Sep 1, 2011

Dinner Together

by Mel Gardner

Roommate Meals Benefit Apartments

You see them everyday. You may see them in passing, or maybe they're always lingering near. Sometimes you can hear music coming from behind their door, or maybe they're staring at you from the other side of the room. Who are these beings we share space with? Who are these mysterious creatures we call "roommates?"

Have you ever felt that you don't know the people you're living with? MIX! has a solution to help you get to know and unify your apartment of strangers. The answer lies at the dinner table.
While there are many different studies and statistics about families eating together, they all agree that there are substantial benefits to doing so. President Ezra Taft Benson said, "Mealtime provides a wonderful time to review the activities of the day and to not only feed the body, but to feed the spirit as well."

There's just something about food that brings people together, fosters discussion and builds relationships. Being a roommate is a lot like being in a family and the benefits apply across the board.

Here's how you do it:

Talk to your roommates about having meals together. Try to involve everyone in the apartment.

Set up a schedule that works for everyone. There are several ways to divide up the cooking. One idea is for each roommate to choose a day that works best for them to make dinner for everyone. Or you can set up teams to cook together. You don't have to have someone cooking every night; maybe you have a weekly schedule instead, but the more often the better. Choose what works best for your group.

Eat together at the dinner table with no other distractions such as TV, cell phones or books. Talk to one another and ask about each other's day and family. Don't be surprised if you start to call these strangers your friends.

If there's only two or three of you in the apartment, consider asking some neighbors to create a dinner group.

Those of you in the dorms might ask, "I don't have a kitchen, but I want to get to know my roommates too!" Well, MIX! hasn't forgotten you either. Wait till everyone is home and make it a point to eat together at the Cannon Center or wherever you decide to go. Go together and eat together. You don't have to necessarily cook the food to enjoy the benefits.

Sara Donakey, a BYU student studying exercise and wellness from Orem, Utah, has been in several roommate situations where they had meals together.

"Roommate meals are incredible!" Donakey said. "They really help to strengthen relationships and turn an apartment into a home rather than just a boarding room. This not only kept me eating healthy, but also prevented me from getting homesick. Even though I was far away from my family, I wasn't on my own and even just having dinner together gave me the support that I needed."

Kaitlyn Wadsworth, a BYU student studying human development from Las Vegas, Nevada, experienced both kinds of apartments where they ate together and others where they didn't. 

"I have had new roommates almost every semester of my college career and the only ones I ever lived with again are the ones I did roommate meals with," Wadsworth said. "The food and time bonded us together. Now we're all still really close."

When her roommates first approached her with the idea about roommate meals, Wadsworth said she was skeptical.

"I wasn't too excited about the idea of it when they first told me about it, but once I started, I realized the benefits were much greater then the cost!" she said. "When I didn't have roommate meals I would come home from school and work so tired that I would just find something fast to satisfy my raging hunger. The problem was that meant I ate a lot of terrible food. I really missed it when I didn't have meals with everybody."

In addition to the benefits of roommate meals Donakey and Wadsworth mentioned, MIX! adds:
  • Eating together is healthier. When you eat together and plan out a meal, one typically eats more balanced meals than when eating alone. Plus college kids are busy and sometimes it's nice to know that more than Ramen will be waiting for you when you get home. 
  • Eating time is quality time. Sitting down together at the dinner table will give you chances to get to know each other, discuss each other's good and bad parts of the day and talk about roommate issues.
  • Experience new foods. Each roommate is coming from a different background with different food preferences. Taking turns cooking allows each roommate to make his or her signature dish for everyone to try. Of course we must be sensitive to other's food allergies. Make sure you ask before making a dish.
  • A chance to serve others. Cooking a meal may seem like a simple thing to do, but service helps you forget your own problems and will give you a chance to focus on someone else, making them happy, in turn, making you happy.
  • Eating together gets everyone involved. Maybe your roommate is shy or maybe you are shy, eating together will involve everyone and help build trusting relationships. 
  • Cook for your future. Practice makes perfect when it comes to food. As you cook for your roommates you will learn skills that you will want to bring with you when you begin your own family. Plus you might create some new recipes you never would have otherwise.
  • Sharing is cheaper. Sharing meals together helps you save money by keeping you from eating out or buying things on a whim. You won't when you know there's going to be dinner for you at home.

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