True, we’re all sick-sick-sick of reading about the coronavirus. How could Gabriel Garcia Marquez know when he wrote “Love in the Time of Cholera” in 1985 that his title would be adapted to all things in the time of COVID-19?

Only logical to substitute food/eating habits for love.

Gov. Roy Cooper ordered a lockdown on March 30; when the shock wore off, restaurants quickly responded with touch-free take-out options. This illustrates how dependent we have become on food prepared outside the home, and also how many food businesses Moore County supports. This sociological phenomenon began more than a generation ago, when the family cook tossed her apron for a business suit. Then, as appetites became accustomed to international flavors, home-cooked lost favor. Two-income households absorbed the cost differential

Did you see the triple-circle line around Chick-fil-A, from opening to closing? Some fine-dining establishments included take-out cocktails and wine. I just saw the Burger King prototypes for take-out/drive through-only locations.

Meat processing plants shut down, causing empty counters; forget finding staples like chicken and ground beef. Pasta (a likely substitute) sales shot up leading to more empty shelves. Then rice all but disappeared, but not from the virus. Rather a drought in Australia, a major world supplier.

Shoppers reacted with disbelief. Wait a minute, their expressions said. This isn’t a Third World or war-torn Eastern European country. This is the land of plenty, the land of unlimited (sometimes ridiculous) choices.

The shortages hit especially hard for those now forced to cook …. after frozen pizzas and canned soup sold out, that is. But, a benefit appeared, evidenced by a scarcity of flour, sugar and yeast. Seems baking kept kids who were home from school busy.

Others discovered online shopping for non-perishables. Money saved from eating out could be applied to meal kits. Blue Apron stock went up 70 percent during restaurant closures. Cooking show viewership skyrocketed, too.

Some good news from the FDA: no real risk of acquiring coronavirus from food or food packaging.

Then, a shift in family dynamics, namely sitting down to at least one meal a day together, thus establishing a ritual. Wise parents banned cell phones from the table, forcing conversation.

Hey, look what discussing the news at dinner did for the Kennedys.

But the timing was terrible for new restaurants opening in Southern Pines Commons, adjacent to Red Bowl Asian Bistro. Yet it appears Five Guys, Panera Bread and iHop did a brisk pick-up business, judging from the cars in line.

I worry for the future of salad bars and, especially, the huge self-serve prepared foods area at Harris Teeter on N.C. 211. Pinehurst seniors enjoyed congregating there for early supper. As for Chinese buffets….who knows if they will ever again be self-serve? The new China Garden Buffet (Aberdeen) is trying a compromise. When I fly out of Greensboro, I stop at the enormous China Buffet, just off I-40 Wendover exit, an experience in multi-cultural dining. The food’s OK, too, for mass-produced. Maybe they’ve gone cafeteria-style, just not the same.

Who else noticed that Fresca disappeared? A shortage of cans is the reason given.

All that seems petty beside learning how many Americans are just a paycheck or two away from food insecurity, literally “hand to mouth.” Also, how many children go hungry when deprived of school breakfasts and lunches. The organizations that stepped in to continue food distribution at schools, the Boys and Girls Clubs and food banks are angels. Ditto restaurants and caterers who sent meals to hospital workers and first responders. These efforts reassure me that in the mean streets of this mean, contentious world some good survives … tucked into a grilled cheese sandwich, a protein bar or a juice box.

Lesson learned: Americans are spoiled to an endlessly varied food supply. Options are almost embarrassing. When something interrupts the supply, we fuss like the child who splatters an ice cream cone on the floor

Maybe COVID-19 deprivations will provoke appreciation. About time, I’d say.

Contact Deborah Salomon at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

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