By Bonnie Fishman
There is nothing like a once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic to pull people together. Wait, together, when you’re in isolation? How is that possible? As a rule, we humans don’t do very well being alone. We group together for all kinds of activities, such as sports, playing cards, educational study groups, book clubs, dog walking, games and dinner clubs. Most of these activities weren’t possible during lockdown. Some people continued with their book clubs and mahjong on Zoom. But with some other pursuits, it just wasn’t going to happen. So we walked the dog, swam, jogged, lifted weights, played solitaire and cooked alone. Somehow, missing the community in these pastimes was a real downer.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of community is “a group of people with a common characteristic or interest.” So what was that interest during the pandemic? Was it the unity we all felt when our world came to a screeching halt? Didn’t it feel good to talk with like-minded people experiencing what we were experiencing? We were having a collective crisis of mega proportion. Many families and friends stayed connected by having weekly Zoom gatherings.
Now, thanks to science and vaccines, we can finally gather. It seems people are assembling in droves. The book clubs are resuming, people are playing group sports, dinner clubs are back in action around tables with dishes brought by each guest.
One major upside of the pandemic has been the growth of more community. People need each other, they want to be together. They appreciate this new connection emerging from a long period of isolation. The smallest get-together, which we may have taken for granted a couple of years ago, are now cherished events. Personally, I have noticed that in recent outings to local restaurants, where we might have lingered around the table for half an hour after eating, now turns into two more hours of visiting. (Sorry restauranteur, you’re not turning my table just yet!) Last week I went to dinner with close friends and before we knew it, almost four hours had passed. I also had a meal recently with some lady friends. We clocked in for a three-hour breakfast. Just eggs but lots of conversation and sharing. Feeling so grateful.
I have had the experience of creating a new community when we wintered in Ventura, Calif., for many years. My close friends have asked me, “How do you do it? How do you make new friends?” Shared interests is a key ingredient in developing community. Sharing food is another. People are ripe for that connection post-pandemic, so this is a good time to try that out. In Ventura, my husband and I didn’t know anyone. That was unacceptable to me. I needed that companionship, we all do. I’m a swimmer, so I targeted other swimmers. Boom! I met Didi in the next lane. We became fast friends in swimming, going for coffee, walking our dogs, and, of course, dining together. Through Didi, I met her group of friends. More dog walking, coffee, cooking and eating. Invite someone over for a home cooked meal and that will seal the deal. We have remained friends even though I now live four hours away from them.
Another group I met on the Ventura beach was through beach combing. Hanging out, looking for sea glass, having coffee. Simple pleasures but deep relationships. We are still friends.
What we are all really after is a sense of belonging. Through seeking out communities, we find the framework to make that connection, enjoy like pastimes, share ideas, feel supported, and develop true friendships. I highly recommend it!
Today’s recipe is a great one for communal sharing. Maybe you will be attending a potluck barbecue or picnic. Maybe you are hosting your new group over for brunch, lunch or dinner. This Edamame Succotash ticks all the boxes. It is super easy to make, lasts for days in the fridge, best served at room temperature. The succotash is healthy, low fat, vegan, and very colorful. A real winner as a lovely accompaniment to any table.
Yield: 6 servings
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 lg. red onion, diced small
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 red pepper, diced small
3 lg. ears of corn, kernels removed from the cob
1 1/4 lb. shelled frozen edamame, defrosted and drained
2 Tbs. chopped parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/3 c. dried cranberries
In a large skillet, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Sauté the onions and cayenne until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper. Turn heat down to moderate. Continue to cook until the peppers begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the corn; cook 5 minutes more. Add the edamame and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cranberries. Adjust the seasoning. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.