Come Dine with Us | Carol Phelan

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I live in an 8-bed house that has a 1-bed size kitchen. This leads to a bit of a traffic jam when all 8 of us fine girls get hungry around 6pm every evening. This is the third year that 3 of my roommates have been living together and they have been single-handedly trying to cause a cooking revolution to overcome the space-time continuum – not very well, I might add, as no one else seems to do what we do. In a 2010 UCC Mardyke publication on Nutrition Tips for College Students, the basic premise behind it is referred to: ‘share the load – why not take turns with cooking for your flatmates or friends. You can share the cost and the work!’

I will explain how it can actually work.

We operate on a two-week cycle – Monday through Thursday. Basically the four nights of the week that we will all be there for dinner as we more often than not go home home at weekends. One person buys the ingredients for all, cooks, serves, waits on and cleans up afterwards. That person is off the hook for 2 weeks until their turn comes around again. If you are unavailable for dinner one night, you can ask for a plate to be left aside for you on your return but the golden rule is that you cannot miss your night of duty, regardless of how many other people’s dinners you have missed. You are either in or you’re out. It costs about €30 to get all the supplies, including biscuits and milk for the tea afterwards. Not only does it work out less expensive than if you were to cook for yourself every night, but 7 out of 8 nights you walk in the door at 7pm and there is a freshly-cooked dinner waiting for you on the table. It makes the lonely winter nights a lot easier. We sit down as a family for an hour over good food and banter EVERY night.

I can envisage three problems with such a regime. Firstly, what if someone cannot cook? There is nothing worse than not looking forward to a certain person’s night. However, if that person can master just one simple dish and nobody else cooks that – everyone’s happy with a decent curry once a fortnight. Secondly, you have to be able to trust your roommates that there will actually be dinner on the table every night. Finally, if you are a fussy eater or don’t like other people touching your food, I would not recommend it.

We have a schedule to ensure that the same thing is not cooked twice in any given week. It is also flexible to facilitate everyone in cooking on a night that they are free and have nothing due in college the next day as the whole production takes about four hours.

College students are renowned for their unhealthy eating habits. This act of ‘doing dinners’ as it has been so eloquently coined has changed my life. I am eating healthier and more varied food as all my chefs, I mean housemates, have a number of signature dishes and favourite vegetables that I never would have cooked for myself.

Three of the dinners suggested in the tips from the Mardyke are

1) Baked beans and cheese on a jacket potato

2) Scrambled eggs on toast

3) Omelette with tomato and peppers, and oven chips

They are breakfasts on a good day in my book. Come dine with us. Seriously, it’s bloody fantastic. All we need now is Dave Lamb.