Much will be written about the pandemic period and its long-term effects on our families and on our mental health—and these articles and books will be written by people much smarter than me. But my very unscientific analysis of this season of uncertainty, anxiety and quasi-isolation is this: It made us hungry.
Grocery stores were stripped of essentials and kitchens were blazing with home-cooked meals being prepped and served. The pantry door was always open (at least in my house) and it seemed that those days were one long buffet of hanging out, snacking, eating, snacking more and binge watching something. Board games came and went. Puzzles had their moment. Shows would end. Books would be read. But food—ah, the food—was always being thought about, prepared or consumed.
Time for moderation? What for? This is the end of the world as we know it. Unprecedented. Unbelievable. Unmanageable. Unimaginable. Let’s gather around the table with the few people in our home and eat the bounty of the harvest. Let’s live, laugh, love. Let’s eat.
But then the days wore on and on, and the uncertainty and the modifications and the quasi-isolation continued. And it wreaked havoc on our wellbeing. Humans are made for community. Only the worst prisoners are put into solitary confinement. Why? Because being alone goes against the very fiber of our being. We thrive by living, interacting, celebrating and, yes, eating with others. Of course we don’t need a rustic sign telling us to “Gather,” but who doesn’t like a long dining table filled with fanciful plates and a delicious feast topped by strings of lights overhead and the soft sounds of music setting the scene? Who doesn’t want to gather together over a delicious meal with the ones we love?
Now, with the most pressing scares of the pandemic in our rearview mirror (fingers crossed), we find that we are hungry to connect with each other. I’ve found that my interactions with everyday people have been kinder and more joy filled. The checkout man at the supermarket remarks on my groceries and tells me an ideal tip for cooking eggplant. The dental hygienist at my dentist gives me intel on a great volleyball coach for my daughter. People smile more. Make eye contact more. Speak a bit more than they used to. Occasionally, if all are comfortable with the situation, people might even hug.
Nothing brings out the good in others—and there is a lot of good in most people—than the need for one another. Solidarity in times of trouble comes in many forms. But in the South, our good manners and our graciousness shine through. When times are tough all around (and let’s be clear, we’ve had our fair share), nothing works its charm like a kind word.
Nothing works its charm like a kind word and Spinach Madeleine.
That’s right, Thanksgiving is around the corner, and a kind word and a smile can only go so far. Certainly they help, but so does sweet potato praline casserole and a side of collard greens. So does broccoli and rice casserole. So does pecan pie. In fact, there is nothing about Thanksgiving that doesn’t work its charm in making the tough times we are emerging from, together, even better.
We have much to be thankful for. Truly. Although the days may be tough and the grind may be real and the supplies may be low and the gas prices may be high, we are very blessed. There are jobs to be had. There are provisions to sustain us. There is transportation to move us. There is a sun that comes up every morning, whether we are ready for it or not.
And there is food. Glorious food. Family recipes written on index cards long faded. Casserole dishes that are decades old. Burnt oven mitts. Stained aprons. Slotted serving spoons from a discontinued pattern and an antique linen tablecloth passed down four generations. Mismatched chairs to make the whole family fit, and a moment of saying grace for the bounty of the harvest. Let’s live, laugh, love. It’s Thanksgiving in the South.
Makes me hungry.