TOAre we there yet? I’m not sure. Latest from cartoonist Adrian Tomine New Yorker cover, which is titled Facilitating the back, represents a small party: a group of friends, or perhaps colleagues, drinking and smiling and talking, while in the foreground, a newcomer, about to hang up her coat, opens a closet to reveal box after box of surgical masks , huge bottles of hand sanitizer and a toilet paper roll extravaganza. The question this image subtly asks is: backward or forward? Lately freedom has returned to our lives, but for the moment the happiness involved in this is still overshadowed by the fear that our liberation is not permanent; that we may still have to fall back on all the stuff stacked in our closets.
Looking at my shelves, I suspect I have enough pasta, flour, and canned tomatoes to see myself until the end of the year, and yet the habits of confinement are very hard to break. My grocery order, planned with military precision, is still large enough to last a fortnight, even though we can now go out to eat (and, with alarming frequency of my part). I constantly worry about the freezer and how I could manage to defrost it, given that I am so nervous about emptying it, and I also worry about the shortage, even if the insufficiency in question is just a raw (ha ha) crispy meat that I developed a lingering craving in the confinement.
Meanwhile, the pile of magazine ripped recipes seems, even now, to be growing, and it was already a fire hazard. Leafing through it, the culinary equivalent of Leonard Bast in Howard’s End (if it was killed by a bookshelf I hope to find my ending under my largest Le Creuset casserole), I see that the most recent addition involves desiccated coconut (of which there are three bags in the house, the last one bought, what about me? ? – just last weekend). Will I ever make this “very simple” cake, a delicacy reminiscent of those found in buffet breakfasts in elegant Italian hotels? Although it is unlikely that I will go to an Italian hotel, fancy or not, in the short term, I have a feeling that I will not, at least not while Pizza Pilgrims, Dishoom and Royal China remain open.
But not everything is bad. I like Dr. Michael Mosley’s new BBC podcast, Just one thing, in each episode in which he suggests a unique and easily achievable improvement to one’s health and well-being (Needless to say, the only advice I have acted on thus far, a daily dose of microbe-rich kefir, involves eat), and it seems to me that we could take a similar approach in terms of what we learned in the confinement. What’s the one thing you did that you won’t change? I’m sure I’ll always buy more locally now – there’s no better flatbread than the one sold by the little Turkish bakery I discovered on my daily walk, and when I finally get to see my family from Sheffield this month I’ll be bringing them a tray of their baklava , and I hope that the firm determination not to waste anything, born from the first weeks of the first lockdown, when shopping suddenly became hard work, will also continue.
Above all, I would like to maintain a certain level of fuss when it comes to eating. I have always loved eating rituals. I like freshly washed napkins and cut crystal salt shakers; My only major purchase last year was a new silverware canteen (it has aquamarine handles and wine from Paris). But in the confinement, those things also seemed important: a symbol of hope and tolerance. Then I discovered that a few loves in the mist, cut from the garden where they grow like weeds, and put in a pot, cheered me up at dinner time like almost nothing, even if a candle or a slab of butter on the table. a pretty dish is just as good, out of season. Self-help gurus teach us not to worry about the little things. But I think sweating over the little things makes the big things more manageable. Table rites bring order to our lives and express our gratitude for whatever is on it, and somewhere in between these two things, perspective can usually be found.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism