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Michael TaubeWhen COVID-19 finally reaches a conclusion, it will be remembered for many things.

It was a global pandemic that turned into a collective experience. Concepts such as the free market and capitalism struggled at times for survival, whereas left-wing theories like socialism and Marxism briefly captured the imagination of the young and disenchanted.

Online shopping exploded in North America, as did food delivery.

Our hopes of achieving a proper life-work balance morphed into one sentient entity, which will be exceedingly hard to properly separate for some time.

On the lighter side, people spent more time together … whether they wanted to or not!

Many parents worked from home (if they were able to), and children used online education to finish their school year.

Gardening and landscaping projects were commonplace in our neighbourhoods, similar to the “victory gardens” that people used to tend during the First and Second World Wars.

People went through huge sections of Netflix and Amazon Prime, and purchased books, CDs, DVD/Blu-rays and other items to pass the time.

The fine art of cooking and barbecuing also served as a distraction during COVID-19, and witnessed a surge of interest. Many people posted photos on social media of their initial attempts to bake bread, create multi-course meals and put the finishing touches on unique dessert creations.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was one of those who jumped right in. He made a video in May of his “famous” cherry cheesecake recipe. It was a refreshing idea, as it showed a politician in a different element doing something purely for fun. (Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca’s foolish attempt to mock this video a couple of days later was roundly criticized.)

Others may have picked up a new or long-forgotten hobby.

My passion has always been for barbecuing and smoking meat. I do the former four or five days a week on average in every season – and I’m usually the only one on my deck in the winter months with my grill working overtime! I do the latter as often as I can, and enjoy smoking pork butt or shoulder, brisket and sausages.

I own very few books on grilling and smoking, simply because I have extensive experience and tend to be pretty creative. My library does include Chuck Williams’s Williams-Sonoma Complete Grilling Cookbook, which my wife bought for me years ago, as well as Matt Moore’s The South’s Best Butts: Pitmaster Secrets for Southern Barbecue Perfection, and Sam Jones and Daniel Vaughn’s Whole Hog BBQ: The Gospel of Carolina Barbecue with Recipes from Skylight Inn and Sam Jones BBQ. All three volumes are well worth reading.

There are also some great TV shows and websites dedicated to barbecuing and smoking.

The BBQ Pit Boys are very talented, for instance, and have deservedly developed a cult following. Barbecue Tricks offers some excellent advice, and Amazing Ribs is chock full of tips and information. Cyndi Allison’s Barbecue Master, Derrick Riches’ Barbecue and Grilling and Susie Bulloch’s Hey Grill, Hey! are excellent destinations, too.

Cooking is an enormous market. The Food Network and Cooking Channel are immensely popular. There are, and have been, a cavalcade of great shows on everything from PBS to TLN over the past 30 to 40 years.

My wife has always enjoyed cooking and baking. She has classic books like The Joy of Cooking and Larousse Gastronomique, as well as Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking two-volume set, books by Martha Stewart, Jacques Pepin, Jamie Oliver and Anna Olson, and Ina Garten’s entire Barefoot Contessa series, among many others.

There are some interesting websites, YouTube shows and even Twitter handles devoted to this fine art form.

Epicurious, NY Times Cooking, Allrecipes, MyRecipes and the Food Network’s website are fun to explore. Julie Albert (who I grew up with) and Lisa Gnat run the entertaining Bite Me More website, and have released two well-received cookbooks. Kevin Lynch’s Closet Cooking website is something I found during COVID-19 that’s worth investigating.

On Twitter, the friendly, upbeat @sak_shoes is closing in on 9,500 followers with her photos and videos of succulent barbecue and southern cooking recipes – and her love of bacon and pork products, which is part of a mutual admiration society!

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other high-level cooking and barbecuing sources to discover and learn from. It will take time to go through them all, but time is something we definitely have in 2020.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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