As somebody whose culinary skills are shaky, it has been a gruelling time for my husband and friends despite takeaway meals and our social meetings have been definitely shrinking despite protestations of undying friendship.
Therefore, the news that we can soon dine al fresco in restaurants which have an outdoor area is something I am looking forward to, in spite of the weather.
Indeed, I suspect that this outdoor eating shindig, with its overtones of a picnic (even if the guests are BBQ-ed), will be more interesting than ‘eating out’ once restaurants are allowed to let guests in.
The rules are formidable and it looks like restaurants will have to have more or less a full capacity staff to serve about 30 per cent of their usual number of guests.
For most of us, dining out is a social exercise and if we are to sit in shouting distance of each other and maintain social distancing from the staff serving us and eat out of disposable crockery and cutlery, I think a party at home with takeaway food is still a better option.
Of course, as responsible people we have to follow the basic rules here too but at least we can be a bit more flexible – and that will make all the difference.
Meanwhile, has anybody seen what’s happening to the food scene? Paradoxically, it’s gotten really innovative with big hotels opening their gates to welcome drive-thru diners and hosting food trucks and live cooking stations from their restaurant kitchens as well as guest chefs.
In other places like Seef and Saar, there are gathering places for food trucks and eager diners can drive up and get their fix of restaurant food in surroundings that have a lovely, youthful vibe.
Restaurateurs in the kingdom are inventing new ways to keep their soup piping hot.
One hotel is offering recipe boxes where the chef personally measures and pre-prepares the dish – all you have to do is follow instructions and cook it. A leading hypermarket has gone one step further – you can point to the most succulent catch of the day and instruct the in-house chef to marinate and season it to your taste and cook it as you would like. Simply continue with your shopping and pick it up before you check out.
When I write that book about life in the pandemic, these will be the stray silver linings that will illuminate the picture for me. Sadly, such cheer is rare. Many thriving restaurants in the once-bustling Block 338 have downed shutters and among the smaller community eateries, the situation is grim. Even the iconic Saffron by Jena, which showcased Bahraini culinary heritage had to close down.
Charity aid workers were saddened to get appeals from the staff of one popular Asian hotel chain for food aid – ironic when one considers that it is food and beverage that sustains the trade.
As we gear up for the hospitality industry’s coming back to boil, maybe the government should look at helping by offering to underwrite discounts like the UK government has done – since August, the government there has been paying 50pc of diners’ bills when they eat at an eligible restaurant, pub, or café. This has resulted in over 64 million meals being sold.
I, for one, am eager to adopt the UK government slogan “Eat Out to Help Out’. And, truth be told, so are my family and friends.