To celebrate & to survive 8/20/2020

Quick things:

Scroll down for the full list of what we’ll have this week! Check out the website for everything we’ve got right now!

Don’t let me indulge in too much self-pity. I got to eat this pork chop smothered in peach habanada sauce next to a big pile of corn salad. Actually, I didn’t eat *this* pork chop, this is Dusty’s plate.

As this pandemic drags on, I imagine we’re all experiencing the isolation in different ways. For the most part, I feel pretty lucky in that regard — I am a pretty serious introvert; I live with my partner/best friend; I have an amazing family who has gone above and beyond to support me even when we can’t be together in “normal” ways; I work with a team of fun, interesting, and engaging people; and I get little snippets of interaction — almost enough to satisfy my introverted nature — throughout the day as I run orders to your cars or chat with you on the phone about which way our website is misbehaving this time. It’s not as much as I’d like, but it helps me feel connected to human beings outside my bubble of staff and Dusty.

And yet…I’ve realized I have a nagging sense of isolation that remains, and I don’t think it’s about how much interaction I’m able (or not able) to have in the course of a given day or week. It’s something deeper than that, something to do with feeling in sync (or not in sync) with others in my community.

I’ve realized that one of the things I enjoy about local/seasonal eating is that it can serve as a shared framework for connecting with people. You and I might not be cooking exactly the same things at home, but we can both celebrate the arrival of tomatoes and watermelons and figs, and though we are each experiencing an individual and personal joy in those things, we can also share that joy; we have that in common.

I first started feeling this way as the strange spring unfolded, and both the walk-in and my Instagram feed filled with beautiful food. Just out of my reach were people suddenly finding themselves with perhaps more time on their hands than they’d experienced in their adult lives, and many of them were spending it in the kitchen. Meanwhile, I was suddenly finding myself with less time than I’d ever experienced in my life, and we were spending less time in the kitchen than normal. Truth: we’ve eaten a shocking (for us) amount of takeout over the last five months.

This gets to me because talking about food, sharing the joy in a beautiful tomato dish or a new thing to do with zucchini — these are the highlights of my life! And now they’re distant not just because we can’t chat the way we used to, but also because I’m just not able to engage with them as fully as I could once upon a time.

I don’t mean to make it sound so dire — for sure I am celebrating with tomato sandwiches and the corn salad that is a highlight every summer and by eating a whole box of figs at my desk after everyone else has gone home for the evening. Dusty’s grilled zucchini and onions and peppers, and he made an out-of-this world peach-habanada* sauce to spoon over pork chops, and we’ve done a few rounds of various twists on caprese salad. It’s not like we’re not eating well! But still, I miss cooking-as-an-act-of-celebration being part of my daily life.

When I sat down to write this evening, I thought I was going to talk about some of the ways I’ve drifted away from and back to my food “roots” over the course of the past few months; some of the strategies I’m trying to use to make sure I’m eating food that nourishes me, body and soul. Like, how after a few weeks of a lot of tuna fish sandwiches, I realized that if I just did a bunch of hardboiled eggs in the Instant Pot at the start of the week, I could make egg salad sandwiches instead, and have hardboiled eggs for a mid-morning snack if I felt like I was flagging. Same with cutting up a big cantaloupe one day, and eating it with Caputo ricotta every morning for breakfast until it’s gone and it’s time to cut up another one. Making that sheet pan dinner twice as big as it needs to be, and eating the leftovers the next time I start thinking about tacos. (Who am I kidding? Once I start thinking about tacos, I’m going to have to have some.)

Anyway, these are kind of opposite ways of approaching food, right? Celebration versus survival? But it occurs to me that they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In so many ways, these are not the days for grand celebrations, at least not in the ways we usually think of them. But cantaloupe for breakfast every morning for the few weeks I can? If I remember to notice it, it is a form of celebration; if I remember to notice it, it is an occasion for gratitude. Eating a box of figs when I might normally turn to a granola bar? Decadent and crazy, for sure, but on the day the first delivery of the year arrives? What a sublime way to bring myself into the moment.

Maybe I’m feeling extra sentimental (sappy) this evening because our brand new walk-in is FULL, and it’s reminding me that August is perhaps the best eating month of the year, and I am eager to experience it with shared joy. This year, that looks different, and it’s kind of hard. Sometimes it’s lonely. And yet — the fields don’t know. They keep producing, as if this were a normal summer, as if all our normal revelry were intact.

It’s not.

And yet. We can find new and different — maybe not even all that different — ways to survive and to celebrate. To find joy in that oblivious bounty, and to share that joy.

Our lives depend on it.


P.S. Look for the first real round of habanadas to appear on the site in a few days!

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