At Cheeky we want every meal to count, because we’re on a mission to make mealtime matter. From the food on our plate to those we share our meal with, we can make a difference starting at the dinner table.
Our friend Brooke Marston is the creative behind Charity Girl Problems, a website dedicated to empowering people to find their own unique give back style. Charity Girl Problems was created as a place to share the stories of every day people following their passion while making sure their success makes a difference in the life of another.
Brooke is also a fan of throwing lovely dinner parties and gathering her friends around the table, which is why we knew she would be a huge ally of our Make Mealtime Matter philosophy.
WHAT DOES "MAKE MEALTIME MATTER" MEAN TO YOU?
Growing up, dinner was a place where we would come together every night to share about our days. Periodically, we would go through stints of asking pre-selected questions then go around the table giving everyone a chance to answer. Questions would range from silly to serious, encouraging everyone to really think about the answers and to spark conversations.
Recently, I’ve read several books about the 1700 and 1800’s and dinner parties were an important part of society, as they were the place where people could come together, invite notable guests, and use these parties as an opportunity to learn something new. Essentially, dinner parties were the TedTalks before people dared to dream about the internet. Mealtime used to be a place in our society for people to come together and discuss issues facing modern society, encouraging people to learn from each other and spark (civil) debates.
To me, mealtime is a pause in the day, a chance to take a break and recharge. It is a place where we can take the time to nourish ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually.
IF YOU COULD INVITE ANY FOUR PEOPLE TO DINE WITH, WHOM WOULD YOU CHOOSE
If I could invite four people to dinner today, I would love to invite Audrey Hepburn, Diane Von Furstenberg, Amal Alamuddin Clooney, and Queen Victoria. It is an eclectic group of women, but a group of women who all took on the challenge of making the world a better place with grace and style, while unapologetically holding to what they believed in.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE TRICKS AND TIPS TO STYLE YOUR MEALTIME GATHERING WITH FRIENDS
A few dinner party tricks I use at every party are to always include fresh flowers, candles, and conversational ice breakers.
Secretly, I have always wanted to learn the art of flower arranging. Where most people appreciate the beauty of a bouquet, I analyze it and burn it to memory (in truth, my phone’s photo archives) in hopes of replicating them in the not too distant future. For dinner parties I like to recreate these arrangements by stopping by Trader Joe’s and picking out several different colors, heights, and varietals. Flower markets are always the ideal, but I do not always have time for that. Trader Joe’s is a great place for not only being budget friendly, but having a great selection to choose from.
Candles are a great way to provide a warm ambience while also softening the mood. There is something calming about the soft flicker of a flame and the subtle, smoky smell.
Ice breakers can often be the worst thing about a party. There is nothing more awkward than being forced to answer a question about something you are put on the spot about. I like to do more subtle ice breakers, like picking a unique decor that lends to the topic of the evening or sprinkling unique facts, art work, and/or quotes around the space that inspire people to spark conversation naturally.
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT TO MAKE FOR DINNER? DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH YOUR GUESTS, YOUR MOOD, THE OCCASION, WHAT YOU'RE CRAVING?
I usually like to host themed dinner parties, even if it is a theme shared only in my head. Whether the theme be a color, a quote, or a specific food item, having a theme to tie everything back helps to ground everything and keep things inviting to guests.
A good charcuterie is also a must, when it comes to throwing a dinner party for me. Personally, I love arranging everything on the different boards, it is one of my most favorite parts of hosting a dinner party. It is even more fun when adding the challenge of hosting friends who are dairy free or vegetarian. But truthfully, a good charcuterie is a great way to get people sitting down together and spark conversation naturally.
When it comes to selecting food for the evening, I personally like to eat seasonally, so I choose food based on what is in season and available at the farmers market. However, I also like to make things family style, so that everyone feels a part of the group. Serving things family style is a way to reinforce the idea that everyone is equal and has a place at the table; an idea that is the core of any gathering I host.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE QUESTION TO ASK GUESTS AT YOUR DINNER TABLE?
When hosting groups of people who do not necessarily know each other, I like to go around the table and share my favorite stories and details about each person seated at the table. The reason for this is two fold. One, it makes it easier for them to talk about themselves. And two, it allows me to share traits that everyone at the table have in common and (hopefully) creates a connection that can lead to future friendship or collaborations.
THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS WE CAN DO TO HELP THE 1 IN 7 AMERICANS FACING HUNGER. HOW DO YOU CHOOSE TO HELP HUNGER AND WHY?
Hunger is a complex, yet simple issue, and one that is close to my heart. When people think of hunger, we think homeless and those living in poverty who cannot afford basic human things most of us take for granted.
But hunger is bigger than that. It includes families who are “food insecure” and people living paycheck-to-paycheck, who simply run out of money at the end of every month after bills are paid. They might have a house to live in and a bed to sleep in, but they go to bed hungry, too.
For me, I like to help fight hunger in several different ways. I volunteer with the West Hollywood Food Coalition, The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, and the San Diego Food Bank. I also make the conscious choice to purchase and support brands (like Cheeky) that are working to fight hunger both financially and through raising awareness by initiating conversations. On a personal level, I like to keep food bars, water, and other basic items like socks in my car to give out to homeless people I meet during the day.
There is no right or wrong way to help work towards an end to hunger. All that matters is that we all do something.
HOW CAN BRINGING PEOPLE AROUND THE TABLE MAKE AN IMPACT TO HELP END HUNGER?
The first step to making any impact is educating people about the problem. If people do not know about it, they cannot help to fix it.
The second step is to cultivate a creative and collaborative space where people can ask questions and discover how they can be a part of the fight in a way that works with their giving style. Often, people see the issue as a whole and feel it is too big to even begin. By creating spaces to bring people together, we can break a large issue into small, manageable steps, allowing people to discover for themselves how to use their unique skills to contribute to the solution.
The more people we can bring to the table, the more opportunities we have in finding creative solutions that can end the current hunger epidemic we are experiencing. At least the issues we are facing here in the US.