A Pandemic Meditation: On Beer and Simple Pleasures

Pandemic Meditation Beer BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Ana Maria Enciso

I started social distancing on the 14th of March, almost a week before the simulation of a quarantine started in Bogota. 

With each passing day, the issue of food became increasingly relevant. It was no longer an issue of eating three times a day to fill your belly, but an act of taking care of yourself; an act of love and a type of meditation, while protecting what we nurture us.

Since I was a little girl, I have always loved to cook. I am not a professional chef, but I like it, and I feel I do a good job. I have times where I obsessively cook different things. While I was in college, I used to bake cakes and muffins, and then I had times when, for a more extended period, I was obsessed with making chocolates of every kind.

Marzipan covered in white chocolate, strawberries that I smoked with buttons and a bow tie and three types of chocolate, truffles, bonbons filled with whiskey creme, passion fruit with white chocolate, etc.  I would make them and give away to people I encountered on my daily walkabouts. I didn’t sell them, nor did I eat them. The point was to make them, and nothing more. 

Last year, food once again became necessary. It was my way of dealing with the sadness climate change and forest fires made me feel. 

When the news of the fires in the Amazonia came out, I was returning from the hottest day in history in Paris, which made me want to die of horror and impotence. The fires made that sensation worse. 

At that time, acquaintances and friends started to publish memes and infographics on how the reduction of the consumption of meat would de-incentivize the deforestation due to extensive cattle raising, and I began to organize community dinners which I called “The Loving Resistance” to help those who wanted to participate. 

Becoming a vegetarian to help reduce the carbon footprint or de-incentivize deforestation is a long and complicated discussion as would be any other. But the dinners we held were physically and spiritually satisfactory. In a simple event, people that I love and would not have met otherwise started to know each other. We laughed together. We ate until we were satiated, joyous at having made the food ourselves, relishing its lovely taste. 

Now, and while the dinners are suspended even though we managed to do one through Zoom I am spending more time thinking about food, like when I made chocolates, not because I am eating all the time, but because my imagination keeps bringing me back to food.

My mom says that I am undergoing a phenomenon that in the world of sailors is known as encabinamiento (cabin lock-in) the obsession with food because of confinement. 

I don’t know what the clinical picture of the encabinamiento will be, and despite having searched it in Google, I could not find anything. However, it doesn’t stop making sense because food has an enormous capacity to impact our lives both physically and symbolically. And since human beings don’t know how to lead a meaningless life, it also ends up being a way of filling with meaning this ocean of time that we spend stored at home; to use this time of confinement not as a punishment or paranoia, but a parenthesis to fill with peace.

Beer as a Means of Meditation

While we saw that ridiculous scene in the supermarkets which had not occurred to even the most mediocre of apocalyptic movie writers of people fighting over toilet paper, I filled my fridge with fruits and vegetables, the freezer with bread, and began accumulating beer and coffee.

Beer has been one of my most precious assets these months because it has colored meals with small doses of pleasure and, above all, because it has been an insuperable company at the most priceless moment of the day: finish work and sit down to read.

Reading on the sofa, beer in hand, day after day, has helped the feeling of the passage of time to change from confinement, boredom, or despair, to quiet joy and contemplation.

I’ve had the time to savor and slowly reread paragraphs that I didn’t remember having already visited with the calm of not having nothing else or better to do. When I went through them, I was more interested in the drink’s taste than in the lecture.

By the time I needed more beer, the supermarkets had already restricted alcohol, so I opted for craft beer deliveries to my home, a much more diverse flavor stock than most beers found in the markets.

Looking for craft beer also led me to another reflection in this quarantine: ways one can contribute to making the economic debacle less brutal, less instantaneous, or, at least, that it comes after having shown resistance and companionship, not helplessness.

Beer has been a historical tradition in Colombia, but the craft beer industry is much more recent and has much less resistance to deep crises. For all industries, workers’ wages are linked to their families’ well-being, but through looking for beer at home, I thought that I could at least try to contribute more directly to supporting small producers.

Forgive my idealism, naive for sure, but I believe that not being carried away by impotence is valuable and thinking that small actions such as deciding who to buy beer from that I will be drinking either way can be useful. It also contributes to my emotional well-being. An idiotic decision makes sense.

For now, I enjoy the differences between the beers I have ordered I still don’t know anything about beer, but now I savor it more. I hope that having so much time will allow me to enjoy this pleasure longer until we can return to the bars someday.