The art of hosting an academic family dinner

Illustration by Emily Lomax

It’s week four, and with Raisin just around the corner, academic family life is in full swing. But before we break out the Jell-O shots and Bailey’s cereal, some families might want to gauge their children’s personalities and tolerances with an academic family dinner party. There are three essential elements that make up your family’s first dinner together:

The Food:

When deciding on the menu for your family dinner you have a few options. Domino’s delivery is always a good idea and an easy way to feed the masses if you aren’t particularly gifted in the kitchen or accidentally adopted a dozen too many kids. If you don’t know of your family’s dietary restrictions, then order a vegetarian and a meat pizza just to play it safe. You can also sneak some potato wedges and garlic bread into the order if you really want to treat your new family. So if convenience and high carbs are your priority, then Domino’s delivery is the best option.

But if Domino’s doesn’t take your fancy and you want something homemade, your second option for the night is to host a classic potluck. Potluck dinners are especially fun if you have children from multiple countries because you get to experience what comfort food is like around the globe and the burden of a full dinner party doesn’t rest on a single person. Although it sounds good initially, a potluck dinner can be a bit of a risk as well. Having only a few weeks of adult life under their belts, your fresher children might not prove to be the young Gordon Ramsay’s that you are hoping for.

So if you scoff at the thought of takeaway and don’t want to put the menu in the hands of your new children, you might want to consider cooking the dinner yourself. Hosting the dinner party isn’t as daunting as it sounds and can be fairly easy if you plan ahead. Before deciding on what to cook, make sure that you ask your family about any allergies or dietary restrictions as this could change your plans. One of my academic daughters is a vegetarian, so I decided to make the vegetarian lasagne featured in this issue. Pair it with a fresh side salad and some garlic bread to complete the meal. It is good to keep in mind that this might be the first fully home-cooked meal that your kids have had since coming to uni and you’ll have instant brownie points for feeding them something other than Dervish chicken nuggets. That being said, one of my favourite memories from first year was when my academic dad decided to host a “Chicken Nugget Ball” for our family. Everyone brought their favourite type of frozen chicken nuggets and black tie was mandatory.

The Drinks:

If your academic children aren’t bringing any food, they can certainly be in charge of bringing drinks. Wine is a good choice to pair with the dinner and will ease them into pre-ing if you plan on taking them out afterwards. If they don’t like the taste of wine, consider pouring Eco Falls into a wine glass and pretending to be classy individuals for the night. Alternatively, you can task your children with creating their own house cocktails and see what kind of bizarre concoctions they come up with, giving prizes for the best tasting, most alcoholic, or best non-alcoholic drinks of the evening. This will ease your kids into the next part of the dinner.

The Games

Games are important for the first family event because they act as good icebreakers and let your kids know that even though their parents are boring third years, they too have accumulated their fair share of embarrassing Freshers’ Week stories. “Never Have I Ever” and “Two Truths and a Lie” are both great options for this and will leave everyone with some amusing anecdotes.

Regardless of whether you choose to cook a five-course meal or host a legendary chicken nugget ball, your first academic family event will surely be something that you and your children remember for years.



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