COVID-19 means death for our greatest dining delicacy
I am in mourning.
Not deep, sobbing, messy mourning, the like of which we've come to expect from reality television contestants when their four-minute pseudo-marriages collapse in a steaming pile of infidelity and recrimination. No, I am in nostalgic mourning for a delightful dining practice I doubt we'll ever see again.
Specifically, breakfast buffets.
Thanks to COVID-19 they've almost certainly been consigned to history, a relic from a time when you could happily lift the handle of a bain-marie without fear of germs, and full of excitement for what lay beneath. Would it be pillowy scrambled eggs, flecked with chives? Or a pile of fluffy pancakes begging to be doused in syrup?
I loved all of it. The platters of cheese and cold meats which made you feel as if you were in Copenhagen even if it was just an overnighter at a motor inn in Cooma or Cunnamulla.
The 17 options of bread and pastries artfully arranged as if for the arrival of Henry VIII, not a bunch of scruffy kids intent on filling their pockets with something for later. I even loved the bowls of prunes, so often left untouched by those who failed to appreciate their loosening properties.
Sadly, buffets now belong to the era BC - Before coronavirus. Like shaking hands and mosh pits and Bunnings barbecues, they'll become part of our social history. "Buffets sound like huge indoor picnics," our great grandchildren will inquire with wonderment. "Oh, they were fabulous," we'll enthuse. "Did I tell you about the omelette station …"
But there's no point becoming sentimental because life AD - After Distancing - promises so much more. Here are some of the things we can be grateful for as we tentatively emerge from restrictions:
A new-found appreciation of Australia
How lucky are we tucked away at the bottom of the world? Sure, it's a slog flying to just about anywhere but at times like this, you really appreciate a bit of distance. While the Italians and Spaniards have barely been allowed out of their homes for weeks we've had fresh air, sound communication from our government, a sensible plan and a comprehensive support package to help with the financial fallout.
Clarity around our relationships
Some couples and families will regard this as one of the most unifying experiences of their lives while others will have been forced to confront deep problems in their relationships. Now, more than ever, our homes are reflecting rather than absorbing surfaces. As one friend sadly relayed to me: "My husband has done everything possible NOT to spend time with me and our children. I've come to the realisation neither of us like each other anymore."
The testing of our agility
Politically, socially and economically, we've had to respond quickly to change. Policies which would typically take years to come into effect have been pushed through in days. So many industries have proved themselves dexterous - from distilleries making hand sanitiser to television networks interviewing experts via Skype and Zoom. We've always thought the growth in artificial intelligence would be the next big rupturing force. Now we've had a test run.
A collective slowing down
Working parents of young children have undoubtedly had it hard but for many the restrictions have offered a respite from the busyness. No child has suffered from not having the entire class celebrate his or her birthday; rather, they've gained by having parents around to meander through the day with. If underemployment impacts our lives, mastering a slower-paced existence will be a skill indeed. Plus, there's joy in forgetting what day it is. By late week it's all Blursday.
The value of prudence
Living leanly will be the reality for many of us yet I predict we'll be no less joyful because of it. Just as women drew charcoal lines up the back of their calves to give the illusion of stockings during the war, we will adapt to chastened circumstances. This time round austerity dovetails authentically with our desire to have a more sustainable planet. Using leftovers, buying fewer clothes, growing vegetables and having savings for a rainy day will form our new normal. Ostentation and over-consumption have long been the calling card of the rich. Now it will denote the stupid.
The preciousness of occasions and adventures
To quote Joni Mitchell, you don't know what you've got until it's gone. I will never again take Christmas with my parents or a holiday in another place for granted. You only appreciate how expansive and extraordinary the world - and our own nation - really is when you're confined to a tiny corner of it.
Pragmatism has up-ended ideology and polarity
For too long, politics has been a long ugly squabble yet the National Cabinet made up of leaders of various persuasions has proved it's possible to get stuff done. Just as influencers have lost their grip on the online world, we will no longer tolerate grandstanding and partisan bickering over vested interests. Like a good autumn prune, politics has been cut back to focusing on the essential. Let's hope spring in the first year AD brings new growth in the form of innovation, vision, reform and consensus.
Originally published as COVID-19 means death for our greatest dining delicacy