An awkward person’s guide to cooking with friends

As someone experienced in the full spectrum of cooking awkwardness, here are my tips on how to cut to the chase and just dig in.
01 Nov '18
By Thea Soutar

There are few things sweeter in life than that smug feeling you get when you realise that you might actually be able to cook. When you didn’t burn the thing, or curdle the other thing – that’s the feeling of knowing that you’re really living.

Cooking in the company of friends can feel like a different beast. If like me, you’re a solitary chef who enjoys nothing more than daydreaming over some casual carrot dicing, the idea of having to navigate both a menu and friends, is the pits. My dad and his partner after many happy years have a steadfast rule of ‘no cooking together’. I get that.

The thing about only EVER solo cooking though is that you miss out on the amazing bits about collaborative cooking. The messy, ridiculous, we’re-all-in-this, furious pride that comes from having hashed out a meal together.

As the host of a Salvage Supperclub- or at least the provider of a kitchen – I reckon there’s three different tacks you can take here. Pick which approach you’re vibing on the day, and plow in.

1. Own your role as boss-cook-person and take the reigns. This basically means you figure out the vision, tell people what they’re gonna cook and hand them a knife.

PROS: Your guests can feel like they’re kids again, playing with dough on their parent’s kitchen table, safe in the hands of someone who actually knows what they’re doing.

CONS: They start calling you Mum/Dad. Also, this is slightly less share-y. And, you know, you’ve gotta be comfortable you know your way around giving instructions to a bunch of vagrant millennials.  We can be unruly.

2. You consult and delegate. Everyone picks the ingredients they like, decides what they’re gonna make with it, and you get down to delicious business .

PROS: You’ll feel like you’re winning at adulting and your friends are damn fine in the kitchen. You also maximise the chances that at least one of the dishes is excellent.  

CONS: Be prepared for early blank stares/over politeness/overzealousness as people vie/fight each other for the ingredients they want.

3. You step out. Let your friends own it. 

PROS: This is fun. You never truly know your friends until you’ve seen them fight it out over how many eggs go into aioli or what shape you actually need to cut the pumpkin to make it taste like how Ottolenghi describes it should taste like.

CONS: Where’s the fun for a host if you don’t get amongst it?

Deep down, most people are awkward. Some people are simply very very good at masking it with a veneer of charm, confidence and fedoras. If they say they’re not awkward, don’t believe them and run. If you lose your mojo during a Salvage, an honest ‘Dudes. I’ve lost the vision and  I’ve got Buckley’s of making this potato/banana flambe taste good. HALP’ will fix most situations right up. And if it doesn’t, we politely suggest that you swap out your friends and come to ours for dinner.

Remember that the point of a Salvage Supperclub is to have a cracking good time. Your job is not to make sure everyone is impressed by the quality of your cooking. You’re much more likely to remember your friend’s formula for salad dressing or that time when you found a mushroom that looked like Kevin Rudd, than what the food actually tastes like. Crack open a cold one, take a moment to appreciate how awesome humans are, and get stuck into some chopping.

 

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