Dinner in a Time of Pandemic

It’s long been my belief that coming together at mealtimes to sip some wine, swap stories, and learn what’s been going on in each others’ lives, is an essential part of what it is that makes us human. From the time of the stone age, early Homo Sapiens would gather about the communal fire each night for safety, stories, and food. And although this now often takes the form of a pizza night in front of the TV, or burritos and a beer at the taquería around the corner, we still find comfort in our shared breaking of bread.

IMG_7253.JPGdinner party prep

And that’s the key word: shared.

But now, in this crazy, weird, and scary new world of sheltering-in-place—where gathering together with anyone other than your own small household can be a life-threatening proposition—suddenly we’re all deprived of this essential human activity.

Robin asked me at cocktail hour the other evening what did I miss most from my pre-COVID-19 life. My first answer was “hugging people,” for I am an extremely huggy person. But then I thought a moment longer and said, “No, it’s actually dinner parties—and going out to restaurants with our friends. I really miss that.”

IMG_6906.JPGthe aftermath of a fine meal out

Yes, we’ve been doing lots of Zoom parties with folks (and one silver lining of this whole thing is that I’ve been connecting via email, phone, and Zoom with people I haven’t been in contact with in quite some time). But it’s not the same.

It’s no substitute for having someone hang out with you in the kitchen as you whip up a pot of linguine with clam sauce, and it’s no substitute for sitting down to the meal with eight of your best friends, clinking glasses and raucously recounting stories as you slurp pasta and pass the basket of crunchy francese bread around the table.

IMG_7113.JPG

crab and Champagne tasting

We’re all facing this at the same time, the world over, and I truly appreciate how very lucky I am to have a safe place to shelter, plenty of food, an awesome dog (who loves, LOVES, this new world of her people never leaving the house), and a fabulous wife to share cocktails with every evening at five.

L&R cocktailscocktail hour in Hilo

But I so miss breaking bread with all of you. I miss the part of my life that makes me feel the most human—that truly makes me whole. And when this is finally over and we’re free to gather in groups one again, let’s do dinner, okay? And lunch! And breakfast!


Readers: What do you miss most in these days of sheltering at home? Are there any silver linings in your life with regard to all that’s going on?

43 thoughts on “Dinner in a Time of Pandemic

  1. Yes, Leslie, totally agree with you about not being able to eat/share meals with someone…anyone (!) since I live alone.

    I am a member of three Meetup groups that dine together: Ottawa Dinner Club, Ottawa Foodies and Bite of Asia. We usually had 1-2 meals each month, ranging from summer festival outings (Poutinefest, Ribfest, Greekfest) to family-style shared plates to fine dining. Of course, we have not been together since (for me) February and won’t be any time soon.

    Even being able to meet a girlfriend for a morning coffee (or gelato) at one of our favourite Italian cafes is a no-go.

    The silver lining is that I am definitely dusting off my old cookbooks and also trying new recipes (pantry staples and others). I made my own sourdough starter for the first time (so easy) to bake sourdough bread and other goodies since my favourite artisan bakeries have been closed since March. But I think I will continue baking to some extent even when they do re-open. I am told that my starter will last for years, if properly fed. And I have actually lost (not gained) weight since being stuck-at-home, despite all this cooking and not doing my long power walks. That is one positive side-effect from having COVID-19…not hungry with the fever!

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  2. Yes, Leslie, I agree with you that I miss sharing/eating meals with someone (anyone!) since I live alone.

    I am also a member of three Meetup groups that focus on dining out: Ottawa Dinner Club, Ottawa Foodies and Bite of Asia. We used to meet 1-2 times each month. Meals ranged anywhere from eating together at annual festival events (Poutinefest, Ribfest, Greekfest – all cancelled this spring/summer), family-style shared dinners, potluck meals and fine dining. I have not been to a Meetup dining event since February and really miss the great food and camaraderie.

    A silver lining to the stay-at-home situation is that I dusted off my old cookbooks and am cooking and baking both old and new recipes. I made my own sourdough starter (so easy) for the first time and have made several sourdough loaves and other goodies. My fave artisan bakeries have been closed since March but frankly I think I will continue to bake my own bread sometimes, even when they re-open.

    And unlike others, I have LOST (not gained) weight during the past 6 weeks, despite all this home cooking and not power walking each day. One positive from having COVID-19…not hungry (fever).

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    1. Poutinefest? Ribfest? Count me in! Wish I could join you for some of those, Grace! (But then again, we already know we’re food soul-sisters.)

      Here’s hoping that you now prove immune to this dratted disease–at least for a while–and can go out and eat again soon without fear!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Leslie,
        Yes, based on previous discussions, we are food twins that need to eat together! And while I am looking forward to eventually getting outside (and eating), I wonder how many of the restaurants are going to survive this prolonged shut-down?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Not sure why I can’t reply directly below your question, but yes, I saw your FB post yesterday with the NYT article on Prune. Very sad, indeed. And many more restaurants are in the same boat.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Cynthia. I am not fully recovered yet, but feeling a lot better, so I am hopeful that I will get medical clearance to end my self-isolation soon.

