This morning, I plugged my headphones in and went to cleaning the kitchen with Michael Pollan's Cooked keeping me company over my dishes. Much of what he said in the first three chapters it took me to get my kitchen back in order took on a new meaning when I thought of it in the context of our current times. He speaks of cooking as a protest against the commoditization of our everyday life, and who would have thought that a virus would be one of the forces driving us to do this work for ourselves again?
A year ago, I dabbled in bread on the weekends for funsies. A year before that, I didn't bake anything beyond the pumpkin cheesecakes my husband adores. Now-- two months into COVID-19 self imposed lockdown-- I am making bread of some kind almost every day. Now, when I'm furloughed and ineligible for UI benefits until the Pandemic Assistance is granted to me, I am constrained by financial difficulty to make the most of everything I have.
This means that I cannot turn to premade meals. I can't call for a pizza or a burger unless I want to make what is ultimately a large sacrifice just for some time outside of my kitchen. COVID-19 has robbed us of the comforts of our modern life that once alienated us from food, and I know that I am not among the most unfortunate in America right now.
Most of my closest friends are completely unemployed. Family members are furloughed, and the people that aren't are putting their lives on the line every day in the care of others. We are all living lives significantly tighter than we are used to. This is the hardest moment of my adult life, and I will remember it that way likely until I die. That doesn't mean that there are no lessons to learn right now.
Meat shortages are coming down the pipes for most of us. Now there are folks out there trying to tell us farms will face similar problems are meat packing plants, which means we as consumers have choices to make. We have to take care of each other if the world is not going to do it for us. We have to turn to our local farmers for produce, and if we are lucky enough to have them, our local butchers and meat packers. Not everything can be bought from these purveyors, but we have the opportunity to reshape our food economy.
We are taking more responsibility for our own nutrition the farther away we get from our old lives. We can't blame the fast pace of our lives anymore while we are all stuck at home. There is no McDonalds on the way home from work when the work is taking place in your living room-- if you're lucky enough to be working at all. We are what we eat now more than ever.
So let’s take advantage of it together. This is our chance to change the way we eat at home for the better. With enough time, these habits will stick long after we go back to the outside world. COVID-19 has made cooks of us all. It's up to us to choose what we cook and how we cook it.
An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird.
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