And why it’s more important than ever.
Before this time, I enjoyed many nightly delicacies standing up at my kitchen counter. I use the term delicacy loosely, by the way. I’m what people would call a grazer, so my sustenance is modest — stacks of crackers and designer cheeses, pretzels, cereal, anything that crunches. Though my consumption wasn’t limited to culinary matters, most of these meals were enjoyed with an appetizer: a phone game, the news, Instagram, Netflix. I ate standing up, plugged in, and many nights, I was alone.
My partner works in advertising, and I run a boutique content marketing company that champions the slow content movement. We live in New York City, so travel is (was?) embedded in our lives, but the current state of the world has compelled me to readdress my relationship with pace in all aspects of my life. Humankind is at a standstill, but collectively, our minds are rushing with stomach-churning anxieties that make it hard to think about anything, let alone eating.
Now, though, I understand the choice I have when it comes to the role that food plays in this new reality. Just as I would approach creating a piece of content, I am learning to view eating as a practice rather than a series of boxes to check throughout the day (or, in my case, Instagram photos to take).
The pandemic has taken away our ability to indulge in the distractions that rounded out the edges of life’s simpler pleasures — but with the time I’ve gotten back, I recognize that I have the power to do something else entirely. I can clear the counter space. I can wash the lettuce and chop the vegetables. I can boil the water, pour in the pasta, and lather it all in sauces, and creams, and spices. I can set the table with dried flowers and flatware. I can serve a home-cooked meal that will fill our bellies and warm our hearts. I can slow down and enjoy the company I have in a period where so many others are entirely alone.
And in the instances where solitude is the plat du jour, I can sit in stillness and remember that eventually, all moments — slow or fast, shared or alone, good or bad — will pass. Perhaps that’s the silver lining about gathering around a table during a period like this. Food marks the passage of time and serves us each a healthy reminder to savor life in all its courses. While I now end the days with a substantial (seated) meal, my renewed relationship with food has reminded me of this and also exposed a more profound hunger: tangible connection just as much as fleeting consumption. I didn’t realize it was sitting dormant in the depths of my stomach — and my heart — for so long. But dinner is different now, and so is my appetite for life.
Keep up with Rachel on Instagram @rachelschwartzmann.