The Simple and the Mundane
The past four months have been hard, and not just for me, for friends, family, our community, the entire state, the country, every country. The stress, fear, and uncertainty of a global pandemic are doing everything within their power to wear me down. I won’t let them win, of course, but they are giving me a run for my money. Add to that enduring stress, the anger, horrors, and uncertainty of the legacy of social and racial injustice with which we’ve been reckoning since Memorial Day and my mood has been particularly heavy. I am feeling all of my emotions, individually and at once, and it has been difficult for me, and for many others to take a break.
Taking breaks makes many of us feel guilty as if taking one means that we are disrespecting the gravity of the pandemic, or that we are not using our time wisely by doing the somber social justice work that most certainly needs to be done to build a better world for us all. So, I was truly at a loss for what I could possibly write about this month to provide any insight or to share any inspiration, without adding to the weight that everyone is already carrying. I wondered this out loud and was overheard by my 17-year-old son, Aidan, who announced that I simply had to write about the Wegman’s Uncured Bacon and Chive Cheese Spread. At first, it seemed like too silly of an idea, but the more I thought about it, the more it made perfect sense. As silly and simple as this cheese spread is and the events surrounding it are, it has a larger meaning, one that, hopefully, I can find the words to convey to you.
I think it was sometime in May when I discovered that I could get groceries delivered from Wegman’s, an amazing supermarket about 10 miles from our home, via Instacart within just two hours. During this pandemic, food shopping has become a stressful chore for me, and clearly many others, judging from the typical time it takes to schedule a delivery. Even now, four to five months into the pandemic, we still have to wait in lines, outside of stores, so people can come out before we go in, allowing businesses to maintain capacities that facilitate social distancing. Add to that the need to put on masks and sometimes gloves, use hand sanitizers and antibacterial wipes, and all of the planning prep work that goes into what used to seem so easy. So does one go to the store or order groceries for delivery? The latter is more expensive but less stressful. However, getting food delivered from Shop-Rite or Whole Foods means waiting upwards of a week for delivery. So, going to the store is more stressful but immediate. Getting food within only two hours, from Wegman’s, was amazing.
The food at Wegman’s is also a little pricier than it is at some of the other supermarkets, but they also have some better choices — higher quality foods and unique and delicious choices. And it was at Wegman’s that we discovered the Wegman’s Uncured Bacon and Chives Cheese
Spread that, when warmed up and coupled with Wegman’s Blue Corn Tortilla Chips, was indescribably delicious. It became a favorite of everyone in our house, and it became a staple on our biweekly Wegman’s shopping list, which occurred primarily so we could refresh our supply of the cheese spread. The cheese spread was the main reason we became regular customers of Wegman’s home delivery.
The Cheese Spread Connects Us to Others
Fast forward to June — our new neighbors invited us over for a BBQ. We contributed side dishes and dessert, while they were responsible for the meat, condiments, and grilled veggies. We made a number of side dishes, desserts, and drinks -- potato salad, seasoned corn on the cob, avocado salad with avocado ranch dressing, strawberries with homemade whipped cream, and sangria. But I don’t think they enjoyed any of those more than they did the container of Wegman’s Uncured Bacon and Chives Cheese Spread and blue corn chips we also brought with us. It was gone in a matter of minutes. They were as much in love as we were.
The next time I ordered from Wegman’s, I ordered two containers of what was now everyone’s favorite cheese spread. I surprised our neighbors with one. I hung it in a bag on their door — a ray of sunshine in a pandemic. Then, just last week, they tried to reciprocate, but Wegman’s was out of stock. They texted me. I appreciated the thought. And then, this weekend, when I attempted to add the cheese spread to my Wegman’s online shopping cart, I couldn’t find it. I could find other varieties, garlic, and herb, buffalo cheddar cheese, pimento, but no uncured bacon and chives. It was not just out of stock; it was missing from the website. I called customer service to discover that the unthinkable had happened; it had been discontinued. Discontinued! First I told my family. Needless to say, they took it hard. Then, I texted my neighbors, who are just as crushed as we are. We will email the corporate headquarters on Monday.
It Really Wasn’t Just About the Cheese Spread
This story is about more than just Wegman’s Uncured Bacon and Chives Cheese Spread. I’m not sure that Aidan realized that when he suggested the topic for this month’s Baum-kuchen essay, but something tells me that he did. As it turns out, I’ve written about the cheese spread in my journal more than once over the past two months. It was special because it was one of our pandemic discoveries, which have emerged as real bonuses during these difficult times. The global lockdown, shortages in production chains, delays in shipping, and a focus on necessities have meant that much of what we do is about making sure we have our necessities and the basics covered, and that our family, friends, and neighbors have theirs met as well. We are less wasteful and much less concerned with seemingly hedonistic pursuits. Self-indulgence is nearly guilt-producing these days, and yet all the more delicious. And, I believe we are more grateful for those pleasures, taking less for granted now that we’ve lost so much and recognized how fragile life truly is.
Not only did the cheese spread seem like a lucky find, but it was also something to which we could look forward. Something to anticipate. Anticipation is somewhat lacking these days. So, it requires us to fine-tune and calibrate our systems and to learn to be in awe of much simpler things. When we can do that, we can find appreciation in the slightest of things and I think that most certainly helps to raise one’s spirits. But not only was the cheese spread a lucky find for us, sharing it with our friends and neighbors and having that shared experience was an important aspect of the joy created by and surrounding the Wegman’s Uncured Bacon and Chives Cheese Spread, a reminder that human and social connection during these times is important for our overall well-being.
Writing about the pandemic and the social unrest can help you cope with all of the stress, fear, and uncertainty with which these events and phenomena are challenging all of us, but writing about the simple pleasures and your connections with others, no matter how simple or how brief, will shine a light on them, so they can inspire your hope and feed your spirit.