Social Bonding Over Food

Before covid-19 hit the brakes hard globally on health and our social lives, the last social meal I had with several people was the last day in February. At lunch, I hung out over sizzling stone bowls of bimbap with egg, at a popular Korean restaurant with 3 other employees from another department.

Outdoor art mural on party social times. Ontario St., Vancouver BC 2020
Delicious French seafood takeout dinner with light butter sauce, at home. Vancouver BC 2020.

In fact, our conversation did light upon briefly on Wuhan, China, the first epi-centre struck hard by the virus. I shared with them, about another employee in my department, who was stuck in Wuhan with her parents for 3 weeks in her annual visit. Then she was one of the lucky Canadians on the first airlift back to Canada.

Elegant takeout at home: Machta tea black sesame cake with mango filling and blackberry hojicia chocolate cake. Vancouver 2020.

No Meals Beyond Virus-Free Social Bubble
Since then, my only other shared meals, have been with Jack who was part of my virus-free bubble.  Still, meals together are special as ever in our carefully planned bike rides to Granville Market, favourite local patisseries for take-out gourmet cake slices and grocery stores.

Helping people with photo sticker of baguette to social distance inside bakery. Calgary AB 2020. Photo by J.Chong

Since late February, I haven’t had any other social meals outside of the people mentioned above, except for one friend.  Pretty boring and dry.

Looking over Chinese restaurant menu selection. Toronto ON 2019.

Nor have I, like many others, been allowed to sit alone in any restaurant with people milling around. With restaurants and cafes gradually opening up next week in our city for up to 50% seating occupancy, it will still be eating with the slight shadow axe of coronavirus threat unseen.

Delicious steak sandwich from Jack’s son’s butcher shop. In background, my old bike given to sibling but borrowed for butcher shop trip. Toronto ON 2017

While some of us, finally clued in for some family members, preparation or an offer of food, is an expression of love, other people  have gone extreme gangbusters to do more home cooking and baking for themselves and family, while shut in at home.

Mural at bakery in appreciation of food workers as essential during pandemic shutdown of public eating areas. Ontario St. Vancouver BC 2020. Photo by J.Chong

Cooking, Meal-Sharing as Therapy and Just Good Living
That’s great to discover therapeutic cooking buzz and eating together. However, that hasn’t been a new discovery for anyone in my family nor myself.  I’ve always found cooking a simple, good meal satisfying, in a somewhat mindless way — far from brain cobwebs of work or study.

Gourmet cakes in European pastry shops are styled differently. Strausbourg, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong

While some families go on vacation and do stuff together for memories, for myself, it’s still pretty straightforward:  my  happiest memories are eating with family members and good friends, either altogether or with each individually.

21st century habit of food photo-shooting at Thai restaurant, featuring spicy national dishes which included stink bean on lower right. Quite good. Toronto 2019.

Even for trips faraway from home, at some point I remember the architecture, unusual vegetation, vistas …and food.  Tasting local specialities shared usually with Jack or another good travel companion.

Translates as frog pie. Strausbourg, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Dinner of spatzel and pork in Alsace region of French where food has German influences due to changing borders over centuries. Strausbourg, France 2016.

For all the  craze in the 21st century for the photo shooting frenzy over food dishes indulged by alot of people, including myself, now those photo moments are not just about food, but about us, social creatures bonding over food meant to be enjoyed and as a backdrop as we chat to release, learn and share experiences of just being human together.

Matcha tea cake roll bought at bakery for Jack’s birthday back at hotel. Bakery even gives a plastic cutting knife. Seoul, South Korea 2018. Photo by J.Chong
Very fresh sashimi. Tsjukiki Fish Market, Tokyo 2018. Photo by J.Chong
Very thin flatbread as appetizer before sauerbraten dinner dish. Downstairs in winestub (or pub) in medieval inn since 1200’s. Also our accommodation. Rothenburg der au Tauber, Germany 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Cheese fondue at home. Vancouver BC 2020.

 

 

 

18 Comments Add yours

  1. Mabel Kwong says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post on your thoughts on socialising over food, and eating food together is an experience in itself. There’s always something special about eating out together: the restaurant and chefs take their time to make food appetising, and also your friend and family make time to show up for each other and you. Here in Australia shops and food courts were shut in March, reopened in June but now we are shut again for a month and a half due to another wave of the virus. I’ve always liked cooking and eating at home, and now even more so in lockdown. I agree with you cooking something simple is so satisfying, and it makes me like cooking even more.

    Great food photos. Really liked the matcha tea roll one. Plastic knives are pretty common in Asian bakery and patisserie shops.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jean says:

      I’ve only been to Asia once and I don’t recall this plastic knife thing yet at Asian bakeries here in Canada. Admittedly I tend to buy cakes from European patisseries here whereas it’s pineapple custard buns, etc. from the Asian bakeries. 🙂

      So you’re going through your 2nd wave. Right now, for certain provinces in Canada some cities are struggling not to succumb to a 2nd wave that will cause 2nd business shutdown. Biggest concern now is how to deal schoolchildren returning to school in fall.In Alberta, we get free covid testing regardless if feeling sick or asymptomatic. How about your state now?

      We miss socializing without concern at cafes and restaurants. Keeping in mind, the phenomena of eating out often in North America, has only been in the past 100 years or alot less. When I grew up as a kid, eating at restaurants wasn’t as often as now. I think with more mobile society in terms of where we go to school, have jobs and now smaller families, we seek out ways to socialize with people..over food. 🙂 It is interesting how social creatures we are, more than we ever realized. Covid-19 has reminded us of this inate desire to socialize in a happy way.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mabel Kwong says:

        I think plastic knives only come with certain things that you order in Asian bakeries. I think you get it with bigger cakes and loafs from these bakeries, like you did with the matcha cake. Other than that you’ll get a plastic fork and that’s normal for any cake or patisserie shop. I do find things at Asian bakeries tend to be on the sweeter side, which is not what I prefer – but I don’t mind their egg tarts. That said, I do remember a couple of times I got ill eating from Asian bakeries.

