Boomer Unchained: Our changing actions and habits around food
It seems as if the pandemic has changed so much about how we think and how we act regarding food. Maybe it was the sudden and unexpected empty shelves in American supermarkets last March. In all of my 70 years, I’ve never seen anything like it. Or, maybe it is the fact that so many of us were afraid to go to a restaurant, or venture into any public places for that matter.
Suddenly, we had to plan meals long in advance. We had to turn to other suppliers of food when we realized that maybe we couldn’t depend upon our local supermarket. And, did we even want to go into the supermarket?
With so many normal activities cancelled, food preparation became a focus for many of us. We’ve shared food photos and recipes in emails, text messages, and on Facebook and Instagram. Some of us started making bread. I spent all spring, summer and fall doing the majority of my food shopping with local farmers, a butcher, and a local baker. I rarely went into a supermarket if I didn’t need olive oil or dishwashing detergent. As long as it was warm, I met up with friends and we ate outside, socially distanced. Eating dinner bundled up in jackets and hats become a norm. Holiday time became difficult and extended family meals became small, or not at all. Several friends and I cancelled any trips via airplane. Friends drove as far as Florida and Michigan to see family, rather than fly.
Friends started discussing food-centric television shows, the most popular being “Stanley Tucci Searching for Italy."
Here we are one year later. We are still in the pandemic. Thankfully, we seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel. About half of the over-65 crowd in Delaware has been vaccinated, which means that our risk of suffering a serious illness or death from this virus has waned.
Recently, The Wall Street Journal ran a feature called “How We Cook Now,” in which the reporter interviewed a handful of national personalities on the lessons the pandemic taught them about food. Their comments on their experiences included: The need to stock a freezer; more meal planning; more experimentation; more focus on healthy foods; and, finding local sources for produce, dairy and even meats and fish. They all said that the experience has changed what they will do in the future.
I think about what seniors are doing. Initially, the second vaccine sent some of us to restaurants for the first time in a year, still being painfully aware that we have to continue to wear masks (now double) and social distance.
With warmer weather coming, we plan to get together and eat outside. Rehoboth Beach restaurants are already preparing for offering outdoor dining, which begins in April. I just can’t wait. The plans are in the making to keep everyone distanced and healthy while eating and drinking outside with friends and family.
I wonder, though, will we ‘seniors’ still continue to make sure our freezers are stocked. Will we continue to focus on buying locally grown produce to make sure that those farms stay in business?
I think so. Like the children of the Depression, we are the children of the 2020 pandemic. I speculate that those carefree days of letting the fridge go practically empty and figuring out dinner at the last minute are, for the most part, in the past. I know I will continue to have somewhat of a stock of frozen foods in my freezer, and dry goods in the pantry (keeping a watchful eye out for bugs). I’ll continue to shop locally whenever I can. I’ll continue to plan meals, even if for just a few days, and continue to plow through my collection of cook books to find interesting recipes that seem like fun. This past year, I have enjoyed making soups, pasta sauces, stews, and a variety of stir fry, depending upon the fresh vegetables I could find. I have shared recipes with my adult sons, who also have been doing a fair amount of cooking at their own homes.
And, I will even keep washing my hands as often as I learned to during this pandemic. If you think about it, when was the last time you had a cold (A question for those who did not get Covid-19)? The handwashing, social distancing and mask wearing have been protecting us from all those typical respiratory infections, and from flu, for that matter. I can’t even tell you the last time I had a drippy nose.
I suspect we all will spend a little more time than before the pandemic thinking about our health – what we eat; where are food comes from; how we prepare it; and where we go if we are not cooking ourselves.
Top: I made several stir fry this winter. I tossed whatever veggies I found into my wok with olive oil and some spices. I added sauteed shrimp to this one, and served it over rice.
Above: I made a pasta sauce by sauteing onions, garlic, mushrooms and bell pepper first, then sauteing ground sirloin, and then putting it all together with canned tomatoes, tomato paste, (yes) a jarred tomato sauce, red wine and olive oil and then let it simmer.