Putting on the Pounds

COVID-19. Not just a lethal virus anymore. Now it’s also the name of the weight gain phenomenon experienced by many New Orleanians in the wake of the outbreak.

COVID-19; that’s four pounds more than the traditional Freshman-15, that annual surge that preys upon college campuses every fall and winter. It’s the “other” hidden health risk to the local population since all the gyms closed, we moored ourselves to our couches, binge-watched Netflix and Hulu and discovered our inner Emeril.

Pushing over-loaded grocery carts down supermarket aisles replaced pushing 180 pounds on the bench press. More prescribed medicine, less medicine ball. Cooking more, eating more, doing less. You don’t need to be Dr. Fauci to forecast the expected results.

Blame it all on iron skillets, casserole dishes and too much time on our hands. Plenty enough of it to riffle through the huge collections of cookbooks that seemingly all of us have stockpiled over the years but never actually cracked the spines to. Most folks I know just think they make for sophisticated interior décor and the trappings of a life well-lived.

Check it: Next time you’re at a friend’s house – if your friends ever let you in their houses again – secretly inspect the cookbook shelf and see how many of them actually have gravy or red wine stains on them.


Another method for waking and baking every day, of course, are those yellowed index card files held together with paper clips (remember those?) which contain decades of Grandma Weber’s beloved – but very secret – recipes for lasagna, lemon ice box pie and cream chicken. (Secret: Lots of cream.)

“Comfort Food” is a relative term. For most folks, I suppose it’s the aforementioned recipes and processes, three hours over the stove using two sticks of butter, a cup of sugar and a whole lotta love – and time – to achieve Epicurean grace.

For others, comfort food comes from fast food drive-throughs, those ubiquitous Mexican food trucks and the corona-inspired trend of cafe and bistro sidewalk pickup tables. After all, what could be more comfortable than sitting in your own climate-controlled luxury sedan listening to NPR while waiting for dinner to be served in Styrofoam containers and brown paper bags?

I can answer that: Not leaving the house at all, sitting on your couch waiting for someone to bring dinner to you. Now that’s comfort.

Added bonus: Plastic ware. No dishes to do. But then, what to do with all that extra comfort time when we cheat our own kitchens? Cue up another episode of “Eve,” I suppose. And voila! The dreaded second wave of the COVID-19 washing over us.

In pounds, we hope. Not the other thing.

Then again, I have witnessed many folks taking an aggressive approach against the COVID-19 (the food one) for these past few months. From my Mid-City apartment – as the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months – there has been an impressive surge of physical activity. Cyclists, joggers, dog walkers, strollers, kayaks on rooftops.

As sheltering in place turned into social distancing and then morphed into the “if I don’t get out of the house soon I will probably kill someone I love very much and then regret it terribly for the rest of my life” phase – lots of folks, friends and families began filling neighborhood streets and parks and waterways. In small groups, of course. And at safe distance.

OK, those haven’t always been the cases, but with all this time on people’s hands, once they’ve rearranged the kitchen cupboards three times and read the complete unabridged works of Camus – “The Plague” twice, just to refresh the imagination – it’s time to get some fresh air.

Hoping the air doesn’t kill us.

And there was no lack of fresh air in the first two months of the pandemic here in New Orleans. Did you notice that? How March and April of 2020 will go down as some of the most beautiful weather the area has ever experienced in springtime. Some kind of taunting scheme by Mother Nature, no doubt, since so many of us didn’t get the chance to enjoy it.

You can tell who did take the chance to exercise. They’re not pale, wobbly on their feet and don’t need to go out and replace all of their pants, skirts, shorts and bathing suits that got too tight from weeks/months of inactivity.

That is, once the day comes when you can actually find a place to replace all that stuff.

Here’s hoping.


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