The pandemic, and the extreme isolation experienced by many of us who live alone, has made the concept of self-care more than a mere buzzword—I liken it to a shift in consciousness. One that I hope will last long after we reach herd immunity and return to a more social existence.
Recently, I found myself thinking about the benefits of self-care in the form of healthy eating while making a simple, but truly delicious salad for lunch. One reason this salad made me so happy is the experience of buying some of the ingredients at a local farm. Seeing the young farmers, even if only for a few minutes, never fails to brighten my day. They have so much enthusiasm and energy. I’m certain it’s what makes their vegetables taste so good, along with organic practices and well-cared for soil.
Since it’s winter, their current offerings are primarily root vegetables and hardy greens. So I load up on beets, fingerling potatoes and spinach—as precious as gold! Shopping at the farm stand often includes a conversation about cooking, which in this case is about the pleasures of roasted beets and all of the ways to enjoy them.
Back at home in the kitchen, slicing my now-roasted beets and assembling my salad, I notice how happy I feel. Making a salad is so basic, yet suddenly purposeful and positive, too. I take my time and think about ways to make my meal as delicious as possible. I toast a handful of pecans, add a bit of leftover goat cheese (also from a local farm) and squeeze the juice from an orange to add brightness to a simple mustard vinaigrette. As I stand there chopping the vegetables with the sun streaming through my window, warming my face, I realize that this is a moment worthy of celebration.
What especially strikes me is my lack of hurry because I have the week off. Normally, on a work day, I either eat leftovers, or frantically throw something together between Zoom calls. Always being in a rush is really exhausting. But I don’t truly see how much this is the case, until I experience the absence of frenzy.
In the spirit of celebrating the moment, I set the table with my favorite linen tablecloth and napkins, along with silverware and a glass of pinot gris. I put the first side of Francis Poulenc’s La Musique de Chambre on my turntable, and eat slowly as the rich sound of woodwinds and strings fills the room. I imagine that the greens, beets, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados and other ingredients are infusing every cell in my body with vital energy and nutrition. And I feel grateful, so grateful for a moment to appreciate the simple joy of a simple meal.
For me, the real pleasure of cooking is to share my bounty with friends. But now, due to our current pandemic-related circumstances, I’m doing my best to embrace the lost pleasures of solitude.