That’s it. I’m tired. It has been nine months cooking for myself. The summer is now here in Rio de Janeiro and it is hot. I don’t want to cook anymore.
Pre-pandemic cooking had meant leisurely weekends in the kitchen that would take me back to my culinary roots. It was social; I would have friends over. When the quarantine hit, however, what had been a hobby became a necessity. I confess that setting a table for one had never been an uncommon eccentricity for me—but every day? Preparing meals for myself had never been quotidian, because lunch—my main if not only meal of the day—had been eaten out five days a week for more than twenty years.
As an organized person, I quickly sorted out what I actually needed from what I thought I needed, and stopped wasting time more than money in shopping, storage, and preparation for the apocalypse. Regardless, I still had a demanding and spoiled client—me—someone who likes to sit down and have a satisfying lunch of 3-to-4 courses, the one that leaves me without further desires and the energy to complete my work and exercise.
I usually try to have a combination of raw foods, meaning a salad, and a steamy soup; rice and beans/lentils are staples. It is a meal that juggles the often-conflicting priorities of eating vegetarian, of having nutritious food, of having variety, of being social, of being environmentally-conscience, of considering ayurveda (because the foods we eat are also our medicines and poisons), of accepting what the Universe has made available on a given day, and, of course, of negating or of complying with desire—our control of which is limited. Since it is virtually impossible to reconcile all these priorities, some fast footwork is required to make the split-second decisions for best possible options under the circumstances. It is a kind of game for me, but I can understand how those who have disciplines for other things besides food can find the mind map of the finnicky exhausting. And it is one of the reasons why I have always followed mine without perturbing others, preferring to let the inquisitive ask rather than trying to school what was unsolicited.
I did come across some interesting discoveries when fielding the how-to questions. Despite the exceptions, there is clearly a startling generational cut between those who know how to work with their hands and those who don’t. It seems people younger have fallen (even more) victim to a society that has prioritized intellectual production over the problem-solving that can only be worked through the hands. That is not to be lightly: it is a profound issue, one that may at the very heart of the global environmental crisis that has sent us indoors for a year in a time-out complete with dunce caps.
On the other hand, although I wasn’t feeling so comfortable to post inspirational pandemic food porn after realizing how quarantine was such a privilege, I was pleased to see on the social media how so many discovered what they can do with their hands and how they can create.
The pandemic coincided with the winter in South America and the season of its best and most varied produce, as many first-time foodies discovered. It had always been the time of year to spend the entire weekend in the street markets and in the kitchen anyway. It is the time of year when I take advantage of the cooler temperatures to drink red wines, a great pleasure of mine and something I cannot do when the thermometer is above 23°C—which is most of the year.
Now it is summer and it is so hot I can neither eat nor drink! The season is calling me outside. To the streets. To the beach. I’ve about had it with the pandemic—a dangerous sensation that leads us into a snafu of priorities that are also difficult to reconcile.
Regardless, I’ll always remember the winter alone during the pandemic, because I am fortunate enough to say that if the quarantine wasn’t that bad, it was because of the food—or discovering the gratitude for having been forced to cook and to clean and to fix things as a child. It gave me the resources and discipline to handle a situation no one could have imagined this time last year.
Even if I’ve fed up with it!
(Thanks, Dad! 😉)