I want to make this clear, I am completely aware that this whole post is served with a healthy side of privilege and of all the things to be complaining about right now wanting to visit a restaurant feels unbelievably trivial. But be that as it may, your girl is really missing restaurants right now.
Even before these (sing it with me now) strange and unprecedented times thoughts of food took up a good 60% of my brain power. But right now it feels like I’ve popped a Limitless pill, but instead of accessing superhuman skills in mathematics and Mandarin I’m now able to think about food with a good 90% of my brain. My thoughts are simply consumed by the next time I will consume.
Even between meals I feel the need to scratch my itch by at least seeing food even if I can’t taste it. Like a digital version of the bread and olive oil they bring out in your favourite Turkish restaurant as little pre-meal morale booster. I find myself determined to be wined and dined by osmosis seeking out all forms of food media just to get a taste of the life I used to know. It started with my former arch nemesis Jamie Oliver and his ‘Keep Cooking and Carry On’ series. (My biggest personal curve ball of 2020 was becoming a Jamie Oliver stan but that is a story for another day.) When that grew tiresome I needed a more immediate fix, something more instant so I turned to Instagram to torture myself by stalking @msjoyceK, and @ChefVickz and the screen lickable delights they had on offer. This may have worked for the first few weeks of lockdown or the ‘this country is mad‘ era as I have affectionately named it, but the food obsession persisted.
If anything, the longer the restaurants and cafes have their doors closed the worse the desire to eat out becomes. It transformed into a feeling as visceral as a hunger pang. The overwhelming desire to sit on chairs that didn’t belong to me, eat from plates that haven’t been washed up by these over anti-bac’d hands and listen to atmospheric music that is the exact opposite to my taste. And herein lies the crux of the argument, i’m not even sure if i miss the actual food. It’s everything around it that I am longing for. If it was the food I missed then surely Deliveroo would hit the spot? But no, Deliveroo just does not provide the same calibre of thrills. For one, the interaction between me and the frankly heroic delivery drivers is too fleeting.
For me, the chat between waiter and diner is top tier small talk. It’s all part of the well rehearsed theatre of the restaurant experience. All cast members have memorised their lines so well there’s often even scope for a little off the cuff improv and that’s when things get really tasty. Your waiter might decide to show off a little more personality that is usually expected and boom you’ve suddenly added a whole other dimension to the dining experience. Next thing you know you’re catching up like old friends, putting the world to rights and more importantly you’re getting the finest recommendations from the menu. On the other end of the spectrum the masochist in me wants to feel a bit like my presence in the restaurant is a slight inconvenience. When you hit em with “table for two please.” But all they hear is “may i defecate all over your restaurant and then punch your fat mother?” When the rest of your meal is punctuated by subtle sarcasm and the gentle eye rolling from both parties but no one gets hurt, they get paid and you get fed.
Maybe the message my brain is trying to signal through this thick old skull of mine is that I miss the social element of going out to eat. Wow, missing socialising during a global pandemic… groundbreaking. Enjoying someone else’s company over a good meal is really up there with the best of ’em. And I for one cannot wait to break bread or calamari or tempura prawns or even soup at this rate with the people I love. A useful coping mechanism for anyone reading this that is now drooling over the thought of the aforementioned; remind yourself of the dreaded birthday meals of twenty plus semi-acquainted people trying to politely split a bill. Enough to put even the most dedicated foodies off their meal.
Final food for thought: if you feel as guilty as I do for being obsessed with your the contents of you stomach during the COVID 19 outbreak why not donate the equivalent of a restaurant bill to your local food bank?