The sacred bond of shared meals

Photo: supplied
Photo: supplied
Grace Bean joins the Fresh team to share her food journey as she completes her final year of the culinary arts degree at Otago Polytechnic Te Pūkenga.

We eat to live. That’s just a simple fact. But have you ever taken a moment to reflect on the deeply nuanced role food plays in our lives? Why is it that our general existence tends to revolve around the meals we eat and who we share them with?

In the tapestry of human experience, few threads weave together the fabric of connection as profoundly as the ritual of sharing a meal. From ancient communal feasts right up to the modern dinner party, shared food has remained a consistent pattern within basic human existence.

But the real question is how? How is it that the simple act of sharing a meal is so impactful on our relationship with others?

It wasn’t until recently, when I experienced the sudden loss of a family friend, that I began to truly appreciate the vast impact of food on our relationships. From the moment I set foot into the bubble of grief that had enveloped my family home, I was thrown into a world of nostalgic reflection of a man whose family had played a pivotal role throughout my life.

The occasion was not a happy one, and yet as we sat around the dining table, two families together again under the most tragic of circumstances, the anecdotal stories began to flow. His love of fishing, music, the artist Michael Leunig, and most importantly, his love of hot sauce and crispy potatoes.

It didn’t matter who you talked to or where in his life they fitted in, his love of specific foods had become a defining feature of who he was. This memory represented years of shared kai, of dinner parties, boat picnics and barbecues.

For myself, this time of reflection drew up many fond memories of time spent around the dinner table, our two families together, eating one of our most loved recipes.

This recipe is simple, but has been a staple in our two households for as long as I can remember. Easily created, yet moreish and irresistible, these hot wings have gone above and beyond the role of just a meal.

They have been the centrepiece of a lifetime of laughter and joy. To tears and tantrums. To good news and to bad. In essence, the act of sharing this meal transcended the simple act of eating; it instead represents a deeply human experience that nourishes not only our bodies, but also our souls.

So, in a world where our lives often whirl past in a blur of activity, let us not forget the power of a shared meal to anchor us in the present moment and deepen our connections with those around us.

Photo: supplied
Photo: supplied

Big Al’s buffalo hot wings with crispy potatoes and minted peas

Hot wings

800g boneless chicken thighs cut into halves


2 cups plain flour

4 tsp salt

½ tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 egg

1 cup milk

Hot sauce

60ml hot sauce of your choice

50g melted butter


1kg agria potatoes

olive oil

Minted peas

500g frozen peas

75g feta cheese

1 handful mint leaves chopped


Begin by preparing the potatoes. Heat your oven to 200°C standard bake. Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water. Peel your potatoes and then cut them into quarters, if the potatoes are quite large then cut them into six pieces. Place in the pot of boiling water and leave to boil until soft, but not falling apart — about 15 minutes.

When cooked, drain your potatoes and transfer to a large oven tray. Coat your potatoes in a generous pour of olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper. These will take 60-80 minutes to cook. Make sure to toss the potatoes at least twice during cooking to ensure all sides get crispy!

When your potatoes have 30 minutes left to cook, begin preparing your chicken.

Start by mixing the flour, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and milk together. Dip each chicken thigh in the egg mix and then in the dry mix, making sure to fully coat the entire thigh. Repeat this process so every thigh has a double layer of the coating.

Place your coated chicken thighs on a lined oven tray and place in the oven. Bake your chicken for 25 minutes. The coating should be beginning to brown a little bit, but still resemble dry flour.

When your chicken has 5 minutes left to cook, prepare the hot sauce.

Melt the butter then mix in the hot sauce of your choice.

When the chicken has been removed from the oven, use a fork to fully coat each thigh in the hot sauce mix.

For the minted peas, boil your frozen peas in a pot of water for five minutes. Drain and place in a bowl. Crumble the feta over the top then add the mint leaves. Gently mix together.

Place your finished chicken, potatoes and peas on your favourite dishes and serve.