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Here’s how to create a soul-satisfying New Year’s meal, imbued with the spirit of friendship.

—By Deborah Kesten, VIP Contributor at Thrive Global

One of my most memorable meals wasn’t an actual meal; rather, it was a dining experience cradled in hospitality, friendship, and good, simple food. The place: the patio of a friend’s villa in a medieval town in Switzerland. The time: nearing midnight. The setting: like a Turner painting, an almost-full moon lighting the nearby lake. The food: an assortment of Italian cheese, apples and oranges, and rich red wine. Social ingredients: my husband, friends, and Frau Bucher, our hostess.

As the evening evolved, so did my satisfaction. Each person made a spontaneous toast at intervals throughout the evening that linked our hearts and souls and flavored the food — indeed, the entire evening — with love. Since then, I’ve thought often about how I might imbue my meals with the same soul-satisfying ambience that permeated that evening. Somehow, the thought wouldn’t let go.

Making Meal Magic

Then, one New Year’s Eve, I met Nailia Menne. Originally from Kazakhstan, Nailia told me about “the Tamada” tradition when I mentioned that the English language needed a new word for the invisible ingredients that created the “meal magic” I had experienced that moonlit night in Switzerland.

“There is an ancient tradition that no Kazakh celebration is complete without wine and a ‘Tamada,’ the host or toastmaster whose role is to create a pleasurable ambience and ensure that everyone is honored and enjoys the occasion,” Nailia told me. “Whether the gathering is small or a meal for many, it is a great honor for the person who is asked to be the Tamada,” explained Nailia. “Throughout the meal, starting with the elderly and followed by those who have traveled far, the Tamada invites each guest to toast.

Love-Infused Food and Friendship

“From the first to the main course and then dessert,” Nailia continued, “every person is honored through the modern expression of an ancient tradition that embodies the best of friendship and shared food.”

As New Year’s Eve unfolded, I knew I had found not only the word, but also a time-honored ritual that embodies the special spirit of that moonlit evening in Switzerland. 

I wish all of you a Tamada-flavored New Year, filled with love-infused food and the spirit of friendship.


For more about the healing power of sharing fare with others, please visit https://integrativeeating.com/category/social-nutrition/


  • Deborah Kesten


    Whole Person Integrative Eating

    Deborah Kesten is an international nutrition researcher and award-winning author, specializing in preventing and reversing obesity and heart disease. Her research career began as Nutritionist on Dean Ornish, M.D.’s first clinical trial for reversing heart disease, and as Director of Nutrition on similar "reversal" research at cardiovascular clinics in Europe. Deborah is Founder of Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE), her evidence-based model and program for treating the root causes of overeating, overweight, and obesity. Her research on WPIE has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals, and her WPIE training-and-certification course for certified health professionals may be accessed at  www.IntegrativeEating.com/training/ and at www.WPIE.org. Deborah's latest award-winning book is Whole Person Integrative Eating: A Breakthrough Dietary Lifestyle for Treating Overeating, Overweight, and ObesityTo learn more, please visit https://integrativeeating.com/iesection/