We're in dystopia and it's back to the basics with food

We're in dystopia and it's back to the basics with food

Now that we’re in dystopia, my diet is like a menu from a women’s magazine from the old days–for young  women who wanted to lose five pounds.  They seemed like a good idea–but the food was so skimpy.  And no one could stay on diets like that for more than a meal.  Or two.

But now, eating a daily diet that an editor at Glamour may have written up in 1966 provides structure.  And the ingredients are easy to get at Trader Joe’s.  And are probably good for resisting invasive invisible little fairy-dust-like Corona viruses, if they happen to get into your mouth, eyes or nose via your own unwashed hands, and multiply by hijacking the DNA in your lungs.

So the following is typical of what I’m eating these days; and very typical of how those diets were in the old magazines.

Breakfast:  oatmeal, fresh berries, half-banana and coffee (I use 1/2 and 1/2 or even heavy cream but the original diets would have only allowed skim milk)

Midmorning snack:  a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter (I use the kind with nothing but peanuts and salt)

Lunch:  another slice of whole wheat toast with mayonnaise and sliced cold chicken (from last night’s nicely roasted chicken), two slices of tomato and an apple for dessert

Dinner:  a small salad of butter lettuce, grape tomatoes, a green onion and dressing of choice; a 2-egg omelet with asparagus, smoked salmon, onion (white or red), cheddar cheese and a fresh orange, cut in quarters

Bedtime snack:  two squares of dark chocolate (this wouldn’t have been on the menu back then because no one knew about it yet) and a cup of tea with lemon and sliced kiwifruit

I think about this kind of food all day.  Because it’s pretty much the only thing that requires planning now.  Because I have to make sure that the refrigerator is stocked and that all the items are there.  I can’t go to the store any more than absolutely necessary.  I probably shouldn’t go at all.

No more dinners out before plays or concerts, obviously; or lunch meetings where lunch is provided; or brunch with girlfriends who want to get together to chat; or stops at fast food places where I love their salads and sandwiches and almond croissants and brownies.

It’s just me and my food and turning on the dishwasher every day with a full load.  I stopped doing that about the time menopause struck, never looking back or caring. Because of the rise of meals on the go, meals cooked by someone else and meals that only money could buy–all prepared.  I only turned my dishwasher on every two weeks to wash coffee cups.

So I read this terrific article last night that a friend shared on Facebook about a couple who lives in New York.  He’s a chef at the two-Michelin-star Atera. And he’s off work since dystopia struck.  She’s a prolific freelance writer and she’s moved in with him for the duration.  They don’t live together ordinarily.  She lives Uptown and he lives south in another Manhattan neighborhood in a very small apartment with one window that faces a wall. It’s dark and cramped and he stores cooking tools all over the place.

In normal times, he doesn’t like to cook on his days off.  So unless she goes to his restaurant she never eats what he makes.  While she’s there with him, he’s decided to cook for her every day.  Gorgeous, interesting, delicious things that you can read about here.  And see pictures of, too.

And I realized that their life, like mine now, is structured by food.  By the basic building blocks of life that keep us alive and help us stave off disease. By the same nutritional components that I studied in college (BS in Community Health, 1971), and in graduate school (MS in Public Health, 1972) and that have stood upon my shoulders, whispering tips for decades. During many of which I paid no attention.

There were other times, when food was really important, particularly during my first marriage, where we bought all the kitchen accoutrements of our generation and tried making fancy things together–like paella and fondue and crepes.

Speaking of the day we made crepes, that was the day we invited his grandmother and great aunt to come over and partake.  It was a hot day, and I had no idea that you had to put your mixing bowl and beaters–and even the little carton of whipping cream–in the the refrigerator for a while before beating.

And I beat and beat and beat and basically made very soft butter.  And Tim’s grandmother said, “Oh, honey, that’s what happens when you get nervous and you want to make everything perfect for guests–you make ‘company cream.'” I got the joke right away.  But few people who I’ve told that story to over the last 45 years ever seemed to.

But that was before we were in dystopia.

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