        Yeah, we’re going through the second wave over there. My state Victoria is copping it the worst with hundreds of new cases each day, and many more than the first wave. It’s so bad we’re going through a complete shutdown right now with only supermarkets open and 8pm-5am curfew. School here has just started again and it’s back to remote learning. Hopefully things will be alright for school in Canada and it doesn’t go into shutdown again.

        I like it when you say ‘socialising without concern’. That seems so far away now, and eating out probably will be very different in the next year. There’s definitely a social aspect to food. As you said, the world is more mobile, we can get more food and travel together for more food. It’s not the same getting takeaway delivered to you and sharing it at home.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Jean says:

          Well, I think we are referring to how the style of baking at some Asian bakeries. There are some select European style patisseries in Vancouver run by Asian European-style trained pastry chefs..ie. French/German baking techniques, which they produce some good and elegant stuff.

          When I read about the curfews in Victoria state, it sounded So unusual. We haven’t had a mandatory curfew imposed. Instead the provinces and cities (where many bars, restaurants) have simply indicated whether or not to open for business and leave the issue of hours up to the business owner. Alot of the businesses naturally chose shorter hours because their employees probably didn’t want more risk and people naturally didn’t go to the businesses. Also covid started in the middle of our Canadian winter, so that naturally kept alot of people indoors. Now in summer, that’s become another problem because people wanting to socialize in restaurants, etc.

          Take-out is ok except it becomes boring in one’s home after many months. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Mabel Kwong says:

            Yes, the baking style at some Asian bakeries can be pretty distinct. There are the European style patisseries Asian bakeries, and then are the Asian style Asian bakeries that sell things like chicken floss buns and hot dog buns.

            Before the curfews started here in Victoria, restaurants and most retail shut. The only places open were grocery stores, Target and home electronics hard goods places with reduced hours. People weren’t exactly going out as we’ve been in winter here for the last few months. I guess things were getting out of hand here and the curfew got imposed for even more strict safety measures.

            Hopefully things look up in Canada and people keep their distance from each other. Enjoy the summer and warmth as best as you can, Jean.

            Liked by 2 people

  2. Sue Slaght says:

    Jean your post really strikes me with the sudden change in our new normal. I am no foodie by any means, but these gatherings at restaurants with family and friends was something I loved very much. Now we are very much in our own little eating bubble.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jean says:

      Hi Sue, Hard to expand beyond own immediate family bubble. Or one goes for a walk or bike ride with sufficient social distancing. Feels wierd to walk so far apart with friends or to be careful / wear masks. 😦 May you and family enjoy time together and still grow in perspective despite more social limitations. Even on the food side, it’s nice to try something different that others have prepared outside of home.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pit says:

    My mouth is watering! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jean says:

      We need our occasional treats during this time. With maybe some cycling, walking or other activity. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Jane Fritz says:

    Some poignant insights in this time of little socializing, Jean. And great pictures.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jean says:

      I enjoyed selecting the pics, Jane which led to reminiscing. Hope you will be able to soon eat with more family members and close friends with less vigilance.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Jane Fritz says:

        It’s starting to open up cautiously here, but despite wanting our local restaurants to success I am reassured by how slowly people are returning to the sitting inside option. On the other hand, it’s been great to have our more upscale (non fast-food) restaurants doing modified-menu take-outs. It’s been very popular. I hope it continues!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Jean says:

          We all gotta eat, it’s how much we want to spend. It’s been challenging for anyone running a food business in terms of financially surviving. What I’ve noticed are a few restaurants who after xx decades of business, have decided to retire now. To me, it seems for many places that choose to open cautiously they tend to have slightly shorter hours for now. That said, hope you have enjoyed the lobster at your end, since Canada’s supply comes from the Maritimes.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Jane Fritz says:

            Oh yes, we are lobster country all right. Yum, yum. And lobster roll take-out from a local pub has been one of the positive outcomes of this trying situation!

            Liked by 1 person

  5. As a foodie you had me at the bibimbap as that is one of our favorite Korean dishes. Any favorite is the cold soup with noodles.
    We both love eating out and trying new foods and tastes. Recently some restaurants started opening up here where we are living on the coast of Oaxaca. We finally got to try some authentic Mexican flavors and elevated cuisine. Up till then though I have been cooking uo a storm at home and really enjoying it despite limited space.

    Yes we ALWAYS remember good food on our travels. It’s often how we choose where we travel to and where we live. Total reason we lived in Vietnam until recently.

    Peta

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jean says:

      I haven’t tried any cold soup with noodles, greenglobaltrek. So that’s Korean too or? I haven’t been to Mexico yet but your blog probably would come in handy if /when the time comes. San Miguel also has tweaked my interest since it seems artsy and with architecture too. My partner knows a former business partner whose wife is Mexican and they go back to visit often to Mexico City. What is Mexican elevated cuisine? I get this powerful impression in Canadian big cities all I know is the beef asadas, (or pork, chicken) handmade tacos, moles and taco soup. Part of my brain is not even sure if tamales are Mexican, but I love them! What have you mastered well in Mexican dish cooking?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. * another favorite excuse the typo but I am using an ipad to write.

    Liked by 1 person

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