Should I eat out or not?

I think fine dining should be part of the community where it is, more than just for the people who are going to make a special occasion.

Daniel Boulud, French chef

I ordered assam fish at a fast-food restaurant at Tabuan Jaya on Friday, the day dine-ins were allowed at eateries statewide.

It was the best meal I had eaten in a long time, at least since the implementation of the second movement control order (MCO) from May 29 to June 11 this year. The assam fish was hot, spicy and delicious and the rice was fragrant and soft.

The staff manning the counter asked me, “Tapau or dine-in?”

“Dine-in,” I replied. I also ordered a glass of iced lemon tea to go with my meal.

I had just finished shopping for grocery items at the supermarket next door. I was so hungry I felt that I could eat a horse. There was no horse in sight so I opted for assam fish.

I decided to dine in at the fast-food restaurant because I was too lazy to cook. Shopping can be a very tiring affair; you have to keep your eyes wide for bargains and make sure you get value for your hard-earned money.

At that hour, around 1pm, there were four other people who dined in besides me. There were two chairs to a table and customers had to scan the MySejahtera app as well as their temperatures before entering the premises.

A big sign with the words “Limited to 16 persons” was put up on a desk at the entrance. I was given a number written on a small piece of cardboard after I registered myself. It was part of the strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) that all the economic sectors permitted to operate had to comply with.

Those which fail to comply with the SOPs will be instructed to close down for 14 days if there is a transmission of positive cases at the premises allowed to operate. Besides that, the operator or premises owner has to bear the screening and sanitation costs. A compound will also be issued to the errant operator or staff.

Business was brisk for the fast-food restaurant that afternoon.  Many customers walked in and later walked out with the food they ordered.

Dine-ins at eateries were allowed after the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee together with the Local Government and Housing Ministry updated the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for Phase Two of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) for essential services in the retail sector.

Later that evening, I thought of eating out at a fast-food court in my neighbourhood.  Since it was my day off, I decided to give myself a break from the kitchen and treat myself to my favourite meal of rice and kacangma chicken. So, I drove over to the premises.

Imagine my great disappointment when I learnt that the food court was only open to takeaways. Although the moon had not come out, my favourite kacangma stall was already closed for the day.

A staff member told me the food court could not open for dine-in yet because he and his colleagues had not been vaccinated against Covid-19. They were going to be jabbed only today.  The news surprised me. Why didn’t the operator of the court register his staff for vaccination earlier on? But anyway, for the workers, I guess it is better to be late than never.

So, it looks like I have to wait for another month — perhaps after all the workers had received their second jabs — before I can dine in at the fast-food court in my neighbourhood.

Many friends are discouraging me from eating out because of concerns over the spread of the new Covid-19 variants, including the Delta variant.

According to Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, with the new airborne Covid-19 variants, infections can spread very quickly in just 15 seconds.

So, the question now is “Should I eat out or eat at home?” when I go out shopping, not for shoes, handbags, clothes but for basic necessities like rice, vegetables, chicken and eggs?  Do I sit down and eat a simple meal at an eatery nearby or do I takeaway my food and eat it cold at home a few hours later?

“If you have to eat in an eatery, make sure you sit furthest away from everyone,” advises my best friend.

Will I dine in at an eatery again after last Friday? I don’t know. I guess I will play it by the ear.

But the truth of the matter is I love eating out, especially on my day off. It saves time, there is no washing up or putting away and I can unwind and de-stress as I enjoy the food someone else has cooked.