BY :Toni OkamotoPUBLISHED : July 31st, 2012UPDATED: August 17th, 2021
I’ve been best friends with the woman in the middle for over half my life and she still can’t remember my birthday. When I was 20 she invited me over on a Wednesday, made me this fabulous Martha Stewart chili dinner and gave me a bouquet of fresh flowers – I thought I was being rewarded for being the ultimate best friend, but upon departure, she leaned over and gave me a big hug and said, “Happy Birthday!!” I thought about going along with it, but then I thought I’d try to see if I could get two birthday dinners out of it, since my actual birthday wasn’t for another week or so.
That was the beginning of our weekly dinners. We celebrated my real birthday the following week; and every week for three years we’d meet at my place on Wednesday evenings, make some dinner and dessert, and watch cheesy romantic comedies. When we first began no one was vegan yet, so we’d pick a couple vegetarian recipes and split up the ingredients by cost and meet the following week to prepare the food together. It became a way to get our gossip on, to have therapeutic friend time, and most importantly, it’s how I began to really love food.
Shortly after we started, Michelle (the gal on the far left) changed to a plant-based diet and and I followed. Our meals became much more creative and it challenged us to broaden our palettes and experience new cultural foods.
If we were feeling lazy we’d sometimes skipped the cooking together and had a potluck instead where we’d assign: appetizer, entree, drinks, and dessert. And if we were feeling lazier than that, we’d just go out to new restaurants and explore their plant-based options.
Personally, I have a very hard time cooking in small portions and I also don’t have the motivation to make full meals for myself. My advice to people is to try something similar to our Womanly Wednesdays. It can be once a month, once every other month, or whatever your schedule allows … I just think that being able to share delicious food with people you care about is such a wonderful experience, and it’s just so much more convenient to share the cost of food and the work of preparing it.
Other fun tips:
-Keep things simple. On Plant Based on a Budget we keep our recipes broken down by skill level and I think it’s best to start with the “easy recipes”
-For the past five years we’ve done a vegan thanksgiving potluck. It takes a lot of the stress from one person having to do all the work, and everyone takes their dirty serving plates home so clean-up is easier. Potlucks or gatherings are also a good opportunity to have a food drive for your local food bank, just send out a message to anyone coming telling them to clean out their pantry and you’ll drive it over for them. It may sound like more work, but it’s really gratifying.
-When preparing food as a group, try to keep the attendance on the smaller side. When we first began doing our dinners it was just the four of us, but at some point I decided it was okay to invite everyone and their moms and it became a big hassle because there were more bodies in my tiny kitchen, more food needed to be made, there was more to clean. I think that capping it around 6-8 people is the easiest.
-I know it seems rude, but it is SO much easier to ask people to do their own dishes. In the apartment I had where it all started, I had no dishwasher and after everyone left I was stuck with this huge pile of dishes. Needless to say, I started hounding people to clean up after themselves — and for college students, that was another good thing to learn how to do.
Candice, Zach, Michelle and myself began having weekly dinners at my house to avoid losing touch, but since our weekly tradition began, we have been very lucky to build good friendships and learn many new cooking techniques. We’ve hosted parties, food drives, a fundraiser for women for women, clothing swaps, etc… I am very proud to have awesome and dedicated friends who set aside one day of the week to share delicious plant-based food and stimulating conversation.
If you want to talk more about it, please shoot me an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Toni Okamoto
"They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy.
My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy,
'Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways...
we got to start taking better care of ourselves " - Dead Prez