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Mnookin: Supper Club

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Last fall, my family joined a supper club. Every Sunday, my wife and I cook a meal for three other families, and deliver it on Monday before 6 p.m. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, we get a home-cooked meal delivered to our house.
 

There’s simple pleasure in providing food for others. It’s equally gratifying, and sometimes humbling, to accept meals in return. As a result, our lives are richer and more flavorful.

Each supper club has its own set of guidelines. Ours includes no red meat and striving for local and organic ingredients. All meals feature a main dish plus a side, such as shepherds’ pie and a salad. Leftovers are a bonus; same goes for dessert. We’re extra appreciative for meals like the elaborate Indonesian rice table made of a dozen small toppings added to noodle soup, but there’s no obligation to go above and beyond each week.

When I asked others about their favorite part of supper club, clear themes surfaced. The most common answer was the luxury of having home-cooked meals delivered to your door, especially after a busy day. One person referred to her supper club “angels,” noting the benefits of different cooking styles and eating meals you wouldn’t make for yourself, such as curried chickpeas and homemade naan bread.

People were thankful for less time spent worrying about what to make for dinner, fewer trips to the grocery store, and ideally, less wasted food after buying ingredients for one meal as opposed to four. Plus, it’s easier to budget for one large meal than several smaller ones, which can lead to lower grocery bills. And because it only happens once a week, meal prep feels more like a treat and less like a burden.

Another favorite aspect of supper club is building community. A group of friends who lived in a shared house became like family when they ate together four nights a week. And even if supper club members don’t typically sit down together, we’re all eating the same meal.

Plus, every few months, we gather at the cook's house for dinner. This offers not only an opportunity to talk about what’s working well and what could be improved, but also a chance to share strategies for toddler bedtime and stories from our lives.

For those interested in starting a supper club, I recommend starting small with just one other person, couple, or nearby family with similar eating habits. Frequency could be every other week in the beginning, to determine if the arrangement works well. One of the things I’ve learned is that it helps to have an open mind, and good communication is important.

Some meals - like stuffed cabbage - won’t ever be my favorite, and that’s okay. For us, the benefits clearly outweigh the drawbacks, and we appreciate maintaining a regular connection to other families - especially during a long, cold, isolating, winter. Finding or creating a neighborhood supper club is an almost sure cure for cabin fever.