eating with dad across an ocean

How I’m Staying Close to My Dad Through Food—Even Though He Is 3,269 Miles Away

Last Updated on October 1, 2020

This is a guest post by Jennifer Hanway, a board-certified holistic nutritionist, certified personal trainer, and a health and wellness writer and speaker. You can check out her site for more.

As I write this, I should be enjoying myself with friends and family in my hometown of Guildford, Surrey, which is just outside of London, in the UK. Instead, I’m sheltering in place in my adopted hometown of Newton, just outside of Boston. 

It’s heartbreaking for me not to be there with him.

I’m super close to my Dad, even more so since my Mum died just a few months before I moved to the US almost seven years ago. He is my absolute rock, my best friend, and I love spending time with him on my trips back to the UK. One of our favorite ways to spend time together is to enjoy a delicious meal over a glass of wine (or two) and I absolutely can’t wait until I can do that again. 

But until then, we are finding ways to feel connected across the ocean.

We typically talk every day, send each other interesting articles or funny memes—for someone who is nearly 70 he is pretty tech-savvy. But my highlight of the week is when we cook the same dish on the same day to mimic our meals out together. And yes, there is a glass or two of red wine!

Our meals “together apart” started by accident when Dad mentioned he was planning to make a shepherd’s pie for dinner the next day. I thought that was a great idea, and made the same dish—an albeit healthier option—for dinner too. We compared recipes and reviews, and decided to do the same every week! 

We agree on the dish a week in advance, giving us adequate time to shop for any ingredients and get prepared. We choose what time and day for our ‘dinner’ date (it’s usually Saturdays, 1 pm EST, which is 6 pm GMT), and video call each other via Skype once we have sat down at the table. Whilst nothing compares to enjoying a meal with Dad in person, we’ve found it’s the next best thing.

the author eating with her dad via skype
The author enjoying a shared meal with her Dad.

And it has certainly kept us connected during this challenging time. 

Since that first unplanned shepherd’s pie together we’ve made curry, chili, and homemade burgers and he talked me through how to cook the most perfect pork chops in real-time. It’s helped me vary my meals and feel closer to my Dad, and I’ve learned some new cooking techniques that I will definitely use post quarantine.

ButcherBox has played a huge role in these meals, and I wish I could ship a box to my Dad! Instead, I found him a local organic meat supplier and arranged delivery with some of my favorite cuts of meat. 

And as for that accidental shepherd’s pie? I can’t wait to make it for my Dad in person. For now, I’d love to share the recipe with you, and maybe you can share it with a loved one to feel “together apart.”

sweet potato shepherds pie

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

3.83 from 35 votes
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Protein: Beef
Cut: Ground Beef
Course: Main Course
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes


  • 2 lbs ButcherBox ground beef
  • 4 medium sweet potatoes peeled and quartered
  • 2 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 zucchini diced
  • 1 white onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 carrots peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery diced
  • 2 tbsp chopped sage
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Himalayan salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika


  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Boil the sweet potatoes in a large pan of salted water until soft.
  • Whilst the potatoes are boiling, heat the avocado oil, and saute the zucchini, onion, celery, carrots and garlic until soft. Add the ground beef, tomato paste, and all seasonings and cook until browned.
  • Drain and mash the potatoes, then spread on top of the ground beef mixture. Top with the paprika, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.10
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Jennifer Hanway is a board-certified holistic nutritionist, a certified personal trainer, and a sought after health and wellness writer, speaker, and podcast guest. Her work has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, Well+Good, and the Party in My Plants Podcast.