From the scent of homemade cinnamon buns wafting from the oven of your mother’s kitchen to the fresh olives served oceanside at a charming taverna on your honeymoon, food is an essential component of some our most treasured memories.
If you share a special meal memory with a loved one—like the first dinner you ever cooked together at home or a hidden restaurant you discovered on a long road trip—tap into those moments and give your loved one the gift of spending time together over the foods you love most. Here’s how.
Step one: Send an invitation
A home-cooked meal is much more special when it’s preceded by a physical invitation, rather than a text message or plain email. Write out a card by hand or use an online invitation service to send a pretty but paperless note.
- Date, start time, and location.
- Dress code, if it will help recreate the setting of your shared memory.
- A hint or two about what to expect.
- A special request of something small to bring (if they’re the type that never likes to show up empty handed).
Step two: Plan the menu
Try to remember every element of that memorable meal: what each of you drank, whether you snacked on something while cooking or ordered an appetizer, the mains, and the desserts. If you can faithfully reproduce each part, wonderful. If not, don’t worry. In this case, it really is the thought—and the time spent together—that counts.
Tip: if the meal memory happened at a restaurant, see if you can find the original menu online. Having a description of the dish you ordered will help freshen your memory so you can best recreate it (you can even check review websites for photos of the dish to remember how it was plated or garnished).
Step three: Set the scene
Food and drink is only one part of recreating a special culinary experience, you’ll have to emulate the atmosphere too.
Setting the scene can include everything from music to clothing to lighting to table settings. Did you share the memorable meal on a patio? Plan to eat al fresco. Were you partial to a certain style at the time? Dig out a similar outfit. Was there a specific scent you remember from that day? Pick up a candle or spritz the air with a complementary fragrance. Do you have a photo from that night? Print a small version in black-and-white and use a tiny clothespin to attach it to your centrepiece (whether it’s a flower vase or bottle of wine).
Pick a soundtrack for your meal, even if it isn’t exactly what you listened to back in the day. Similar to food, music plays a powerful role in our memories; the music you play this time can help you and your loved one form new memories.
Step four: Food prep in advance
You’ll want to be present when your guest arrives, rather than preoccupied in the kitchen—do as much food preparation in advance that you can. This might mean assembling a charcuterie board, making dessert, washing and chopping vegetables, or pre-cooking side dishes. The goal is to feel organized and under control so that you can enjoy the festivities as much as your guest.
Step five: Choose your drinks
You’ll want to have a meaningful beverage on hand to offer upon your guest’s arrival—like the bottle of wine from the region where you shared your memorable meal, or a cocktail inspired by the flavours you know they love. It’s these extra-special touches that take a night from memorable to unforgettable.
Step six: Make your mains
While they enjoy their drink, get started on the mains (save about 20-30 minutes of cook time for while your guest is there—this will ensure your mains are hot and fresh when served). If your space allows, seat them at a kitchen island or table nearby so they can chat with you while you finish up. If they’re the type that likes to keep their hands busy, put them to work chopping herbs or stirring risotto, and remember to offer them a taste (their memory of the meal may be even better than yours!).
Step seven: Make a toast
When you’re finally seated at the table, it’s time to honour the moment. Raise a glass, toast to the relationship you share with your guest, and dive into your memories of that magical meal.
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