HI REMEMBER ME?
I’m Katy and I’m the resident blogger here. Not that you’d know it cos hello, where have I been for the last 3 weeks?
Well. A trip to Poland and a nasty bout of norovirus aside, it turns out that SAD has been kicking my sorry butt and making it hard for me to actually form complete sentences.
I’ve been feeling tired, grumpy, teary and utterly uninspired for a few weeks, but I thought maybe I was just a bit rundown and needed a tiny break.
But after I got home last night and burst into tears for absolutely no reason at all (I sobbed solidly for about 20 minutes and finally had to turn Tom and Jerry on to calm myself down) – I realised something was definitely not right.
So I’m heading out after work to stock up on vitamins and buy myself a big ol’ sunlight lamp, but today I’m writing about the one thing that’s kept me (moderately) sane in the last few weeks: spending time with Gary.
(Sorry. Here, have a sick bag.)(But it’s true.)
Giovanni Rana challenged us to start eating dinner at the table every night, spending time together like the Italians do.
Did you know that over 78% of English people eat most of their suppers on the sofa?
At home in Spain, we always used to eat at the table, but I got out of the habit of it when I moved to the UK. So it’s been really nice to start doing it again in our own little home!
It gives us a set time and space for us to properly catch up on each other’s lives, without the distractions of Instagram, exam revision or Leslie Knope.
And honestly? It’s my favourite time of day right now.
So here are five things I’ve learned about making everyday dinners feel like something very special…
1. SMALL DETAILS
I grew up in a house where dinner was always eaten at the table.
Every day without fail, we’d lay the table – kitchen for everyday, dining room for special occasions – and sit down together to eat, drink and be merry. I didn’t think about it much, it’s just what we did.
It was only when I went to uni and started eating dinners off my lap on the sofa – or on the floor if we had guests round (not enough chairs y’know? #studentlife) – that I realised how much I love eating at an actual table!
So lay it up. It doesn’t have to be a big table (ours is tiny!) but small touches can make a big impact.
Cutlery and glasses are the basics, but how about throwing on a pretty tablecloth?
Use proper cloth napkins.
Light a couple of candles.
Add a small bunch of flowers (if you’ve got room)
Decorating a table doesn’t have to be expensive, hard or time-consuming. A tiny effort is all it takes to make it special!
2. SIMPLE FOOD
My absolute favourite weekday dinner is (and has been since way back in my uni days) a bowl of fresh pasta, drizzled with really good extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkled with parmesan.
It’s quick, easy and super delicious!
Unfortunately, I live with a boy now. And apparently a packet of pasta and some oil “doesn’t count as dinner”.
So I added a couple more ingredients, and pulled this meal together in just half an hour. It was such a hit that I’ve made it twice since!
1) Put a couple of chicken breasts in an oven proof dish. Throw over a pot of Giovanni Rana’s Tomato and Basil sauce. Pop into the oven at 190 degrees Celsius (fan-assisted), and cook for 25 minutes. Throw some grated parmesan over your chicken breasts and stick the dish back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
2) Meanwhile, chop a leek and half an onion, and fry gently with a crushed clove of garlic for a 2-3 minutes. Add 2 tbsp of white wine, 4 tbsp of cream, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook down very gently on a low heat.
3) Cook a packet of Giovanni Rana’s filled pasta (this is the Parmeggiano and Riccotta one from their Indulgence range!) according to the instructions, drain, then add to the leeks and cream sauce.
4) Serve the chicken and pasta with a simple green side salad.
3. SWITCH OFF
Gary and I are so bad at switching off from our phones. SO. BAD.
Even on date nights where we SAY we’ll be good and not look at our phones, we still do. I’m checking my Whatsapp group, Gary’s checking the football scores… we’re both as bad as each other.
Well my rule for our Live Italian week was that phones had to stay on the other side of the room.
And it worked. We were more engaged, more connected, and also found that we spent longer lingering over our food because we were having such a great conversation.
In the UK, the average adult will clear their dinner plate in 10 minutes. In Italy, that figure goes up to thirty minutes, because people eat slower, savour their food, and talk for longer.
So that’s what we’ve been trying to do.
And guys – it’s SO NICE.
Everything is so easy to prepare, but making that tiny extra effort makes such a difference to the vibe of the evening.
(Best of all: because I do the prep, it means I don’t have to do the washing up. And if that’s not worth lighting some candles and dropping the iPhone, I don’t know what is!)
*This post is sponsored by Giovanni Rana.
You can read more about the Live Italian project in this handy guide on ‘How To Live Italian’.
(There are some REAALLY good recipes in there!)