It wasn’t always that I’ve felt the need or understood the importance of eating together.
In Singapore, where I grew up, I didn’t have daily dinners with every single member of the family eating together – more because of our differing schedules and overlapping commitments as opposed to the lack of interest.
However, because it wasn’t a habit I had nurtured from young, it was only in the recent years that I started realizing the need for a special moment dedicated to eating with my loved ones – be it 30 minutes, an hour or an entire afternoon.
Since I work during the day, dinner is this time that Juan and I set aside for communication and sharing about our day.
Be it hilarius anecdotes about our colleagues or serious conversations about the future – it’s a pretty sacred moment that I share with those I’m eating with.
Before I started learning how to cook, I didn’t appreciate the cook’s job very much. (I mean, how hard can it be to whip up a meal, right? Wrong!!)
Now that I do most of the cooking (an honestly unexpected passion), I understand and have learnt to appreciate all the hard work that goes into preparing and cooking a meal, especially when it’s for more than just one person.
Particularly when I’m gathered with loved ones at a table filled with homecooked dishes, there’s a greater desire for me to linger around with the others and to talk about life beyond just the obvious. With delicious food and good wine, conversation naturally flows.
While I love the advancements in technology, one thing I don’t enjoy is being at a meal where everyone is either busy returning a work-related email on their Blackberrys, or chatting on Whatsapp, or constantly updating their Facebook or Twitter statuses, or instagramming their every activity.
If I could, I would ban the use of mobile devices at any meal – because everyone with us at the table deserves our full attention (as we deserve theirs) and in my opinion, it’s honestly quite disrespectful for anyone to be texting on the phone the whole time while others watch.
A meal together shouldn’t mean just literally eating togther.
It should also be an open space where people feel encouraged to speak their mind and express their opinions; a place for an exchange of ideas and cultures (particularly if you’re sitting down with people from other cultures and nationalities and are trying their foods).
A meal together should be a space where important conversations begin, where inspiration is sparked, where emotions are genuine, and where respect is both given and received.
It should be a playground where children can tell their parents about the bullies at school, or the pretty new girl in class, or the fact that they’d just flunked a math test. It should be the safety net where parents speak to their grown-up kids about upcoming retirement plans, and the new, foreign shift into the third phase of their lives.
It should be where friends can be honest about their financial worries or speak about wedding plans and future trips to the Mediterranean. It should be the place where couples can bring up their differences and sort them out, with the determined goal of riding through the tide, together.
Dinner for me, or maybe it’s lunch for you, or breakfast for someone else, is a moment to give.
Even if you didn’t cook or bring the wine, you can still give your time and wholehearted attention. Listen attentively to what your friends or family are saying; make eye contact, let them know you are truly present. Give advice if necessary; or a silent look and a listening ear if there is nothing else you can offer.
And when it’s your turn, be open and honest; participate in coversations and contribute with new ideas and thoughts. Tell the rest at the table about your experiences and what you’ve learnt from them; share your hopes and dreams – some times the very act of openly expressing your desires in the presence of others moves your goals closer to achievement.
Whatever it is you have to offer – whether a joke, a caring smile, or an open heart – make it count.
Today I’m sharing a quite easy appetizer that you can create for dinner parties – something that’s as simple to make as peeling and slicing a plantain, tossing the pieces in a bit of oil and salt, and baking them for half an hour.
These crispy oven-baked plantain fries go beautifully with spicy siracha sauce or sweet ketchup, and I’m pretty they’ll be quite a good conversation starter at any meal.
Now go, make these crazy delicious fries, and enjoy your meal, one hundred percent.
BAKED PLANTAIN FRIES
Barely adapted from: Fed & Fit
1) 3 large green plantains (green plantains make for sturdier chips)
2) 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted
3) 1 generous sprinkle of salt
4) Ground paprika powder and chili powder (optional: only if you like a little heat)
1) Pre-heat oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit (175 deg Cel)
2) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat (I strongly recommend buying a silpat)
3) Peel plantains (you may need to slice through the skin before peeling it as the skin may be quite tough)
4) Slice peeled plantains lengthwise into half, and slice into the shape of fries
5) Toss plantain fries with melted coconut oil, and then lay them on the baking sheet, and sprinkle generously with salt and whatever other condiments you like.
6) Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until fries are crispy (if necessary, remove the fries that are crispy from the oven, and let the remaining fries bake for a while more until crispy)
7) Serve with ketchup or spicy Siracha sauce