A few weeks ago, I met up with one of my friends I had only seen a handful of times during the pandemic. Granted, we lived across state lines, but we did everything we could to stay in touch. Each time we saw one another, it was a brief outdoor encounter, often standing with a hot cup of coffee ankle-deep in the snow or with an iced coffee under a shady tree. We’d catch up, hitting all the highlights of the goings-on in our separate worlds, then wave goodbye and hope to make plans to see each other again soon.
But the last time we got together, we made it real. We went to a new rooftop bar that had just opened up in our hometown. We made a 5:30 PM reservation. We didn’t leave until past 10 PM.
Here’s what made our meal so special:
- First things first, from the phone call to make the reservation to the very last person we saw at the door, we treated all of the restaurant staff with great respect, and we tipped really, really well. We knew that we were probably that annoying table that wouldn’t leave. And we knew that the restaurant industry had been through the wringer with the pandemic. We wanted to be as supportive as possible, as gracious as possible, and as generous as possible. So, if you’re going to eat out post-pandemic, eat local and tip as well as you can!
- We took our time. The pandemic had trained us to do everything quickly, to be brief, to limit interactions to fifteen minutes. Then, we memorized the grocery store aisles so we could just run in, grab what we needed, and rush out. But now? Now that we were both fully vaccinated, we learned to take our time. I’m reminded of the poet John O’Donohue, who advocated for a slowing down, a coming back to one’s self and each other in his poem, For One Who is Exhausted: “Learn to linger around someone of ease who feels they have all the time in the world.” It was this peace, this stillness, this time that we enjoyed together – and I wouldn’t change a thing.
- We savored our meals. We had studied the menu before we arrived, and we ordered way more food than we should have, but we truly tasted the seasonal pea tendrils and enjoyed the local goat cheese. We began to discern the floral notes in the honey from the farm right up the road, and we took in the aroma of cracked open fresh bread, crusty and wholesome. We divvied up our separate dishes onto separate plates so we could each taste each other’s meal, and we shared a long-awaited experience.
- We stepped back and allowed the food to do its magic. I have to say that there’s something magical about the table. There’s something about a meal that opens up lines of communication that weren’t there before. Something happens when we partake when we understand our humanity in a fuller and more holistic way. We begin to understand that we are all connected: the farmer who plants the seeds, those who harvest the food, wash it, prepare it, cook it, serve it, partake in it. We are all connected. And we are reminded to step back for a moment to see where there might be some injustice in the food system, where there might be some pain, where oppression is evident. Something about that realization opened up honesty and vulnerability between my friend and me; we shared our most difficult, our most heartwrenching moments during the pandemic, for we had both faced death in the past year. And we shared our greatest joys because we had both seen successes at work and had seen relationships bloom. Above all else, this meal was a reminder that we are all connected. And so we open our eyes, becoming more aware of all who are around us at any given moment. We allowed the table and the food and the moment to become something greater than a meal: it was a feast for the soul.
Christy Wright is a Food Rescue Coordinator at Lovin’ Spoonfuls. The picture to the left, which Christy took, speaks to her on slowing down and taking time. Learn more about Christy and other members of Team Lovin’ on our Staff Page.
Want to know how else can you support the hospitality industry right now? Check out our Healing Hospitality blog.