by Caroline Chirichella
Caroline’s essay appears in episode 23 of The Dirty Spoon Radio Hour.
My family and I gather at the table to discuss our grocery list. Food is more important than ever because when we shop, we’re shopping to hold us at least two weeks. We’re been making a point to make our food last as long as possible, even skipping lunch on most days.
What’s getting me through the COVID-19 outbreak is food.
We make our lists of fresh vegetables and protein and have been sure to bulk up on pantry staples like beans, rice, pasta, lentils, tomato sauce, whole grain bread, etc. Grocery shopping has become our one outing so we make the most of it knowing that in doing so, we’re keeping our family fed and satisfied.
As we’re preparing our grocery list, we go around the table saying if there’s something specific anyone has been craving. My husband, Pugliese born, always requests orecchiette with sugo and fried polpette (meatballs), my mother prefers classic comfort food like roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and spinach and my 18-month old daughter likes when mommy makes banana bread. Myself? I am never one to turn down a bowl of mushroom tortellini in a creamy tomato sauce.
There is no office meeting to get to, no dropping the kids off at school and no family night at your favorite pizzeria. The one thing that has remained the same is food.
My family and I have been taking turns cooking. Some nights, my mom cooks. Some nights, my husband. But most of the time, I cook. Why? Because I want to. I want to know that I’m doing whatever is in my control to keep my family happy. We’re in a helpless situation where we have no control. I only have control over what my family eats.
Food during times like these has kept us full. It has kept us satisfied in times when not much can satisfy us.
Food during times like these has kept us full. It has kept us satisfied in times when not much can satisfy us. There is so much comfort and familiarity. When I cook a meal for my family, it brings them comfort. Eating a bowl of steaming hot pasta with fresh, sweet tomato sauce is something we always used to do on family gatherings on Sunday. By doing this, we haven’t lost those moments.
Food and cooking has also helped ease my anxiety and keep me balanced. Though I work at home as freelance writer and often deal with tight deadlines and Zoom call interviews, when I’m in the kitchen, that’s my time. I am concentrated at my work at hand and in that moment, making a meal for my family is my work.
At 7pm, my husband and I have finished our work. We set the table, turn on some music and have a roaring fire going. We take our seats, with our daughter happily in her highchair. Dinner is served.
No more talk of the day’s work or frightening times. No talk of the coronavirus at all. All that matters in these moments is family and the meal in front of us. The meal that was lovingly prepared in our small Italian kitchen. The meal that was prepared when my daughter had her afternoon nap. The meal that was requested by my husband after a long day’s work. The meal that we looked forward to all day. That is what matters most.
Custom illustration by Corinne Pease.
About Caroline Chirichella
Caroline Chirichella is a former New Yorker now living and working in Southern Italy. She has been published in The New York Times, The Lily By The Washington Post, Newsday, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Daily News, among others. She has also contributed regularly to Shape and Parents Magazine.