One of the best things about retiring from my pediatric practice was that I was finally able to relax certain food restrictions which I had followed for many years. During my 40-year career, I had maintained a long-established schedule of working Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Being off every Wednesday was a nice break during the week from the grind of a busy office practice.
My wife, who made most of the family meals during my working days, loves to cook with garlic, onions and other flavorful ingredients. I enjoyed the variety of dishes but sometimes my patients would notice the next day.
“Ewwwww…, Dr. Kraft, your breath stinks,” one memorable patient announced as I was examining his ears. He was an uninhibited five-year-old who didn’t hold back. How can you possibly object to a child’s candor especially when you know he was right?
From then on, I requested that my wife omit the garlic except on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays so that I would have a day off for my breath to come back to normal.
When I retired six years ago, my garlic restrictions fell by the wayside. I began to cook alongside my wife, and I was able to eat spicy foods with less fear of offending my little patients when I would enter their personal space. However, since I was actively involved in a mentoring project, camera club meetings and Spanish conversation groups, I became a little more self-conscious again about what I was eating while we were still coming in close contact with other people.
When the Pandemic struck last year and everything transferred to Zoom, I was free once again to explore the ingredients that we had learned to love. Since we were cooking all our meals, we became more creative using these spices and didn’t have to worry about offending anyone sitting next to us. We no longer have to hesitate using garlic, cumin and onions in the many ethnic dishes we now make on a regular basis.
Nowadays on Zoom, it’s not unusual to notice that your male friends have neglected to shave, or that your female friends may not be coloring their hair as often as usual. But no one yet has noticed that I might have just finished a bowl of very garlicky greens or a spicy Thai curry.
Being able to cook and eat with abandon has been one of the benefits of our being in a lockdown. And when we venture out to go shopping, wearing our masks and following the rules of social distancing keeps us from having to worry about whether our breath may smell.
This is just one of the ways we have learned to find something positive in the crazy disrupted world in which we are now living.