When you ask a group of food writers to bring a plate to a function, you know you're going to eat well. You can also pretty much guarantee there's going to be an over-abundance of food.
So it was with the Food Writers NZ Christmas party recently. The group contributed some stunning offerings, and after we'd celebrated with festive gourmet goodies, there was a lot of food uneaten.
So we packaged up the leftovers and one of our members took them the Auckland City Mission, where they were shared with some of the people sleeping outside.
It can be easy to forget there are people for whom feeding the family — at any time, let alone for Christmas — is an overwhelmingly difficult task. A plain and simple meal, where everyone eats reasonably well, is hard enough for some households; a celebration meal is out of the question.
Distributing food at the Mission was a direct way of feeding people who need help. But there are other ways we can give and share at this time of year. And I guarantee doing this will make you feel amazing.
I reckon a donation to help a struggling Kiwi family would be a great thing for an extended family to club together and do.
Instead of spending $20 on secret Santa gifts no one really wants, what about pooling that money to help someone else?
Here's some inspiration.
The Auckland City Mission provides around 11,000 food parcels to individuals and families in desperate need each year. You can donate food directly, any day of the week. Or you can make a donation at the Mission's website to support their work.
During the Christmas season, more than 17,000 families will turn to The Salvation Army for support. At their Foodbank website you can "shop" for grocery items to donate, from Christmas food to personal care items.
Or donate a Gift of Hope — choose anything from a single child's Christmas gift to a Family's Future bundle including budgeting sessions, food and Christmas gifts for the kids. These are given directly to real families in crisis.
For a cool child's gift, here's another option. Most of us know the stress of having a sick child; having a child in hospital at Christmas will be the reality for over 600 families who will stay at a Ronald McDonald House this festive season.
A $3 donation via text will go directly to RMH, who provide free accommodation and support to families. In return you'll get a website link to create a cute personalised Christmas story e-book for your child.
These are gifts that make both the giver and receiver feel good; simple things that can bring huge joy.
Felicity, who shared our party food at the Mission, reminded us of this.
"It was both heartbreaking and heartwarming to chat to a 12-year-old girl and her mum," she said. "When she saw Barbara's beautiful meringues, she said 'It's just like Christmas'."