I love food, and I love people… there is nothing better for me than sharing a meal with some friends, family and loved ones (often helped by a log fire and an exceptionally good cheese board!).

So I was interested to read this week in one of my favourite publications, Positive News, an article about supper clubs and the experience of eating together. Journalist, Sonia Zhuravlyova, talks about the  ‘…difference between sharing food and sharing a meal. Anyone can order their own dish in a restaurant but at a supper club, people eat the same thing, often helping themselves to a portion and then passing it along, which encourages sociability, empathy and trust.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Sonia. There is something very special for me about a dinner, supper or lunch party; a platter on the table, the passing of port, or wine or water; bread, or cheese or veg – not to mention one of TimD’s top lasagnes! The love that has gone into prepping, buying, cooking the food, laying the table. The conversation, the stories, the ‘sharing’ – it’s a truly bonding experience.

In fact, researchers at the University of Oxford found out that the more often people eat socially, the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives. Furthermore, they are more likely to feel better about themselves and have a wider social network capable of providing social and emotional support, an important part of combating mental and physical illness.

On Tuesday evenings I go to training to become a volunteer young person’s mentor. Run by the local council, there’s a group of about 10 of us who arrived the first evening knowing nothing about each other, with the one thing in common of wanting to help young people. I found it quite daunting, and my shyness kicked in.  10 strangers, all held together by the joyous Marie, our leader and expert mentor. Week 2 we started to get to know each other, I sadly missed week 3… and then the food arrived. The first time it was Spanish omelette, home-made of course. Conversation abounded about eggs, potato and whether onions were needed, family life in Spain and the lack of fast-food over there. Next week was home-made samosas  – as well as muffins! Full recipes were divulged. And as the food was passed around the bare conference table, the warmth spilled over. As we laughed and shared stories (whilst of course paying great attention to Marie!) I could feel the bonding deepen. Food had brought us together even more.

So this week was unexpectedly my last Tuesday (I’m missing the last evenings because of my operation). And having not been well, I had failed to weekend cook. I’d tried to persuade Dad to rustle up something, but he’d been away. So as Tuesday night approached, TimD suggested.. Krispy Kreme Dougnuts! Sheepishly I entered our conference room, tray in hand, apologising profusely for my ‘cheating’ self and sub-standard delivery. We laughed, eyes widened, and of course it mattered not that I hadn’t cooked. It was the ‘sharing’ that was of importance… the ‘trying a bit of each one’, the tales of sugar consumption, ‘was that really peanut butter with caramel?’

Meeting my new friends at volunteering has been such a happy addition to my life. But sharing food together has made it even more so. Tuesdays have become the highlight of my week, and I will miss them. But I’ve learnt so much… about mentoring, about different people, and about sharing food. Thank you to my fellow Tuesday feasters – and thank you Marie for brightening our lives!