For most people, freshly baked bread gives off an aroma of yeasty, buttery, caramelized goodness that triggers myriad emotions and memories long forgotten. As we’ve been forced into isolation and socially distanced from those around us, more and more people are turning to comfort food, and the smell of freshly baked bread is comfort.
In fact, so many people are seeking comfort right now that grocery store shelves have been repeatedly emptied of flour, yeast, eggs, and other bread-making ingredients. In this troubling time, people are turning to activities that can be done at home, with family, and that speak to our most core and basic needs
This is just one example of how food is everything. Along with comfort, food offers us connection, love, life, and is essential to our basic health and well-being.
“Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.” –Anthony Bourdain
In a sense, during this coronavirus pandemic, an entire world is indulging in comfort eating, seeking security, and passing on food memories to another generation.
What foods are the most comforting to you? Bread? Potatoes? Macaroni and cheese? Comfort eating often comes in simple forms, and fear sets in when we worry about having and providing those most basic needs. There are a lot of unknowns involved in our current world situation, but in most respects the reality is far from bleak.
THE SUPPLY CHAIN IS NOT BROKEN
It’s important to remember that the grocery store supply chain, from manufacturer to store shelves, is not broken, and empty shelves are a result of people panic-buying, trying to take back control in a world that seems increasingly out of control. It’s similar to retail therapy, which most of us are familiar with in one form or another. But it isn’t rooted in reality, and to get us all through this safely, we need to avoid the urge to panic buy.
The understanding that food is everything should trigger the realization this is not something that applies to us alone. Everyone feels this in one form or another, and we need to expand our thinking to include those around us.
FOOD IS COMFORT
We are essentially going back to basics without a choice, but are the basics bad? When you see what the world is eating, the answer is clear: absolutely not. It is good, wholesome food passed down through generations, and it’s where we return, time and time again. It’s home.
FOOD IS COnnection
While we are still able to be social with immediate family, the incredible connection supplied by food with friends has changed. In a time when we have literally been pushed apart, as we work to slow the spread of a dangerous virus, it’s necessary to find creative and mostly digital alternatives to making those important connections. All around the Internet you hear stories of people finding ways to socialize while still social distancing. Groups of friends are gathering for virtual lunches, virtual cocktail parties, group baking projects using conferencing clients like Zoom, online cooking classes, and more.
This can also be a time for sharing a beloved family recipe with your children, working together in the kitchen to recreate it and creating some great memories they can in turn share with their children.
With the upcoming tradition-heavy holidays like Easter, Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day, this is the year to emphasize home and family and to celebrate the past in entirely new ways.
FOOD IS Love
Our world is experiencing a highly emotional wave of energy as we face the uncertainties ahead of us. We’re lucky to have a tightknit community here in Utah, but it’s important to remember to express love and gratitude to those around us. There are many ways to help our neighbors and in particular our seniors and those who are at-risk. Social distancing is isolating, by necessity, but there are steps you can take to help people feel less alone. Phone calls, video calls (so you can see each other), emails, and social media messages allow us to connect. It’s also the time to emphasize those connections by leaving a loaf of bread or a batch of cookies on a neighbor’s porch. The often-bare grocery store shelves down the baking aisle are proof people are putting goodies in the oven. Sharing those fresh-baked treats is a great way to let someone know they are not alone, and are, in fact, loved and appreciated.
FOOD IS Life
With gyms closed and our normal diversions limited to what we can do at a safe distance from others, it can be easy to pick less-healthy choices as we seek comfort. Working as a family unit to find unique ways to exercise, make healthy family meals, and finding ways to divert negative energy and turn it positive are going to keep us going through this mentally and physically straining time. Family walks on sunny days, teaching your children to garden, and setting up backyard picnics can keep you in tune with nature and also reinforce the message that this will pass. The grass is still growing, the weeds are still popping up, and kids still want to play ball in the backyard. We’ll get through this together. It’s simply necessary to understand that “together” is different right now. And for our own health and safety, and that of others, we have to embrace it.
FOOD IS Essential
Food is an essential part of all of this, and there are many ways you can help those who may not be fortunate enough to have a family. You can use video messaging to help a senior set up an order in eShop, or volunteer to do their shopping and drop it off at their door.
Along with those neighbors and older family members who need our care, thousands of Utahns recently lost their income as nonessential businesses were shuttered. With schools closing at the same time, Utah’s most vulnerable families face the daily fear of being unable to pay bills and put food on the table. Many children relied on the school food programs as their only real source of a healthy daily meal.
It’s a frightening time, but also offers an opportunity to stop worrying about our own needs and step up to help the community. All the Harmons locations have a Utah Food Bank barrel set up where you can easily donate pantry staples as you do your own shopping. In addition, you can visit their website and learn more about their financial and volunteer needs.
Without proper nutrition, a body cannot stay healthy, and we can take steps to help others ensure they have enough of the right foods to eat at a difficult time.
We’re all in this together, and together we will get through it.
“Food is national security. Food is economy. It is employment, energy, history. Food is everything. If we approached many of today’s issues understanding this importance, we’d be making much better decisions. I believe everybody should be aware, not just of the food they eat but of the implications of eating it.” –Chef José Andrés