SOCIALLY DISTANT DINING
TOP TIPS FOR ORGANISING A VIRTUAL SUNDAY LUNCH
One of the things that I’ve been missing the most in recent weeks is having Sunday roast with the family. As with many families, our Sunday roast tradition dates back as early as I can remember and as we kids became adults and got on with our own busy lives, one continuity remained; a weekly Sunday roast family get-together.
When unprecedented situations unfold in our lives, we often crave the comfort of old habits and more than ever we need to invest in the meaningful relationships in our lives. Which is why my family and I have recently taken our Sunday lunch tradition digital, a virtual meal that spans four households and nine hungry mouths!
Just like with an ordinary dinner party, it takes a bit of organisation to pull off virtual group dining but particularly in these times, the rewards are worth the effort. Here are my top tips, for making it work!
TECHNOLOGY, TECHNOLOGY, TECHNOLOGY
A family unit typically embraces a number of generations, and not all of them as tech savvy as one another.. Technology can go wrong at the best of times but when your Nan is at the helm, the scope for problems can widen! Virtual dining relies of the technology being simple enough for everyone to use, and it doesn’t hurt to have a test run the day before to familiarise yourselves with the platform.
FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Skype, Houseparty and Zoom are handy platforms for hosting video get-togethers for multiple people. For our family Sunday lunch, we used Houseparty because it allows multiple video chats as well as several games that you can play during calls – that was our dinner entertainment taken care of!
SETTING THE SCENE
Before you lay your table, have a think about where your device will sit and how it will frame you, the table in front of you and the scene behind you. – Do you need a stand or a prop to keep your device in place? – Where will the sunlight enter the room, will you be able to see the screen and will your virtual dining party be able to see you? For a dining event, you’ll all be online for a while so consider how your device can charge as you dine.
You can take this a step further, a vase of flowers on the table and a neatly laid dinner setting complete with matching napkin. You could even hang a picture. Make the space feel like the environment that you would normally be in.
And before you start, you might want to switch off your mobile and shut down your email. After all, how can we connect meaningfully when we’re surrounded by the white noise of pings and buzzes that have become so intrinsic to our modern digital lives?
When we’re connecting virtually, we must be mindful to create a sense unity somehow; within the context of a dinner party this can be achieved through coordinating the food and drinks. You could all cook from the same recipe for example, although within my family this would yield vastly different results!
Instead we opted for takeaway and ordered our Sunday lunch from the Griffin Inns’ takeaway carvery. Each household placed their own orders, we coordinated the delivery times and hey presto, we all got to sit down at the same time and tuck into the same delicious tucker. Not only did that create a sense of cohesion, but it gave us some dinner time conversation too as we ‘ooooh’d’ and ‘arrrrr’d’ our way through delicious mouthfuls of roasted meats, potatoes and vegetables.
PRACTISE MAKES PERFECT
Let’s be honest, the first time you try something new it might get off to a bumpy start – but practise makes perfect. Each time you virtually dine, you’ll be mastering the technology and refining your setup. Why not add more dining days to your diary, such as ‘virtual pub Friday’ or ‘date night Saturday’? As more and more of us are turning to virtual platforms to maintain friendships and connections, the technology providers continue to improve their platforms making it easier than ever to have those meaningful connections in a world that is changing faster than many of us can fathom.
So I’d like to raise my glass to embracing change, mastering technology and never letting the important connections in my life slip away..