Howell spent her pandemic cooking like a mad woman, washing dishes and losing weight.

Did you gain or lose weight in quarantine? It went one way or the other. Southern culture is deeply rooted in food. We all know this. There are bibles dedicated to barbecue, the hamburger and the art of the crawfish boil.

In good times and bad, I have never lost my appetite. 

At a wedding – heck, yes, pass the cake. At a funeral – by all means, let me at that potato salad.

In mid-March, when the first signs of COVID-19 were gaining traction in the States, I was calm. No toilet paper – no problem. I bought baby wipes.

But the day Anytime Fitness closed, I got jittery. As a realtor, I am used to flying by the seat of my pants, but I have a gym routine.

When Gov. Kay Ivey put out the word for shelter-at-home, I finally had my grocery store meltdown. I binge-bought meat and wine instead of hand sanitizer. I had scary visions of my street closing off, and there I would be: hungry and sober.

I bought chicken, ground beef, sausage (oh the Conecuh!), steaks, bacon and turkey. And boxed wine – a whole case, just in case my neighbor needed one, too. 

Then I cooked it all. I have never meal prepped, but I was cooking like a mad woman. I washed more dishes in those six weeks than I had all year. It was self-induced meal prep for the too-busy-to-ever-meal-prep me. John was alarmed at the protein situation and tried to move some packs to the freezer, but I was unstoppable. I was the grocery store warrior in our family ( I think every family had one). I was willing to fall on the sword for us for whole chickens.

I dropped about 10 pounds. 

My nervous energy was only exhausted in walks and on my bike. I was taking in the spring flowers that were blooming and smelling that wonderful lake air commingled with grill smoke. My social butterfly wings may have been clipped, but in their place came a few more healthy habits (like not eating out lunch all the time). 

My neighbors were grilling, too. 

While social distancing, we Gappers cooked our weight in hamburgers and grilled chicken. I think I hit up at least four crawfish boils (for a fun twist, add in a whole pineapple). I had flaming cheese for the first time from a dock (thanks, Ian Baas).

Businesses have slowly opened back up now. Renfroe’s is back with pre-made jalapeño poppers stuffed with sausage and steak, which I love for a lazy no-cook night. I had lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant and went to dinner at SpringHouse. 

Folks retreated to Lake Martin to their cabins and have stayed on. I know they cooked their weight in chicken, too. Maybe some decided to stay full-time forever. Time will tell, just like a well-cooked Boston butt.

~ Lacey Howell is a recovering English major from Auburn who now lives on Lake Martin, sells real estate, rides horses and loves good wine. Follow her at Instagram@LaceyHowell and on her Facebook page.