Eating “Family Style”

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful outdoor wedding at Ruthven Park in Cayuga. One thing that stood out in the setup of the wedding was that the bride and groom chose to serve their wedding fest communal family style with local seasonal ingredients.

Where the terminology “family style” comes from I’m not quite sure. There are many different styles of dining that are used in restaurants. The most familiar is the American plated service when all the food is plated individually in the kitchen and delivered to the guest completed. Family style has the food plated on platters rather, and the guests pass the food around the table taking just enough and leaving the right amount to be shared.

This is a style of eating that a lot of chefs have tried and not always with much success. Even in my last Toronto restaurant we made an attempt at serving people family style plates to be shared and we struggled to execute this vision with our guests. Perhaps it’s the individualism that pervades city culture, or maybe it’s the combined effects of colonialism and capitalism together that have created the restaurant culture of order your own and eat off your own plate.

I feel it is important to eat family style as it engages the diners with the food in a communal way. It is a visual reminder that we all share a common source of food and that we should only be taking what we need for our sustenance and be leaving some for the next person. I am coming to learn from some inspiring folks at Six Nations that this is part of honouring the dish with one spoon way of life.

Relating to food in positive ways helps foster stronger relationships in community and the land that supplies the nourishment that we need to thrive.

A common meal served family style in my house when I was a kid was pasta and tomato sauce.

Quick Tomato Sauce

  • Tomatoes (preferably Plum)
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Salt and Pepper


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  2. Lightly score the skin of the tomatoes and place in boiling water.
  3. If the tomatoes are ripe leave them in for no more than 15 seconds.
  4. The skins should come off easily. Place in ice or very cold water.
  5. Roughly chop tomatoes and set aside.
  6. Cut up onions and garlic as small as you can.
  7. Cook onions in olive oil on low heat until they are translucent.
  8. Add garlic and cook until soft.
  9. Add chopped tomatoes, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  10. Season with salt, pepper and fresh herbs. Enjoy!

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