The Girl Behind ‘Girl Dinner’

Castleton graduate Olivia Maher sparked the ‘Girl Dinner’ trend on TikTok. Her original post has over 1.5 million views.

Castleton graduate Olivia Maher is the girl behind “Girl Dinner,” a trend that has been sweeping the nation after a TikTok video she posted on May 11, 2023, went viral.  

The video consisted of Olivia showing what she was having for dinner — grapes, bread, pickles, and various cheeses  — and she noted how she calls that “Girl Dinner” or “Peasant Dinner.” 

So, what is Girl Dinner anyway?  

Is it a snack? 

Is it a meal? 

A recipe written by a peasant somewhere at some time?  

Maybe Girl Dinner lies somewhere between the first two (not so much the third).   

Maher says the textbook definition would be described as, “a low maintenance meal made up of whatever a person wants to have for dinner.” 

“It can be a collection of snacks, side dishes, and small portions that satisfy the exact craving of the eater and fills them up without presenting as a standard full dinner,” she said.  

Maher and others reacting and making videos around the trend compare it to a “picky bits” style of eating, which is a catchphrase commonly used in the UK. 

Although Maher makes it clear that Girl Dinner can look like many different things and can come in many different forms, it isn’t just about what people are eating for dinner.  

“But what matters is the feeling it evokes. Usually like some form of giddiness because you’re eating exactly what you want, and you’re satisfied by it without it being a ‘proper meal,’” she said. 

The inspiration behind Girl Dinner was not as complicated as some might think.  

Maher describes it as, “I’m hungry but I’m not too hungry. I want to eat something but I’m craving lots of things so I’m going to stand at my counter and whatever I can find from my fridge, and you know cabinets and just snack on.” 

It was also femineity that helped to inspire the phrase.  

“It felt deeply feminine and then it just kind of came from this whole, you know, internet speak for anything that a woman kind of enjoys,” she said. 

Maher makes a comparison to how we call going for a walk a “Hot Girl Walk.”  

She says, “We have ‘girl’ this ‘girl’ that and so just something that in my own head I was like “oh I’m going to have a girl dinner tonight.” 

Women have an incredible way of making things that are mundane so enjoyable and celebrated.  

“It’s this beautiful acceptance of just, you know, let women enjoy things and we do and we can brand it in fun little ways. It makes life more enjoyable as a whole,” she said. 

She often found herself eating this way when her boyfriend wasn’t home for dinner so she would just eat whatever she wanted. 

When Maher’s boyfriend questioned her about her plans for dinner, she told him she was just “having a girl dinner.” 

“I was just standing at my counter one night, truly like hair a mess, eating grapes and cheese from my fridge going, ‘I can’t be the only person that does this.’ 

And boy was she right about that. 

Olivia’s comment section was filled with people discussing various names for “girl dinner.”  

One commenter said, “omg when I eat cheese and berries, I called it my rat girl meal.” 

With a trend like this growing so rapidly, it’s bound to hit a bump or two in the road.  

Some of the reactions to the trend found that it glorified or romanticized eating disorders.  hen asked about the inevitable controversy surrounding Girl Dinner Maher was not surprised when it started developing into something negative.  

“You know, people started joking and showing funny versions and making it into satires, as the internet does,” she said. 

She told how she could sense the downturn was coming, especially since it was getting so big so fast.

There was commentary around the trend saying it “looks like restrictive eating” or “eating disorders repackaged.” 

Maher’s response to the negative commentary was, “you’re only seeing a little bit, or you don’t know what that person ate earlier in the day or recently or if they are actually hungry right now.”  

She then goes on to say, “maybe this is all they actually want and they are listening to their bodies and that’s the whole beauty of girl dinner is that its finding community with yourself and finding exactly what your body needs at that time instead of upholding, you know, a societal standard of ‘this is what a dinner looks like and if you want to look a certain way and be a certain way you have to eat like this.’”  

Her final comment regarding how might be controversial is, “So there’s positives and then there’s what people want to see as the negatives, but that’s the way of the internet.” 

After graduating from Castleton, Maher didn’t have any specific plan in mind.  

She knew she wanted to be creative and live in big cities, so far, it’s safe to say she’s achieving both of those goals.  

During her time here, her professors could imagine her doing great things.  

“I think most of us would tell you that we were pretty certain she was going to do something pretty neat in life. She was always very driven, always very creative in class, and seemed to really want to really tackle life,” said journalism professor Dave Blow.  

And that she did! 

After graduating, Maher headed to the Big Apple.  

She began working in TV and Film, including on Apple TV’s “Dickinson,” and then headed out west to Los Angeles.  

“It’s all kind of encompassing this very social, very creative life and that’s the direction I wanted to go in leaving Castleton. I try to enjoy the everyday and you know dance when the music’s on,” she said.  

With the strikes happening out west, Maher can take time and really delve into this Girl Dinner movement and make the most of it.  

“I’m currently selling “girl dinner” merch where a portion of the proceeds benefit the Intervale Center in Burlington, Vermont and the farmers that were affected by the flooding this summer,” she said. “It’s just been really exciting to capitalize on this movement that I started and be able to give back to my hometown community and just kind of spread more joy and food excitement on the internet.”  

Following the success of Girl Dinner, Maher was interviewed by the New York Times as well as the Today Show. 

Current Castleton students like Abby Murphy are stoked that one of their own has created such a buzz.  

“I love the Girl Dinner trend! Before I didn’t know other people were also eating a weird variety of foods for dinner,” said, adding she was “very surprised a CU grad created it, but also glad.” 

Olivia Maher with the New York Times article she
appeared in.

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