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    2. I’m bringing out the old cookbooks, too, Grace! (Except most of my mine are really basic ones from when I was a young working mom, trying to learn how to cook.) So glad you’re feeling better–best wishes for a speedy full recovery!

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  3. Hi, Leslie, I love the picture of you and Robin. You both look wonderful. I retired last year and we moved to a new, smaller town. I’d found several groups and was ‘settling in’ to hanging out with a new set of friends when this hit. We remain blessed that my husband and I have food, shelter, a beautiful view of the SW Virginia mountains, opportunities to trail walk that allow social distancing (no one else is out there!), a cat who claims all possible lap time and the comfort of each other’s company. I miss trips back to DC to see old friends, my former boss’s retirement party, longer trips to see new places, Malice Domestic (of course). All of which will be available again.

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  4. I miss the hugs more than the dinner parties. My daughter and son-in-law live 20 minutes away, but they might as well be thousands of miles away. I socially distance walk with her and her dogs, but no hugging. It is very hard. Hope you stay well.

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  5. I’m not a social person, but I did occasionally like to see people who don’t necessarily live next door. That said, neighbors and cats really make shelter at home more tolerable. I feel especially bad for people who live alone with no pets. So glad you have Robin and the dog with you. Stay safe!

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  6. I miss people period. I don’t eat that many meals with people since I live alone, but I miss being able to go out and do things with people when I’m not working. I’m enjoying working from home, but I wish I could leave the condo when I log out for the day.

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  7. I miss traveling, especially to the conferences. I’m so sad I don’t get to hang with my mystery peeps. But also, I have no idea when I’ll see my mom in NY now. And everyone, prayers that my daughter’s university resumes classes ON campus in the fall. (She goes to Loyola New Orleans.) If that doesn’t happen, our whole family will take to bed.

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    1. My mom’s not allowed any visitors at her assisted care facility (which is a good thing), but even when I return to Santa Cruz in a few weeks and am only about two miles from her, I won’t be able to see her in person. And I could so use a hug from my mommy right about now…

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  8. I miss seeing people I work with. Crazy, ikr? But I miss the interaction with my coworkers. Instant messaging when there is a problem I need help with just isn’t the same. My best way to solve my problems is to talk to someone about them, and usually the answer comes out of my mouth. “No wait! I just answered my own question! Thank you for listening to my rambling.” And it’s a lot faster than staring at the computer for hours, trying to see what I did wrong.
    I have this habit of making sweets, and then giving them away to friends. I can’t do that right now. At all.
    Finding food trucks in DC to have lunch from. That’s a big miss for me. I’m willing to try anything once.

    The silver lining? My literary twists I”m doing. It’s actually keeping me sane at the moment. I am keeping it up till VA’s quarantine is over (June 10 right now), and am looking into a Malice goodie bag present for these!

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    1. Your literary twists are certainly a silver lining for all of us, as well, my dear!!

      And I totally get it about missing your co-workers. They kind of became like family for me, and when I retired from my law firm, the hardest part was not having my co-workers in my day-to-day-life anymore.

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  9. Yes to dinner, happy hour, conferences and hugs post-social distancing! I miss them all.

    The silver lining has been less time playing taxi for the kids and more time hanging out with the family. We’ve played a LOT of board games.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. So glad we both have someone to shelter in place with, Leslie, but I do miss meeting friends for dinner!
    And I’m probably regaining some of the weight I lost. Not from fab cooking like yours, but too much snacking. (Hubs, who is working from home is a bad influence, lol! That’s my excuse anyway.)

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  11. Love the picture of you and Robin, Leslie! And yes, I so miss doing things with people–whether breaking bread or hanging out or chatting at work. And since this week was supposed to be Malice Domestic, I’m especially sad about not seeing everyone there.

    We are trying some new things here as a family, though, like crossword puzzles or trivia questions during dinner. (There’s no “how was your day” talk because we were all here for it, ha.)

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  12. My life hasn’t changed too terribly much except I’ve had SO MANY theatre tickets cancelled! Book of Mormon … Lion King … Spongebob … an SNL alum comedy thingy, just to name a few. Wah. The shows will either be rescheduled or I’ll get my money back, so it’s just the loss of the events we were looking forward to. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for our Hamilton tickets in September. I bought tix for all our kids/spouses and we were going to do “Xmas in Sept” when everyone could be here. If the show gets cancelled we can still do Xmas, assuming travel seems safe and advisable …… big assumption!

    But I can’t complain. Almost everyone has it worse than I do.

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  13. While I miss so many things, I’ve been oddly busy. I feel like I’m stuck in an endless loop of Little House on the Prairie, beating rag rugs and making endless ice and handwashing our laundry til the new washer/dryer (hopefully) arrive. Our vac died, the dishwasher literally creates foam parties in my kitchen, and the fridge leaks so I keep tripping over the broiler pan I leave strategically placed on the floor. Every day I simultaneously channel my great-grandma, the mom from Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, and Lucy Ricardo. I miss both people AND machines (that work).

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