It’s not easy to socialize masked at six feet, and it’s nearly impossible to eat or drink while wearing a mask. I say nearly impossible because some folks — in New Orleans, of course — have designed a mask with a hole just large enough for a straw. The hole allows you to sip a drink, and there is a flap to cover the hole while not in use. Never underestimate American ingenuity. In America, it’s a short step from “it’s impossible” to “piece of cake.”
Let’s start with baby steps: cocktail hour. We have a front porch. You may, too. We can set up a pair of chairs at each end, about 10 or so feet apart. We can seat a couple at one end and us at the other, and have gotten together with a number of friends that way.
You don’t have a porch? Perhaps you have a front yard. At the elemental level, you have a group of guys standing in a circle drinking beer. We have neighbors up the way who set up chairs in their front yards so that they can enjoy a beverage while conversing with friends in person. My older brother, Jim, is in circles at the beach large enough that they have to shout to be heard.
Let’s kick it up a notch. You really should have something to eat while you enjoy your glass of wine or cold beer or cocktail. Sharing food and utensils, however, means sharing germs. How do you share food safely in a nation of double dippers? How do you avoid the inevitable crowding around a table full of food?
Simple. Sort of. We have a Friday afternoon social hour with our next door neighbors, the Hammons. You’ve met here and here. We live in attached townhouses (okay, duplexes) with fenced front porches. We set a table atop the fences on the area between our houses and set platters of food on it.
Out first try called for some adjustment. There was a lot of cross-table reaching and some touching of food by someone (John) whose name I won’t mention. So we moved the table and added lots of toothpicks.
This too proved imperfect because of our vigorous exercise of the inherent right of all Americans to crowd a buffet. So we adjusted again, and provided two sets of identical platters, bowls, and boards, one for each family.
You can see some overflow in the background. It’s gotten so that we need a bigger table, so more adjustments are in store. It’s kind of like golf. You never get it exactly right, but you keep playing.
The lockdown is a frustrating, boring, and lonely time for many people. Being apart and so restricted generates a lot of tension. Meeting on Zoom is one thing, but far from a panacea. It’s nice, certainly better than nothing, but ultimately it’s unsatisfactory. Actually being with other people, meeting face to face, even at a distance, is entirely different. Contact with other people energizes us. Sometimes it irritates and infuriates us, but much more it makes us laugh and fills us with love and joy.
I hope that you will find safe ways to meet and break bread with others. Find a way or make one.
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