I could not live in Switzerland, and that has nothing to do with the wonderful landscape or the nice people. The reason lies in something much more banal: chocolate. The country has brought the art of chocolate to a level that would make it difficult for me to exercise discipline. I would simply eat far too much of the sweet stuff inside me, and I would be happy, but too soon to die.
While I – in vain – try to keep my distance from chocolate, the Frenchwoman Catherine Bréard has done exactly the opposite. She threw herself into the chocolate business. As a young wife and mother, she prepared chocolate mousse for her son Alix whenever she could, with a passion she had inherited from her own mum and grandma. He called her his ‘chocolate mama’. But like so often life came in between and her job at the employment office left her no time for frivolities like chocolate mousse. Until her son, now grown up and moved to Japan for professional reasons, asked his mama the following: “Promise me that one day you will live out your passion.”
Do we still remember that just a few weeks ago, without batting an eyelid, we ate a piece of the birthday cake over which the birthday boy or girl had blown out the candles? And now we get goose bumps if we only have to imagine it.
Almost two months have simply turned the calibration, which we should be worried about, upside down. As a child in the 1970s, I found it perfectly normal in our car – a VW station wagon – to ride along in the back of the loading area sitting on just one air mattress and sliding back and forth with it every time we braked or started off. Safety belts or head rests in the car were absent, as were safety seats for children.
Only a few years ago, it didn’t seem to bother us that we cigarette smokers were sitting next to us in a restaurant or coffee house. We didn’t waste a thought on it. And who didn’t just reach out for a hand to greet them?
Hand on heart: Which one of you was aware of how much our day was strangely determined and foreign structured? How much meetings and appointments were used as an excuse not to think about their necessity and your own wishes?
For some, as in the case of the corona virus crisis, the abrupt stop of all normal activities leads to a crisis of meaning. For the first few days, people try desperately to maintain the old routines and daily structure by holding meetings via video conference, but after a few days they realize that this is not the way it works. Going shopping as a distraction, taking children to and from school, going to the coffee house and working out in the gym were all part of it, and you saved yourself the thinking. Not anymore.
In a film that was intended as a homage to old science fiction films and B-movies, aliens attack the Earth and cause a massacre among humans. The American president and his advisors are not quite at one with each other as to what the right course of action should be, and above all, the president’s poll ratings should not suffer as a result. The reactions to the invasion are therefore hesitant, uncoordinated, and ultimately deadly for the president and his staff.
The 1996 film Mars Attacks! by Tim Burton, starring Jack Nicholson in the role of the American president, was not a box-office success, but it skilfully parodied everyday US politics. It depicts a world that cannot exist in reality in this way. Or can it?
Replace the word alien with the word coronavirus, and we’ve got ourselves a situation. And not only that, the situation is actually even worse than the movie wanted to portray in its parodistic exaggeration.
An impressive number of friends that I had gone out for dinner in the past months told me that they had stopped drinking. They did so two weeks ago, or have been off alcohol for several months. Their reasons for staying away from alcohol vary, like not feeling like it, feeling more health-conscious, or maybe having had one of their friends get a DUI and make them realize that this is not worth it.
Whatever their reasons are, I can relate to them. I stopped drinking two-and-a-half years ago. I just made it my New-Year’s-resolution. Not that I drank much before, but the occasional glass of wine every other day, or a beer with friends every other week. Going cold-turkey wasn’t really a problem. But still, for weeks you could feel a craving, and when you had made it a habit passing by the wine shelves in the supermarket, I had to stop it and look for an alternative route.
While some of my friends really went full non-alcohol, others may allow the occasional glass of champagne for celebrating a birthday. It’s more a spectrum of sobriety, in the sense of meat-eater <-> vegetarian <-> vegan.
Drinks Missing In Action
Drinking non-alcoholic beverages is easy, you think? Well, here is the funny thing. While waiters hand you full booklets with dozens of pages of wines, cocktails, beers, and spirits, that restaurants give you at the dinner table, the non-alcoholic section is often not more than two or three lines. Sodas, juices, and water. And empathic waiters will give you the option to have a cocktail prepared without the alcohol.
It’s stunning. Almost no restaurant or bar has a selection of non-alcoholic drinks that you would call “a selection.” It’s like they are missing-in-action and nobody cares. While there are bar tenders specialized in cocktails of all sorts, and fancy restaurants having their own sommelier making wine recommendations, non-alcoholic drinks seem to be the step-children in the hospitality industry.