In 2020, we became a nation of spectacularly ambitious home cooks. We whipped our coffee and baked our sourdough. We bombed our hot cocoas and turned focaccia loaves into bountiful gardenscapes. We ransacked our pasta aisles and simmered heirloom beans for hours and hours on end. Many of us barely left our kitchens at all, and we deserve a vacation — even though we still can’t really go anywhere.
Pre-COVID, we could spend entire days in Flushing, devouring chicken feet, spicy tripe, and plump little soup dumplings. From there, we were just one train ride away from thick Greek feta and bright Peruvian ceviche. We could travel from China to Greece to Peru and never leave the same borough. Now, of course, we aren’t supposed to “leave” anywhere, because we aren’t supposed to go there in the first place.
For all of us, winter has set in. Indoor dining is closed in New York and elsewhere. Unemployment and illness are rampant. Now, we’re all pinning our hopes on 2021, and even though the future is always uncertain, we all seem to agree that it has to be better than the past 11 months.
But even if the calendar has changed, not much else actually has. There is still a pandemic and we are all still supposed to stay home as much as we can. We need an indulgence, some sort of adventure to enjoy in the safety of our apartments. What we could use right now is Double Dinner.
We don’t need to cook two dinners, and we definitely don’t need to do more dishes. Instead, Double Dinner is a time to embrace one development of the pandemic era, which is the overwhelming number of new takeout and delivery options available around the entire country. Given this bounty, we no longer need to commit to a meal made up of food from just one restaurant. Why do that when it is so simple to combine anything you want into a free-form feast that can, at least temporarily, alleviate the monotony of life after you’ve finished watching The Queen’s Gambit and all of Bridgerton?
After a particularly soul-crushing day of work, during which I barely moved an inch, and the mere thought of cooking or cleaning felt impossible, I ordered some penne alla vodka, and chased it with three different types of tacos. Not only did I feel the life-warming vibes of a good pasta, but the combination retroactively made the whole day feel a bit brighter.
Three weeks ago, I had corn dogs with a side of drunken noodles. It felt like visiting a county fair that had set up on the streets of Bangkok. I realized that I should take advantage of more mash-up opportunities. Fried chicken and sushi seem like they’d be a natural fit. And why not follow a dinner of pad Thai with a slice or two of Key lime pie?
I have ordered tikka masala with tortas, and I can confirm that garlic naan is an amazing vehicle for guacamole. I have discovered that soup dumplings, which are already perfect on their own, are somehow even better alongside a chocolate shake and an order of cheese fries. And while I am not yet sure if crispy rice is a suitable topping for hamburgers, I intend to soon find out.
While Double Dinner is a seemingly simple solution for cravings of piping-hot soup and chocolate lava cake, it comes with its own set of responsibilities. Not only must we support the restaurants directly, by calling them or walking by to pick up our food whenever possible, we must think twice before we embark on the use of third-party apps that might not support our favorite restaurant friends the way we intend. (When in doubt, give them a call or check their website for their ordering preferences and plan accordingly.) Of course, tip beyond graciously, especially if you never leave your couch as you order. These delivery drivers and couriers, chefs and kitchen staff deserve whatever you can afford to give, and it goes without saying that if you can afford Double Dinner at all, it’s worth donating a dinner to front line workers or to a local food bank as well. The best part about Double Dinner is that you support multiple businesses and the community you love, while staying safe.
All of this is to say that, yes, Double Dinner can become an expensive proposition. Yet, our restaurants need us and we need them. Let’s face it: Fried chicken and pierogi are better when someone else spends the time to make them. Double Dinner is the cashmere sweatpants of meals: unnecessarily lavish, but amid stay-at-home orders, it is also the right combination of comfort and logistical ease.
We can’t visit restaurants like we once did, celebrating job promotions or bracing for the impact of some big news from a friend we’re meeting, but we can support our local restaurants as we attend virtual weddings and binge TV series. So order the pie, those dumplings, the horchata, some tacos, and all the curries. Try the new place down the street, and visit your old standby at the same time. Show restaurants how much we can really eat. They all need our help so that one day, when we have that glorious party, where we hug, eat, and appreciate the people and the food that got us through all this, the restaurants we depend on will still be there.