Socially Distanced Dinner

My daughter Melanie is 22 and shares an apartment with a similarly aged girl named April. They are just across town, but we have only seen them in 2 minute interludes since Covid-19 started. First, they are baristas for a major coffee chain, so they are exposed to a lot of people everyday. Some of those people have respect and wear masks and do things properly, but many do not. Additionally, their social bubble of who they will interact with sans masks and distancing is much wider than we are comfortable with thus far. So our visits have been limited to exchanges of stuff outside our respective apartments or her place of employment. It’s been very tough not spending time with my eldest child.

So this weekend we decided to host a socially distanced dinner. We borrowed a table from a friend and hijacked one from our basement laundry room and created an extra long table so that my husband and I could sit at one end and Mel and April at the other end.

Being me, I got super excited and of course needed to make way more food than four people could possibly eat. Mel is vegan, so I planned the menu mostly around that concept. We were originally going to do a brunch, and I had ribs ready to smoke for dinner, so I went ahead and smoked them for my husband and I. I made my stir-fried wild rice with mushrooms, shallots, peas and carrots, and toasted pine nuts. I fried jicama fries in the air fryer, mostly because I had bought the jicama on a whim, and we really didn’t like it raw. The fries were actually pretty good and easy to make. As a nice treat, I cut up some frozen okra I had purchased a while back and made some Southern fried okra because it is one of Mel’s favorite foods. My husband helped out by preparing a simple salad of green leafy lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes.

I also attempted a vegan chocolate rum cake. I wish I had taken a picture of it. It was ugly. However, it tasted really good. I had tried to bake it in the instant pot duo using the bake function. I think I need a different pan. The only pan I have that fits is a thick ceramic pan that’s great for souffles but not so great for baking a cake in the instant pot apparently. The top half looked and felt done, but it was gooey on bottom. Baking longer produced a baked outside, but still left some gooeyness is the middle. In the end, the girls liked it anyway, so I guess it wasn’t awful. But it was ugly.

You’ll note that I didn’t manage to take any pictures during the actual meal or with the girls. I was way too excited to sit and talk with them and totally forgot I even had a camera! We talked a lot about our kittens. We talked about their lives and about work. We talked about what’s going on with the world. It was incredible just to sit and visit, even if at a distance. And I did break a little rule. I got a hug. We were both wearing masks and turned our faces. And it was at the end, so I sanitized my hands and arms and went immediately inside and changed my clothes. I was wearing a floor length dress, so everything but arms and hands were covered. It was worth the effort.

I know for many that the hardest part of this pandemic is the people we are missing. And yes, we can do virtual visits using the various platforms available. But there is no substitute for actually being able to sit down with those you love. And I think if we are cautious about it, it can be possible. We may have eaten 8 feet from one another and we wore masks except during the meal and we took extra precautions like plastic wear and one person serving all the food and hand sanitizers and wipes on the tables, but we shared a meal and a conversation. And it was good.

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