What are you hungry for?

My goodness, we are in a time of rapid transitions and near-constant uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic has left us closed off and suspicious of others. Everything we have taken for granted — work, school, commuting, sports, grocery shopping, visiting friends and family — has been upended. The Black Lives Matter movement has magnificently captured the attention of Americans, and many nations abroad. That attention is leading to long-awaited changes from the individual level up to the largest institutions of our society.

For all of the dramatic changes, a few things must remain constant. Biology demands it — our bodies need to rest and to eat. Even those activities can be fraught. Had any sleepless nights lately? Join the club. Stress-eating? Tired of beans? We hear you.

I can’t help with your sleep situation, but I can write about food. I love food porn as much as the next foodie with an iphone. Stacks of recipes are piled up in the interwebs, waiting for me to cook. But what I’m really hungry for isn’t a Michelin-starred meal. I’m hungry for connection — and for me, that happens over food.

My family has started to have very small gatherings on our patio, or at a friends’. Dinner is either BYO, or carefully orchestrated for minimal contact. What is important is being in the same place, sharing the same thing.

“Oooh, that salsa is spicy!”

“What is the secret spice on the salmon?”

“Who wants whipped cream on the peach and blueberry pie?”

“mmmmmrrrfff aaah” [translation: “This taco is delicious!”]

“Be careful! Your marshmallow is burning!” [said frequently to anyone making s’mores with me — yes, I LOVE charred marshmallows. Yes, I’ll take your “burnt” marshmallow. I just need to roast it a little more. Don’t judge me.]

To be with friends, eating, laughing, sharing — it feeds my soul. I miss it. I didn’t realize how much it meant to me until it was taken away. Now that we are starting to re-open, I’m not itching to go shopping or to the movies. I want to hang out, relax, and just *be* with others. I miss hugs, and just a hand on one’s arm to soothe, or emphasize a point. I imagine if I were still in Austria, I would miss the hello air kisses that are as much a part of daily life as cowbells and muesli.

We are managing the chaos — surviving the uncertainties. If we can survive these changes, we realize we can survive other changes. Many of us have been forced to make adjustments that are actually improving our lives: It turns out lots of people can work from home, skipping a long commute. Many families have discovered the joy of family dinners, and are re-thinking how their after-school and sports-driven lives might look when we can go back to “normal”.

Perhaps the best example of being forced to change and imagining a major shift in life comes from the Black Lives Matter movement. The African American community is pushing for big, audacious changes. A year ago, most Americans could not have imagined reducing police forces, firings and resignations of police chiefs, toppling of statues across the nation. And yet, these things are not only being accepted by many, but the question often is, “what took so long?” This same nation could not have imagined a spring without spring training, a June without graduations and weddings, and a summer without sleep-away camp. If we can survive the changes wrought by a pandemic, surely we can thrive in a country that is really, truly seeking equality, dignity, and respect for every. single. person who lives within our boundaries. Black or white or brown. Native or foreign born. Vegan or carnivore. Young or old. Rich or poor. Man or woman or anything in between or beyond.

My desire to connect with my friends after months of separations draws a straight line to the racial turmoil that has been achieving change in the past few weeks — we are all hungry for connection, to be seen, to be heard.

What are you hungry for?

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