This story is part of the Elbows on the Table Essay Series. Illustrations by Tegan Harmonay.
Not much has been dependable over the last year. You have a job, and then you don’t. School opens up one day, then the next it’s class at the kitchen counter. You get all giddy for a moment when outdoor dining is available and then slam, even the doors to the refurbished patio are shut.
Right now, everything that’s good and enjoyable and delicious in this world feels like a privilege.
And while certain things should never be a privilege. Like access to good, clean, healthy food. Sadly, it is.
Luckily for me, I work at a grocery delivery start-up and live in one of the healthiest and foodie-friendly cities in the world. So the privilege of good food has been one of the few true constants I can hang my hat on and then put in my mouth.
Food isn’t everything, but it’s what just about everything revolves around. “Pizza o’clock” is not a joke anymore. Err, it is, but it’s one of those half-jokes that you laughingly say and then hungrily scan the room for someone who took it seriously. My internal clock and my daily schedule are all set around when I eat.
Consider my average day:
Regardless of whether breakfast ends at 7:30 or 9:30, work begins promptly after.
Most mornings are oatmeal mornings because it’s frigid and dribbly outside, and I’ll just say it, I need to be comforted. This morning was a super casual and no-nonsense-green-smoothie kind of day.
Ok, there was some nonsense because I thought it would be fun to put rainbow sprinkles on top. And let me tell you, it was fun.
The other day I had toast. That was wild.
Before Covid, lunch used to be a cold, pre-made, untossed salad which I would inhale at my desk using a fork I brought from home (coworkers can’t be trusted to wash their silverware). Now, lunch is a grand affair involving an actual stove, ingredients that require effort, like ginger, and perhaps a cloth napkin. Actually, the tag on the napkin says it’s made from bamboo. How do they make napkins from bamboo?
I’ll Google it while I eat my lunch.
If it’s 3 PM and I’m feeling unmotivated, I don’t treat myself to a $4 Kombucha like I used to. I have it whenever I very well please because I brew my own now. At this very moment, I have six fizzy bottles of strawberry mango practically bursting in the fridge.
In fact, I should probably go burp them.
And then it’s 5:00. Or maybe it’s 4:30 or even 7:00. It doesn’t matter.
Work ends for the day at the precise moment I start to think about dinner but have yet to become hungry. I’ve pinpointed this as the precise moment to squeeze a workout in. If I wait any longer, I get too hungry and lose all motivation to move my body.
After dinner, I pass the time doing god knows what, but all the while, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking about chocolate. But I can’t just eat the chocolate. Because odds are, I ate chocolate yesterday. And I’ve convinced myself that I can only eat chocolate if I deserve it. And I only deserve it if I did a tough workout.
You can blame my mother for that one. I do.
Needless to say, I’ve been eating a lot of chocolate during the pandemic.
But who am I to judge or deprive myself of one of the joys I’m privileged enough to have access to.