Saturday, September 23, 2023
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The Dionysian Freedom of the “Girl Dinner”

Girl dinner is still, somehow, trending. At the time of this writing, videos tagged “girl dinner” have a collective 410 million views on TikTok, and the number climbs by leaps and bounds with every click of the refresh icon. There has even been a brassy, booming song written in its honor. The phenomenon exploded after it was featured in the New York Times earlier this month, and has since been written up in numerous articles from legacy media outlets (such as right here, in this one). You can now order girl dinner at Popeye’s, and even the luminous Nigella Lawson has weighed in, referring to the meal as “picky bits.”

For those who have somehow managed to avoid this thing/non-thing, girl dinner is a snack plate, made up of whatever you have lying around. It’s a meal you prepare just for yourself that involves zero cooking or cleanup, but usually features some aesthetic flair (writing for the Times, Jessica Roy described the meal as “an aesthetically pleasing Lunchable”). Girl dinner can be a bag of popcorn and some pickles, a considered charcuterie board, or a plate of leftovers with some candy on the side. It is anything your heart desires, so long as you already have it in your kitchen and it does not require the aid of an oven, stove, or knife block. Girl dinner is perfect for the heat of summer, or any time that you don’t want to do the dishes, really.

Girl dinner was invented by Olivia Maher, a showrunner’s assistant currently out of work due to the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. On May 11th, she shared a video of an assemblage of baguette, butter, cheese, cornichons, and grapes, saying the spread was inspired by medieval peasants with their hunks of bread and cheese and dubbing it “girl dinner.” Other users began posting their own girl dinners: hummus and carrots with salami on the side; nuts and jars of olives; apples and sardines; piles of Babybel cheeses. In theory, girl dinner should be sort of random but also filling, an assemblage of sides that add up to a full meal. Of course, eating disorder TikTok got there too, with creators extolling the virtues of a nearly empty plate, along with sleep for dinner and pills for dinner. That part is depressing.

But girl dinner, in general, doesn’t have to be. I think it should be pure indulgence, sans all deprivation; pleasure, not a punishment. Let’s bring a little sense of occasion and some Dionysian sensuality to girl dinner. Think of a table overflowing with figs, cured meat, craggy blocks of cheese, honey, and good bread, like a candlelit Flemish still life. Lying back in the tub while lowering a bunch of grapes into your mouth is a delicious form of girl dinner, especially if someone else is holding them over your face as though you’re a Greek god. Or just stand in your kitchen and feast on something good. You are a lusty 16th-century kitchen maid or a nymph picking at ripe fruit or a girl who could afford to get her birthday catered by Alimentari Flaneur (RIP). Put your Proustian Madeleine on a pretty plate. Mine is definitely a Babybel.



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