A little over a year ago, I wrote an article about how the labor of cooking is an act of love when faced with the passing of my husband’s grandfather. Today, I was informed that I have been furloughed from my job indefinitely in the face of COVID-19. I got off the phone with my boss, I cried, and then I looked to the rest of the world for positivity. It’s incredible how much light is still out there in the restaurants of our communities.
Big name Chefs all over the country are going out of their way to turn their kitchens into relief sites for their own employees and others impacted by the crisis currently facing our country. Edward Lee, a chef whose cookbook we reviewed here, Smoke and Pickles, with the help of Maker’s Mark turned every restaurant he owns into relief kitchens for his employees. While he could no longer pay them, he could certainly feed them, and his example is one of many that led to the movement currently sweeping the country.
Nancy Silverton of Osteria Mozza fame followed in his wake and began the same process in Los Angeles. We have all seen the efforts of Jose Andres in his major kitchens addressing the needs of his communities. Marcus Samuelson of Red Rooster has turned his locations into relief sites as well, and these people are not thinking about their bottom line. They are thinking about the people.
It may be big names that are plastered all over national media, but let us not forget the little guys who are going above and beyond to support the people in their communities either. I remain a dedicated follower of social media within a town close to my heart, Burlington, Iowa, and I am as moved by their community leaders as I am by the big names we already discussed.
I am moved by the generosity of the community donating more than a thousand dollars to Chase Gibb’s restaurant coalition of Coal Haus 337, The Buffalo Tavern, and Buffalo 61 to support them while they provide meals to the service organizations in southeastern Iowa. People that are putting their lives on the line for their community are being given a spot of joy in their difficult fight by the donations of their community and the efforts of Chase's staff.
Knowing that even the little guys can make such a profound impact on their communities is perhaps the most valuable lesson of these hard times. I am moved by the man’s motivation to turn a terrible thing into hope, even employing his mobile pizza oven to help other businesses in need. There is no competition anymore. There is only a fight for survival, and it is through generosity that we can all survive.
In my last location of Delaware, the absolute gentleman-- The Rehoboth Foodie-- is doing his best to highlight businesses that are still accepting carryout and delivery orders in the face of this current crisis. It was only because of him that I know about Difibos restaurant in Bethany Beach packing grocery cases for their employees that they have had to let go as well.
All over the country, people are donating to businesses that are trying to keep themselves afloat by providing for the people on our frontlines against an invisible enemy. Sometimes, its a twenty dollar gift card so that a few nurses can get a cup of coffee on their way to work without having to worry about it. Sometimes it's a fifteen hundred dollar donation to feed an entire city’s first responders.
And sometimes, it's a take out order of a burger when you’re working from home. We all have a part to play for the people that are being hurt the most by this crisis. Generosity in the face of adversity is the only thing some of us have left, to give or to receive. We only have so much that we as individuals can do, but we must do it all. Restaurateurs can use their supplies and reach to do innumerable amounts of good for their communities, and we are seeing it everywhere. People can use their limited resources to help those people continue their mission.
Watch the Facebook pages of your local favorites for any kind of charity activity being undertaken and give what you can. Buy that delivery burger if you want it. Donate gift cards to your favorite locations to feed the people protecting us from our invisible enemy. Food is love. To give it, to receive it, or make it yourself matters little. It is a language we all understand.
An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird.
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