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Quarantine Meal Routine Readjustment

By: Leah Sycoff

Family meals – in our generation, they seem to be few-and-far-between, unfortunately taking a back seat to activities, activities, and more activities. Then, we find ourselves in confinement and sitting across the table, once again, from our beloved family members. In the past months, my generation has rediscovered conversation over family meals, and some of us have also discovered the effort it takes to feed a family.  How many of you find that you are once again in a “full” household having conversations you never imagined?  How about your palette, has it advanced and matured as well? Have you even asked yourself who has been feeding your new growth?

Back to the basics – slow it down

We are thrown back to a time and a place when and where families enjoyed not only dinner, but “supper” {or extended lunch as I see it} together. For years, I have been either avoiding sitting in a cafeteria or enjoying a conversation between bites with my friends, of course having an impending test or assignment hanging over my shoulders as I tried to take the respite of lunch… this is the experience of school lunch and gossip period. Now, however, I am called to the cushy dining table by a family member preparing the afternoon sustenance. Lunchtime is actually relaxing, not rushed, and fulfilling.  In my situation, much of the time I am brought back to summers when we used to prepare both lunch and dinner together while in Italy trying to immerse ourselves in the Dolce Vita – sweet slow pace – of Italy. Recently, we seem to have brought back an old goody of each person taking on the responsibility of preparing a fun meal for the family during lunchtime. In order to get the bigger picture, which will be understood and meaningful to everyone reading, we noticed that the onus of meal prep was falling entirely upon two people in our house. Did you notice your parents overworking and overcompensating too? We Sycoff kids, however, decided to take control in our household.

How to alleviate the quarantine meal-ache – routine readjustment 

I recently introduced a shared google document among the members of my household. I never imagined having us all living continually under one roof again, as my brothers had aged and experienced out… having graduated undergraduate college and/or graduate school, but all-of-a-sudden, we were gathered again, relying on our very busy parents to feed us. I took action and color-coded a weekly schedule in the form of a chart shared with each member. Each person received a representative color and wrote in this color the meal he/she would prepare during the gap in his/her schedule which would best allow for this meal prep. Since there are five of us, we each took three to four meals throughout the week. We held family meetings each Sunday morning to fine-tune preferences, time-slots, and most importantly, the shopping list. Whoever would prepare would also clean-up, ugh; this helped us to control our mess in the kitchen from the start.  

Meals became anything but routine within our routine. It seems that each of us clung to a different culture and oddly enough, a different set of plates, which we had forgotten even existed in the house. Meals became a discussion of geopolitics, current events, and cultures represented on the table. They often culminated in a quick game of backgammon as the slower eaters continued to relish what was one their plates. Tea and/or espresso followed them, as it had in the traditional cultures. Somehow, we each discovered at least one new spice and one new dish, often renovating and innovating old recipes into something modern and new as not to render the quarantine table and family discussion routine.