What’s ‘Girl Dinner,’ Anyway?

Food Features TikTok
What’s ‘Girl Dinner,’ Anyway?

The first few years of college went by for me in a malnourished blur—besides the mountains of mediocre cafeteria food that I would unceremoniously gorge myself with after getting high on the top level of the central parking deck, from ages 18 to 21, I basically survived on seasoned canned beans, Uncrustables and Gerber baby snacks. (It was a weird time for me.)

Little did I know that a mere decade later, my strange eating habits would be deemed a “trend” on TikTok. Well, kind of. Under the tag #girldinner, you’ll find a slew of videos of women showing off their most random, pieced-together dinners: think scrambled eggs with sriracha, two pickles and a glass of red wine or crackers, butter, a bowl of cherries and some olives. Girl dinner is charcuterie board-adjacent without any of the fuss; it’s both simple and chaotic in its construction and presentation. It was all started by Olivia Maher (@liviemaher), who showed off her cracker- and cheese-heavy meal, saying, “I cannot find the TikTok right now, but a girl just came on here and said how in medieval times, peasants had to eat nothing but bread and cheese and how awful that was, and she was like, ‘that’s my ideal meal.’ This is my dinner.”

It makes sense that girl dinner resonates with so many people right now. We can partially credit millennials’ longstanding obsession with charcuterie boards or the more-modern embrace of tinned fish for dinner. These kinds of no-cook, pieced-together meals are also arguably more popular in the summer—there’s no need to turn on the oven or stove or really do anything other than take some ingredients out the fridge and plate them haphazardly (or even leave them in their respective packaging to be enjoyed straight from the source).

I think girl dinner is also a reaction to Instagram’s often perfectly curated aesthetic, which has been subject to criticism over the last several years and has now given way to Gen Z’s signature chaotic, maximalist photo dumps. Or maybe it’s just a symbol of the growing mental health crisis and young peoples’ isolation from one another—after all, girl dinner mostly seems to be a solo endeavor, one taken when a real meal seems too difficult, time-consuming or soul-sucking to produce. Now that a record-breaking number of U.S. Americans are single, girl dinners may be becoming more common. 

Did we really need a term for this kind of meal? Maybe not. People have always pieced together meals from the scraps in the back of their fridges, pairing their dairy and fermented foods with some sort of carb and deeming it good enough for a meal. But I do think it’s interesting to view girl dinner as a reframing of what meal times mean to us as a culture. After all, the perfectly cooked, perfectly presented family dinner has historically come at the price of women’s unpaid domestic labor, and now that fewer women are entering the labor contract that is traditional marriage, our meals will understandably look different than they did in the 1950s. Girl dinner is not focused on women’s effort but on women’s enjoyment of their meal.

There is a beauty to girl dinner, a celebration of simplicity, an embrace of chaos, a refusal to play by the domestic rules that have shaped our eating patterns (and largely, women’s lives) for generations. So, yes, maybe last night’s dinner of two slices of mortadella and a plastic baggie of stale Froot Loops was a feminist act after all.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin