Eating in the Time of COVID-19

The latest in a series on COVID-lockdown-approved pleasures.

Posted Jun 29, 2020

 Arnold Gatilao, Wikimedia, CC 2.0
Source: Arnold Gatilao, Wikimedia, CC 2.0

Previous installments in this series on making the most of pleasures that are permissible in the COVID-19 lockdown addressed walking, reading, and music. Today we turn to eating.

No matter the restrictions, we will be allowed to eat. That’s fortunate not just because food is required for life but because it's a universal pleasure, enjoyed by people of every stripe, not just now but ever since Eve ate the apple.

Perhaps one or more of the following might enhance your enjoyment of this most robust of human pleasures.

First, we might appreciate food more if we consider its genesis and gestation. Take the peach, which for me, may be the tastiest food ... that’s healthy. A peach starts in the twinkle of a hybridizer’s eye. S/he has made thousands of crosses and grown thousands of trees to produce a peach that’s tastier, more disease resistant, and doesn't spoil quickly. Think of how much tastier today’s peaches are than the mealy taste-light ones of decades past. Producing a viable variety typically takes decades — a hybridizer is fortunate to have created just one winner in a lifetime.

Next is the farmer who must grow saplings for a few years before the trees sufficiently fruit. That’s a lot of watering, feeding, weeding, pruning, and finally, harvesting. Then there are the truckers, distributors, and retailers. All those people do all that so I can, while strolling Trader Joe’s aisles (mask on), pop into my cart a four-pound box of the finest variety at that week in the season ... for $6.49.

A fun challenge that you may or may not already be doing if only unconsciously is a game I call,  Beat the Rot. The goal is to buy enough that you’re unlikely to run short before your next supermarket run but then eat foods that use the item before it spoils. For example, with the aforementioned peaches, in addition to defaulting to peach as my fresh-eating snack, I may substitute it for tomato in my salad and put peach slices on my french toast, another of my favorite foods.

Speaking of favorite foods, perhaps you might list your faves in the service of increasing this COVID-acceptable pleasure. To get you started, here are a couple of mine: tuna or grilled cheese sandwich on rye, and warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream.

Lest you think I’m much of a chef, nothing could be further from the truth. Here, I describe my “cooking.” In its defense, it’s fast, cheap, and healthy, but it’s a certainty that I’ll never be asked to host a TV cooking show. My wife, however, is a fine cook. And there is something to George Bernard Shaw’s assertion: “There is no love sincerer than the love of food” ... especially when a loved-one prepares it for you.

If you're one of those people with more time amid COVID-19, perhaps this is an opportunity to try some dream recipe you've been too busy to make or is too big to fail: Souffle Grand Marnier, anyone?

Then there’s going out to eat, a casualty of COVID-19 restrictions. It’s not the food I miss—I prefer my wife’s and even my cooking, plus those are healthier and cheaper. But it's a lovely luxury to, perhaps with friends, sit in the different environment of a restaurant, even a hole-in-the-wall, peruse a menu to pick what you’d most like a chef to prepare for you and, voila, in minutes, without effort, it’s politely set before you. Fortunately, it’s summer, and outdoor seating has now been blessed in some jurisdictions, so eating out has become an option, one that our doggie Hachi also appreciates — dogs are allowed in most restaurants’ outdoor section.

A final enhancer of our appreciation of food is to feel grateful that we can and want to eat. As I am writing this, I flash on the many people who, because of disease, have lost much of their appetite, and in the case of people who are intubated, for example, severe COVID-19 patients, are unable to eat at all.

The takeaway

One of the lockdown’s silver linings is that it encourages us to appreciate simple pleasures. Eating is certainly one.

I read this aloud on YouTube.