(Photo: Tamara Monster)
Tamara Monster: “A lot of internationals live alone in studios so I thought maybe there are more people who are bored of cooking alone every day.” (Photo: Tamara Monster)

Bored of cooking for herself, Industrial Design master’s student Tamara Monster got creative and started a meal swapping group.

“I have always lived with housemates and found that, especially during lockdown, food is a big thing that you can make each other happy with. With everyone working from home, dinner became the main thing to do together. In my first student home, there were 18 people and the first time I cooked for more than myself it was for 13 people. I really enjoy cooking for others.

I lived in a student house in The Hague, but a friend of mine asked me to watch her cat. She lives right behind TU Delft which is really nice because with the COVID measures it’s convenient to be close. It’s much easier than coming from The Hague. But now I live here on my own, and with the darkness in winter I had no energy left to cook dinner. So I started cooking once a week on Saturday, preparing my meals for the whole week. But after two weeks of pasta, it was so depressing, I was done.

Quite spontaneously, I posted my story on Facebook in the TU Delft Internationals group. A lot of internationals tend to live alone in studios so I thought maybe there are more people who experience this feeling of being bored of cooking alone every day. I thought it would be nice to swap meals because you get to experience different types of foods but maintain the convenience of cooking once a week.

‘We gather in front of the Library, swap and have a chat’

After my first post two people responded. The first time we each cooked one meal, enough that we could exchange meals with each other. We came up with a couple of rules: it has to be vegetarian and egg free, and we swap on Sunday afternoons. We gather in front of the Library by the picnic tables and you can swap and have a chat. It’s the experience of cooking for other people but minimising COVID risks. We put the portions into Tupperware containers and swap them when we come together.

Originally, I was looking for a total of seven people so that we would be able to swap all together and have a different meal each night of the week. We posted another message online and got three more people who were interested and they joined our team last week.

The food tastes really good and it makes me excited to cook again. My usual style of cooking is going to the Turkish shops and letting myself be inspired by what’s available. With COVID, I was just going to Albert Heijn and picked the easiest things that required zero brain space. Now I feel excited again through cooking for other people. I want it to be nice, so I dress it up with a bit of coriander or spring onions, just adding a little fancy touch. At the same time, it’s a reward for yourself because you end up with way nicer food on your own plate too.”

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