later. Make turkey or beef meatballs too if you have the time. Soups, stews and chili are also great “starter” foods. Check out our recipe section for details.
There are so many ways to cook together. Do what fits your lifestyle. While you may not want to spend an afternoon making 10 lasagnes (other peoples’ dream) you can find a partner who fits the way you want to cook. You could make yourselves a lovely dinner for that night, or a batch of chili for you each to take home, or cookies to take your college-aged kids. For some, a spouse or family member will be your best cooking friend. If you are cooking with relatives, try to recreate a recipe from your past, whether it is a great-grandmother’s famous dish or a food from your country of origin.