Food Writing in Quarantine

The pancetta crackles in the pan as I dice shallots. This dish won’t taste nearly as delicious as it would if I enjoyed it alfresco at MIDA, one of my favorite Italian eateries in Boston’s South End. On this night of quarantine, I settle for a homemade version of carbonara and a glass of wine.

What does a food writer do when restaurants are only open for take-out service or worse, shuttered? The last time I sat in at a restaurant for dinner was in early March, and the last time I got on a plane was the end of January. The adjustment to quarantine has been difficult. I am always on the go. My hunger for new adventures that my traveling and dining-out afforded all ended abruptly in March, save for a bi-weekly run to Whole Foods and the Urban Grape for essentials—food and wine. Dining out was a ritual for me. 

Dreaming up my future plans over drinks, talking about heartbreak with girlfriends, noshing on tacos with my siblings, or sipping lattes at my favorite coffee shop in Dorchester. These communal rites are ways I’ve been able to build relationships, foster business partnerships, and create work of which I’m very proud. It’s been difficult trying to make sense of what will happen next.

As a food writer, my work hinges on restaurants being open, meeting with entrepreneurs, interviewing chefs and sommeliers alike, and exchanging travel stories over drinks. Yet the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus has brought our world to an abrupt halt. The havoc in the wake of our collective quarantine is jarring and often hard to delineate the shift in our culture this upheaval has had on our lives. 

Quarantine is wearing almost everyone out. All this “free” time has my mind figuring out how  to “Marie Kondo” my way through this lockdown. And while the world is burning in a figurative sense, it’s bittersweet to celebrate anything during this time. While I wait and see what happens with COVID-19, I will lean into this uncertain time by creating work, connecting with other artists, and manifesting joy the best way I know how.

Therapy and having honest conversations with my mentors help me to stave off living in more regret. So, each day, I try and manage these thoughts, some days are better than others. I give myself permission to experience moments of levity. 

In quarantine, I have faced and mourned the loss of work, canceled travel plans, failed relationships, and the crushing madness that is racism. The world is burning. I make room to unplug, and find moments of quiet joy, linger over hot tea in the morning before anyone else is up, painting my nails while I sing to Nina Simone’s brilliance, write letters to my late parents about how life has turned out for my siblings and me, laugh, cry, and still make room for joy.

Margo Gabriel is a Haitian-American creative entrepreneur, freelance writer, cookbook editor, and copyeditor with a passion for storytelling and travel. Her work has been published in Edible Boston, Cuisine Noir, Fashion Steele Magazine, Grit Daily, Leave Inspired, Royal Rose Magazine, The Safe Place, and Write on the DOT. You can follow her work at www.margoscreativelife.com.

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