Cooking is about having fun – and the joy is the process, not the final product. There is no better way to get to know someone than to break bread with them.
By Steve Mindel, Family Lawyer
Outside of practicing family law, cooking and sharing meals with friends and families is one of my great passions. From that came Cooking for Our Friends (2009), a cookbook I published with encouragement and help from my family.
Sundays at the Mindel home are all about family and food. My mother and father always held an open house on Sundays. You never knew who was going to drop in for dinner, and there was always plenty to eat. When I moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA in 1978, I continued the tradition; everyone knew that there were friends and a good meal at our apartment on Sundays. I am still close friends with my neighbors from that building to this day.
After our children Sam and Jake were born, Sundays became my day to cook for the week. To this day, I still make most of the dinners for the week each Sunday. (I figure that if you are going to make a mess in the kitchen, make it a big mess!)
Sharing a Joyful Meal Together
Some people collect objects – such as art or wine. I “collect” people, and there is no better way to get to know someone than to break bread with them. When you calculate your opportunity cost to prepare a dinner at home, dining out begins to look cheap. The problem is that no restaurant can reproduce the intimacy of a home-cooked meal.
Dinner parties are about getting your guests to feel like they are an important part of the event. In our house, everyone is welcome to help in the kitchen. Our guests really feel like family when they have the opportunity to chop a vegetable or stir a pot.
Cooking is about having fun, not getting it perfect. Life is a journey, not a destination – and the same is true for cooking. The joy in cooking is the process, not the final product. For instance, if you make a cake and it breaks in half, glue it together with some frosting. If your cake tilts to the left, call it the leaning tower of the Palisades. Whatever you do, don’t hide it because it doesn’t look perfect: embrace it!
Some parties can also be learning experiences for your children. We gave Sam and Jake budgets for their Bar Mitzvahs, and told them that they needed to make the parties – for 150 to 200 friends and family – happen within their budgets. We planned their menus, negotiated with the party rental store, interviewed mobile DJs, coordinated with the clergy, and cooked all of the food for the party together. Having Sam and Jake plan their parties was about letting them take control of their moment.
Cooking During COVID
During COVID, the challenge is to stay connected and feel together while we are social distancing. From virtual neighborhood potlucks to virtual dinner celebrations and networking events, there are still many ways for us to connect with each other overcooking. For example, Nancy and I hosted a virtual cooking class for the newly admitted AAML Fellows at the Annual Meeting. Even though we were meeting for the first time, this online event provided an intimate networking opportunity.
There are so many creative ways to virtually enjoy meals and strengthen relationships with cooking, and I encourage everyone to try something new with their friends and families.
Steven Mindel (CFLS) is an AAML Fellow and Managing Partner of Los Angeles law firm Feinberg, Mindel, Brandt & Klein. He loves to cook for large parties, and his next cookbook will be coming out in 2021. www.fmbklaw.comPublished on: