When we choose to cook with friends and family, we shift our mindset from the daily chore of cooking. We love how it feels to walk into a kitchen filled with eager chefs. Whipping up a recipe in the kitchen becomes an exercise in presence as we share an experience that feeds us all. We notice textures, tools, sounds, smells, and each other. It doesn’t so much matter when we finish, because we’re in it together—and we prize that even more than the finished dish. The pressure valve is released, and it’s fun again.
We get a kick out of watching our friend’s approach to mincing garlic (the tinier, the better) or coaxing the pit out of a ripe avocado (with the thwack of a sharp blade). At the other end of the counter, one cook shares his fool-proof hack for al dente pasta (cook for less time than the box suggests), while another argues the virtues of monterey jack over cheddar. And it isn’t all talk: Maybe we can hear the woosh of whisks and sizzling of foaming butter when it’s not made by our own hands.
Stick to simple foods that fill you up. A beloved family recipe can help us recall—and share—our favorite cooking (and eating) memories. Or you can cook something new to everyone. An appetite for adventure and the food you’re cooking help because the people in the kitchen bring the process to life. When you approach cooking with love and energy, frying grilled cheese sandwiches or skewering glossy peppers and onions for kebabs can feel communal. No matter what we cook, we relish the satisfaction of transforming a bag of groceries into a beautiful, yummy meal—together.
give it a whirl
Creativity flows when you don’t have to worry about precise timing or finicky chemistry. Salad’s done? A few mint leaves waiting on the windowsill will brighten it up. And gooey mac and cheese never shies away from more grated provolone found in the fridge door. What happens when we dust roasting cauliflower with cayenne? (Better roasted cauliflower.) And a few flakes of sea salt on molten chocolate cakes go a long way. We’re rarely surprised by delicious surprises.
It’s most fun to cook with people who want to cook, of course. Many people need only a casual invitation to join in. It may be a ritual, like baking a few pies with your grandmother each Thanksgiving or grilling burgers with neighbors every Memorial Day. Or maybe the unexpected dinner guests who join us chopping at the kitchen island help create the mix we crave. We’ve seen lots of teens step up to the cutting board, too. For many of them (like many of us), it’s a welcome adventure.
When we eventually sit down together to eat, smells wafting from our full plates, we taste a difference. We appreciate the flavors because they’re richer. Our blend of energy and care infuse them, and the meal nourishes us long after we’ve swallowed the last bite.