WORDS THAT SHAPED THE WAY WE ATE IN 2020

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In 2020, the best seat in the house wasn’t a see-and-be-seen “display table,” or a secluded corner booth. Prime seating was anywhere outside, even in a parking lot — the farther away from other people, the better.

BYRON SMITH/GETTY IMAGES/TNS

BY LIGAYA FIGUERAS
ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION/TNS

There was a lot to swallow in 2020.

Our plates have been too full, as we chewed on now-commonplace terms like personalm protective equipment, contact tracing, quarantine, social distancing and essential, or frontline, workers. All the while, the liquid pleasure in our glasses has needed refilling, perhaps with more frequency than we’d like to admit.

The pandemic changed the way we work, learn and play, and certainly the way we eat and drink. Here, in no particular order, is a recap of some terms that defined the way we dined when 6 feet became the measurement that mattered.

Comfort food: Mac and cheese, fried chicken, casseroles, tacos, pizza, pasta, soup — you name it, we ate it and called it comfort. The pantry snack shelf offered plenty of comfort too.

Quarantine 15: These were the extra pounds that some of us gained as a result of staying hunkered down at home, stress-eating, day-drinking, ordering takeout and doomscrolling in our pajamas.

Curbside: This is the safest way to transfer a pickup order from restaurant to customer. The best curbside operations keep things socially distanced and contactless, letting you pay in advance and simply pop the trunk upon arrival — no need to exit the car. Curbside waned over the summer. It is back.

Online ordering: This technological feature is something that every restaurant wished it had set up by the time COVID-19 arrived.

Reduced or limited capacity: In many areas of the country, restaurants were permitted to reopen for on-premises dining and were required to limit capacity, based on the square footage of public space, and to seat parties at least 6 feet from one another.

Contactless menus: Once a thing primarily among internet cafes, contactless menus have replaced the physical menus at many restaurants. These menus feature quick response (or QR) codes that customers scan with a smartphone camera. It takes them to an online digital menu, where they can view food and beverage options.

COVID surcharge: This fee — which some restaurants around the country tacked on to the bill to help pay for personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and even increased food prices — riled a lot of dinners.

Temporarily closed: Whether as a notice slapped on a restaurant’s front door or posted on its social media feed, the term surfaced with alarming regularity after a national emergency was declared on March 14. After restaurants began reopening in late spring, the term cropped up again, with positive COVID-19 cases among employees prompting some restaurants to close voluntarily for a limited time to sanitize.

GoFundMe: Caught off-guard by the swift arrival of the pandemic that forced a spring lockdown, countless restaurant operators launched fundraising campaigns, primarily to support displaced food service workers

Family meal: This previously is what the industry called a preservice meal for the staff served at some restaurants, but, with the rise of takeout during the pandemic, the term took on another meaning. Harried parents, working at home while dealing with kids learning remotely, needed help with dinner. Restaurants responded with take-and-bake (or reheat) aluminum trays of mains, sides and something sweet, for the entire household, rather than individual orders.

Sourdough bread: This was a popular baking project among some aspirational home cooks (the rest of us stuck to banana bread) — and a possible cause of the Quarantine 15.

Mask policy: Whether masks were mandated for customers was the most contentious restaurant issue of 2020.

Plexiglass: This is the functional interior décor item of the year. Plenty of dining rooms now have plexiglass partitions between booths, some more professional-looking than others. Plexiglass also can be seen protecting those manning cash registers, reception stands and even buffet lines.

Outdoor dining: In 2020, the best seat in the house wasn’t a see-and-be-seen “display table,” or a secluded corner booth. Prime seating was anywhere outside, even in a parking lot — the farther away from other people, the better.

Patio heaters: These were the hottest appliance of the fall. Restaurants that secured them have made outdoor dining during chilly weather a bit more bearable.

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