I’m not sure if a cigar is just a cigar, but I know for sure that food is not just food.
When the rumors started about quarantines and lockdowns in Oregon, I admit, I hoarded a bit. Not toilet paper or baking supplies like others. No, I made sure I had a few dozen bottles of Diet Coke, four boxes of my favorite granola bar, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, and bananas. Those were the essentials as I imagined being stuck inside for a few weeks. Luckily I doubled-back for some cans of soup, bagels, milk, and more grown-up items.
After a few weeks of quarantine, food thoughts shifted from hoarding to craving. I did not eat out for those initial weeks, unsure how the virus was spreading and not wanting go cause extra work in small kitchens. But while running past Pizzacato, I saw big signs inviting “To Go Orders” and picked up a Chinese Chop salad and cheese-filled breadsticks that night. Now I’m eating out once or twice a week for fun in this strange season. What I crave the most is a cheeseburger from my favorite restaurant in downtown Portland: Veritable Quandary. The restaurant actually closed over a year ago, due to construction requirements for a nearby on-ramp. It makes perfect sense that what I want most is something that I (by every single definition) cannot have: a cheeseburger inside a restaurant that no longer exists. As I have some cereal for dinner tonight, I’ll be imagining their outdoor garden, with hedges so high and thick you could not hear the highway just beyond them.
Two weeks ago, I received a package in the mail from Hawaii. I had not ordered anything, so I let it sit inside my door for a few hours, my caution stronger than my curiosity. Finally opening it, I discovered chocolate treats from a student I had never met. She was one of the candidates that I went through the most editing loops with over the past two years at Concordia University. Every few weeks she would send an update, or I would send a check-in email, until finally every punctuation and indentation was resolved. And while most of our graduates head off to their post-grad school lives without a look behind, this one sought me out to say thank you. These chocolate treats are the most precious food in my home right now, and I ironically do not like nuts. So they will be safely stored in my fridge until we are allowed to gather in groups again. Then I’ll get to share my treasure with others. Hoarding and craving will be in the past; celebrating will be what all the food gets to mean.
“We are the spark, that will light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down” (Poe Dameron, Star Wars: The Last Jedi). – #52sparks is my year-long writing series for 2020, based on an art prompt challenge. The spark that lights a fire to toast a marshmallow or to ravage a forest begins in the space of an inch. This series is to explore what hundreds of inches and words can do.