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Food is love and how we mark our days

My birthday dinner in late March—week three into California’s stay at home order—dropped off outside the front door by neighbors and shared via Zoom. The chocolate chip cookies sent from Chicago to San Diego by Heather in return for her homemade masks. The daily NY Times Cooking easy pantry recipes that inspire leftover ideas—one night’s parmesan chicken transformed into spicy chicken stir-fry the next. As America is at home, food is love. And food has become how so many of us mark our days.

The memes on social media of weight gain and the “COVID 19” are not far from the truth. When have I ever before decided to make nachos at 10pm and watch another episode of Goliath? I’m calling that fair game in the time of COVID weird. Before all this, the way to relax after a long week was dinner out at one of many small family-owned restaurants, each with their own vibe and familiar faces. Every single day I’m hoping and praying those favorite local eateries will survive. Now by Friday I’m anticipating my once weekly grocery shop and running low on the fresh stuff. Yet so incredibly grateful to have that opportunity.

Architects, builders and interior designers have always paid extra attention to kitchen design—it’s the heart of the home. Two collaborators and I just surveyed 3,000+ consumers nationwide to hear their inside stories about how they’ve lived in their homes and kitchens during this pandemic. There will be opportunities for the most creative homebuilders and community developers to design spaces for how people want to live in their homes differently. More on the details of that later. One thing no one would debate is the elevated importance food has in our lives now.

Grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, farmers, producers, anyone involved in the long and complex chain that feeds America are deemed essential workers, earning a level of respect that was always deserved, but never before so freely given. And during this strangest of times, they provide the raw materials that allow us to have some semblance of routine. When one Blursday rolls into the next I know I mark each day by what food I’ll prepare. Again, I’m so grateful to have that choice to make.

No longer “gut filler” to get through a day of meetings and travel, food is a way to express myself. It’s something to create, to make up, to experiment with. And when it works, to share the inspired recipes with others. Flavors, colors, textures, balance between hearty and healthy. Food for windy rainy days, or warm spring nights on the back deck. BBQ options. Pasta sauce experiments. Salmon prepared with lemons shared from a bucket in the

middle of the street by our neighbor Shauna during our nightly Ranch Road check-ins. Stir-fries late in the week when veggies get a little questionable. Weird salad combinations. Setting the table tonight, eating at the counter, or on our laps watching TV? Oh, and breakfast! How can I make eggs with so much in them they don’t taste like eggs?

I’ll say it a third time, I am so incredibly grateful to have the ability to shop, buy and enjoy the food I prepare in my home. It’s not lost on me that so many have had to rely on food banks for the first time ever, and we are doing our part to support them. More than ever before, the food I make helps me define the days. So many families are sharing meals and stories together, turning an old tradition into a hopeful new one. The rituals we share over food matter. And the places we choose to share them do as well. Here’s to finding a healthy balance between supporting our local restaurants when they reopen, supporting those who need a hand up, and new routines of enjoying food at home together.

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