Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

A recipe for connection

Hope Gullatt

In college, food can be an afterthought. With jam-packed schedules, students might find themselves skipping breakfast, grabbing fast food for lunch and microwaving instant noodles for dinner. More often than not, they’re also eating alone — a habit that can lead to the deterioration of mental and physical health.

Although we might think that “healthy eating” simply involves the nutrients we put in our bodies, health and wellness also mean paying attention to how you prepare and eat food and who you share it with. By implementing regular group cooking and sharing meals with friends, students can save money, reduce food waste and combat loneliness.

Bonding over a home-cooked meal is the perfect recipe to connect and recharge. Personally, I like to think of food as my love language. When I moved from a dorm to an apartment, having my own kitchen felt freeing. I was thrilled to cook for my friends and give those who still live in dorms a break from dining hall food.

“I think a home-cooked meal with the community always tastes better,” said Brett Doyon, a textiles and apparel junior. “Food is universal. It’s the easiest thing to find commonalities over.”

Doyon is the president of Austin Meals Movement, an on-campus organization that brings students together through cooking presentations and activities. Doyon said his favorite thing about the group is its ability to unite strangers and connect people through shared experiences.

“When we have a primary objective (like cooking) that we have to collaborate with others to do, a lot of the social factors that we often think about too much disappear, and you can just exist as yourself,” Doyon said. “It just makes talking and working together so much better, and it makes getting to know people so easy.”

Some college students may feel that cooking is a skill for later in life since it doesn’t align with their hectic routines. However, studies show that cooking skills exhibited between 18 to 23 years old strongly predict future nutritional well-being. Prioritizing healthy eating habits, both nutritionally and socially, is a worthwhile investment for students before they enter adulthood.

“(Sharing meals) even saves you time and money,” said Ashanté Reese, an African and African Diaspora Studies associate professor. “If you’re not having to prepare five meals for the week, you’re buying fewer ingredients because you can just multiply the ingredients for that one meal.” 

After all, as Reese pointed out, nobody knows how to make a single serving of spaghetti. When cooking for one person, we may be more likely to stock the fridge with leftovers, only to throw out a large portion of food at the end of the week.

More importantly than the food provided, gathering around shared meals cultivates community. Cooking and eating are as much a social need as they are biological ones, explained Reese.

“Now is the perfect time to start thinking about shared meals,” Reese said. “Around finals time, everyone is stressed. Being able to make sure people get good food but also a good laugh or a hug, that’s a way to intentionally prepare for a time that might be really stressful.”

Although buying and preparing nutritious food can be overwhelming, sharing meals is the perfect way for students to overcome common barriers to whole foods. It can be fun and efficient to swap meals with friends and take turns hosting dinner. Connecting over food can become a healthy and heartfelt tradition.

Food is what brings us together. Instead of treating food as an afterthought, take time to connect, learn and nourish yourself and those around you through cooking. Your mind and body — and probably your hungry friends — will thank you.

Jackson is a Plan II and journalism sophomore from Boerne, Texas.

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