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I live in a house of twelve girls, which breeds a particular brand of chaos. It’s a group with vastly different interests and schedules: some are pre-med and volunteer after class, some play club sports, some have part-time jobs — it takes something special to get us all excited about the same thing. For the last few months, one of these things has been “Euphoria,” for which we would gather on our too-small couch every Sunday at 9 p.m. sharp to watch. 

But after the show’s finale, we’ve had to look for something new that gets us all excited about Sunday evening — a weekend night that normally inspires more dread and panic than anything else. This ‘something’ has been the advent of the Sunday night dinner. 

My housemates and I have quite the assorted bag of experience in terms of food in our house — some of us cook, some of us prefer pre-made frozen meals from Trader Joe’s. Some eat everything, some avoid gluten or dairy or are just plain picky eaters. But Sunday dinners give everyone the chance to try new things, to take a well-deserved break from completing problem sets and applying for jobs and hunting for summer internships. 

Many of my roommates see cooking as intimidating, just like I used to. In college, everyone’s busy schedules can often make eating and cooking take last place on their list of priorities. Food feels like an imposition rather than something to look forward to. And Sunday nights are no exception, especially when there’s another packed week ahead. But making an ordinary, home-cooked Sunday night dinner into an occasion, rather than a chore, makes everything feel a little bit more exciting. Chopping onions and garlic to sauté in my Dutch oven lets me forget, at least temporarily, about whatever tasks I haven’t yet crossed off the to-do list in my planner.

The intimidation factor of cooking in college is unfortunately coupled by a diet culture that teaches us, and specifically young women, to fear food. Binge drinking and busy schedules, not to mention the anxiety that comes with living on your own for the first time, can be a breeding ground for disordered eating of all varieties. Living with twelve female roommates is no easy feat in this sense, as we all dance around each other’s respective eating habits and peculiarities with attempted care. But Sunday dinners have helped teach our minds to look forward to food rather than fear it. 

And as a college student who can now operate the oven by herself, these dinners have allowed me to re-embrace my early love of food and cooking in my charming (read: cramped and dusty) college house kitchen. On a weekly basis, I get to nourish and preoccupy myself with something to keep me from sinking into a pit of existential dread about graduating. But even more fun and fulfilling than cooking for just myself is picking a larger-format dish, one that requires its own grocery trip, and making it a group effort among my dozen housemates. 

I’ve always loved cooking (and eating), but it’s personally been just as much about the experience and sense of community that I get from it as it is about the food. My parents enforced family dinners pretty much every night growing up — placemats, no phones, the whole shebang. While my mom was the main chef in our house day to day, my dad was always the big project cooker — every few weeks, he’d pull out one of the biggest, most intimidating cookbooks we had and leaf through its sauce-splattered pages until he’d found what he was looking for. 

When I was first learning how to cook on my own in high school, hyper-healthy cooking dominated the trends I saw on Instagram and Pinterest — zucchini noodles, almond milk yogurt, keto-friendly flatbreads. But my perspective was broadened during my sophomore year of college, when I discovered the world that is cooking Youtube channels. In the way that my favorite chefs talked passionately about the ingredients they were using, waited patiently for vegetables to roast or butter to brown and explained how the science behind bread rising worked, I began to fall in love with the process behind cooking just as much as I loved getting to the end result. 

And for me, Tiktok ushered in a new world of learning cooking techniques and getting inspiration. When Emily Mariko first blew up on Tiktok a few months ago, I was instantly enamored. She revolutionized what it meant to be a cooking influencer for Gen Z. She is undoubtedly a healthy eater from a nutritional standpoint, but she maintains this while eating white bread and white rice. She eats frozen grocery store gyoza and drizzles Japanese mayonnaise on her widely-acclaimed salmon rice bowl.

Much has been dissected about the influence of Emily Mariko, particularly in regard to her obvious thin and class privilege as a leading TikTok content creator. But, what stood out to me most about her videos was the pervasive simplicity and calmness of her aesthetic. For every comment I saw under her videos praising how delicious her food looked, there was another saying that they didn’t know how she could make cooking, notoriously a messy, lively, sensory pastime, seem so chilled out. 

But as we began to embark on the journey of the Sunday dinner, with all due respect to Ms. Mariko, I realized that something about her carefully-curated aesthetic takes away from one of my favorite parts of cooking: the happy chaos of juggling multiple dishes at once while laughing with your friends.

Last week, we did a dinner centered around quesabirria tacos, which I’d seen floating around Tiktok for almost a year before I thought I’d try to tackle them. Happily procrastinating my homework, my roommate and I set off for Whole Foods early in the day, knowing that there would be the best chance of finding large cuts of meat and obscure spices. On Saturday night — now rebranded as Sunday night dinner Eve — my roommate and I left Whole Foods with cilantro, poblanos and seven (!) pounds of chuck roast in a staggeringly large paper-wrapped package. I holed up in the kitchen to char whole peppers on the burner of the electric stove and brown chunks of meat in olive oil in my bright blue Dutch oven, which smoked out the entire floor so badly that I had to leave the door to our back lot open. 

When the beef for the tacos was done slow-roasting three hours later, it had fragranced the entire house with onion and garlic. Those who weren’t able to help cook were texting excitedly, asking when they should come home to eat. From there, we divided up into task forces: those in charge of shredding the meat, and those who dipped each corn tortilla into the fat that had risen to the top of the liquid the meat cooked in and added shredded mozzarella cheese. The tacos came off the pan equal parts crispy and gooey. 

The week before that, it was Indian night, when we made lentil stew (dal), chickpeas with onion and butter (chana masala) and delicious herby yogurt sauce (raita) to balance out all the spice. The weekend before that: ragu night, with pasta, a huge pot of homemade tomato sauce and two kinds of meatballs  — one turkey and ricotta, one pork, beef and herbs. 

Our meals are often, to put it frankly, absolute chaos. Different dishes are ready at different times, so we’ll try everything as it comes out. The dozen of us split up into smaller groups, some taking turns manning the stove, some chopping vegetables and others, who aren’t as comfortable with cooking, setting up the tiny coffee table in the middle of our living room. We’ll usually have an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” on in the background. Things get a little more charred than they’re supposed to and consequently set off the fire alarm; someone will use twice the amount of salt that was called for in the recipe and we’ll frantically have to figure out how to not make our soup taste like seawater. 

We’ve had oven fires and melted pans aplenty. But nobody seems to care very much. There’s lots of shouting, people panicking over whether there’s too much smoke coming off of the pan, people climbing over everyone’s feet to get to the fridge to take out their favorite condiment. 

Ultimately, food and eating are often demonized, rather than celebrated, for your average young female college student demographic. But for my house, gathering in our too-small living room with no real kitchen table every Sunday night has helped us see these dinners as a way to come together, nourish ourselves and share our labor with others. And everything tastes better when you make it alongside the people you love.

Statement Contributor Lael Moore can be reached at