For someone who absolutely loves firangi pleasures like 'brunching', the past five months have been difficult, to say the least.
I clearly did not sign up for a life without poached eggs topped with hollandaise, avocado toast and thick fluffy French toasts layered with cream cheese or Nutella. I was also shocked that despite not spending on avocado toast for five months, I still haven't been able to afford a house; the millionaires lied to us!
In the first phase of the lockdown, I tried to recreate the brunch experience at home; some attempts more successful than others; but still found myself craving for the good-old-Sunday-brunch at Street 1 in Kohsar Market, Islamabad.
The second phase of the lockdown made me feel like the brunch experience was a distant memory; like something that was a part of a bygone life and I regretted ever taking it for granted. I should definitely have been more thankful and happier to be served a plate of goodness, that reaches a corner of my heart like nothing else does.
Yet, when the government announced reopening of restaurants, gyms and cinemas, I had mixed feelings —life has begun to get back to normal, but is it too soon?
Don’t get me wrong, there’s no way I’m against these places reopening. Most of them are small businesses that have employees, heavy rents and bills to pay and it’s hard to sustain them without a regular stream of income. Kudos to them for being able to do that for the past six months, but are we responsible enough as citizens to understand the situation and take precautions?
Let’s learn what these precautions and are how we can socially distance...but not from great food.
Know the government-imposed SOPs
The government imposed and announced some SOPs for the restaurants to practice as it announced the opening.
- Ensuring only 50 percent of the sitting capacity to be allowed to dine in.
- Citizens the age of 60 and over not be permitted.
- Six feet distance between tables (don’t know if that’s practical because the capital has restaurants in tiny commercial shops – arghh!).
- Social distancing to be ensured, wearing of masks to be mandatory for customers and restaurant staff (good luck eating with a mask on).
- Restaurants to take the temperature of every customer walking in.
- Every table to have a hand sanitizer (folks, please don’t take the sanitizer with you as you do with soaps and shampoos at hotels —unless you want to pay for a sanitizer with every meal from next week).
- Customers won’t be allowed to enter buffet area and can request a designated waiter to get them food from there (sorry not sorry, no eating to your heart’s desire because of shame).
Go the extra mile
While the SOPs look great on paper, we are yet to find out how practical and effective they are in reality, however it’s also important to remember that going the extra mile is always helpful.
Make sure to have antibacterial wipes and sanitizers on you when going out to dine, and avoid touching doors and furniture unnecessarily with hands.
In Paris, stuffed teddy bears are put on chairs to ensure social distancing and if I were going out, I’d definitely take my own teddy with me - but hey, the point is to be careful and know that your safety is your own responsibility before the restaurant's or the state's.
Avoid busy times – opt for dining out at an off time
Some of us may be in denial that we won’t dine out but we are all humans at the end of the day and sooner or later we will give in, which may be fine as long as we are careful. A great way to be careful is avoiding busy times.
It’s valid to want a nice meal after almost half a year but pick a time when you know there’s going to be lesser people around. Go for early dinner at 6 instead of 8 or 9. Opt for a late lunch at 3 pm instead of 1 pm when everyone will be looking for a table.
Avoid going to the restaurants on the weekend. If you dine out during the week, not only are you avoiding the risk and keeping yourself safe but also doing a service to the restaurant by helping them generate sales on a weekday that may otherwise be slow.
Dine at restaurants that offer outdoor seating
Any sane person would wonder why outdoor dining wasn’t opened before the indoor option despite being much safer. While we don’t put much thought into things, its probably time we do.
While the indoor spaces may seem inviting when you’re deciding to dine out, opt for an outdoor space.
Weekday early morning breakfast is the new Sunday brunch
Pakistan may have reopened today but the virus hasn’t disappeared and the last place where you want to be contracting it is at Sunday brunch. Please avoid it.
Lord knows everyone’s going to be there —we never learn. That said, I’m not depriving you of avocado benedict. It’s available at most places on the weekdays too and if you be an early bird and venture out at 8 am on a weekday, chances are you’ll be the only one dining there and acing the social distancing game!
Remember, takeout is still your best friend
I’m not sure about people in other parts of Pakistan but takeout doesn’t seem like a bad idea in Islamabad. Particularly with all the greenery and hills around. The safest option is still to get a takeout —doesn’t have to be zinger, it can be sushi too.
Takeout your favourite meal, go to a nearby park if you are craving the outdoors and enjoy your meal in a new way.
Recreating beautiful dining experiences with home delivery
It seems strange that people are going crazy about the restaurants opening when all this food was available throughout the lockdown for takeaway, home delivery and later for in-car dining too.
If it was really the food that we are craving, what was stopping them from having it?
International food blogger Foodstravaganza who spends half her time in Islamabad has been showing how to recreate beautiful dining experiences with home delivery.
Sara Arhm, the co-founder of the blog, sets up a fancy dining setting for her family and orders their favourite food for intimate celebrations like anniversaries, birthdays and other moments of joy. She brings out the stunning crockery, lights on the candles sets a floral centrepiece and enjoys meals from fancy restaurants at home.
She’s showing us the new way of life post-pandemic and makes me wonder how soon all of us can adopt this new lifestyle too. Her Instagram stories can give great ideas!
The country may be opening today but the responsibility of it not shutting down again lies on the citizens and not the government. Think wisely, act wisely —we don’t want to be stuck at homes for another five months again.
One of the funniest things I have heard since the government decided to open everything all of a sudden on Monday, 10 August, was a wise one’s tweet that read ‘10th August se naseeb bhi khul jayen toh maza ajaye @ God’.
Well, all I can say is, AMEN to that!