Cooking in the Time of COVID-19
A lot has been said about how we have all seen this before. I’m a child of the nineties. I saw swine flu and ebola and SARS and West Nile Virus. I remember the general concern in the air, but I lived in a place where all of these things felt so far away. I don’t think I knew anyone who ever got swine flu at the time. Ebola never exploded like we were all terrified of. There is conflicting information out there about the current pandemic that has us all frightened, and I want to believe the people that tell me not to be afraid.
But I am afraid.
I’m afraid for my older relatives and my friends with chronic health conditions. I’m scared of all of the cancellations pouring in every single day from the NBA to the Overwatch League to Disneyworld. My every day life has already been disrupted in some small way by the abrupt ending of sporting events nationwide. Every time my boss calls us together in the office, I feel my heart leap in a mini panic attack.
The world is suddenly very dark, and I had come into 2020 hoping for a brighter tomorrow. I’m 27 and in decent health. I’ve got very little to be afraid of when it comes to my personal health, but the lights are going out everywhere we look. The things that bring us joy-- sports and amusement parks and parties-- they are the sacrifices we have to make to TRY and control a worldwide pandemic. What do we do when the lights go out? We light a candle.
It’s a small thing to turn to food when everything else gets hard to handle, but it’s what I’ve done since I was a little girl. I can control what I’m cooking, and it tastes good when I’m done. That’s satisfying to a person with chronic anxiety on a number of levels. What we all need right now is a little bit of comfort. We’re finding it in our own ways. Some people find it by telling themselves and others that it's not as bad as we all think. I find it in a cold beer and a long cook.
Friday night, I started peeling shrimp fully prepared to tackle a recipe from our cookbook of the month. Halfway through peeling the shrimp I decided to abandon it and turn to the comfort of a bastardized shrimp scampi instead because I know the power that that dish has in my kitchen. It’s a favorite of my husband. It’s quick, and it’s Lent friendly. I don’t have to worry about if he’ll like the carrot in the tempura fritter. I can show him I’m thinking about him when the world is getting scary.
I can’t even imagine what I’d do if we had kids right now. Schools all over Wisconsin are closing next week, and that trend is crossing the entire country literally as I type this article. I joke when I say that I want to go home for quarantine time, but I don’t want quarantine time. I want things to go back to the way they were, as imperfect as they were. Literally the only thing I can do right now to pretend that everything is alright is cook.
Cooking is love. Cooking is comfort. When I can’t face the outside world, no matter the reason why, it’s there to remind me that things aren’t so bad. Doesn’t matter if I made the food or if someone else did. This craft makes us all feel a little better. Food carries so much in every bite, and when I bite into that spaghetti tonight, I feel a little bit closer to normal.
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An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird.
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