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Random Fri May 23 2014
When I was young, my full-time working mother cooked an elaborate dinner every day: fresh white rice with a large array of vegetables and meats. Long green beans with garlic, braised rice wine pork shoulder, tomato and egg soup. The dying reverberation of the stove hood signaled our migration to the dinner table, where my mom gossiped about her co-workers and my dad talked about his vegetable garden. Meanwhile, my brother picked his nose, and I avoided talking about grades. Sometimes dinner lasted for two hours, when the sun had long set and the crickets began to chirp.
As painfully protracted as the whole affair was, I miss it. I rarely have a nice, sit-down meal at home anymore, and if I do, it's usually Lean Cuisine with a side of Top Chef reruns. So I very much looked forward to my first Mealshare with host Emanuel, a Guyana native with a tech career.
Founded by Chicago native Jay Savsani, Mealshare strives to build the conviviality of meals by connecting travelers with local cooks. Their mission is "to build communities through shared resources, facilitate deeper cultural exchange, and encourage people to cook at home to enable a healthier lifestyle."
Miguel's mother, a lifelong vegan cook and owner of a catering business, was visiting Chicago from Guyana and cooking up a storm when I arrived. Jerk chicken, rice and beans, lettuce and carrots, and potato salad comprised our delectable and hearty dinner. As she finished cooking and plating the food, we chatted over wine and played with Emanuel's enormous cat.
Although the concept of eating with strangers may seem odd--even uncomfortable--meal hosts are incredibly friendly. There's something about sharing food that puts humans in a comfortable and forthcoming mindset.
Even though I stayed within Chicago, Mealshare operates internationally so if you're ever hankering for a family meal in Thailand like Anthony Bourdain, this site is your best bet. Mealshare captures a critical concept: the best food isn't always expensive, served only in restaurants, or difficult to create. To me, high class cuisine pales against a big bowl of beefy pho or pot-au-feu, eaten with friends and family.