Never in the history of human existence has it been so easy to “get together.” Virtual meetings, coffee dates and dinners are simple to schedule (e-invite!), dress for (pyjama pants!) and commute to (no DD needed!). Plus, everyone’s available basically all the time.

However, it’s also never been easier to cancel plans. Just send a text. Fire off an email. Don’t open your laptop. No one can prove you don’t have a scheduling conflict or virtual dentist appointment or 4:00 p.m. existential crisis. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to create and destroy plans on a whim. But it also might result in you talking to no one but your partner, roommates or dog for months on end. 

Real (outside, distanced) plans are a treat. Logistically, they’re hard to coordinate. Ethically, they’re difficult to cancel. But seeing a friend IRL, no screens attached, is a real win in these crazy times. When that friend is daintily cramming a tofu banh mi in their face, even better.

That’s maybe not the principal purpose of Dine Outside, Tourism Vancouver’s first summertime food and drink celebration. More likely, it’s to support local restaurants and show foodies what safe, distanced dining can look like. Similar to Dine Out, participating restaurants are offering prix fixe patio menus (for $15, $25, $35 or $45) and other promotions. And in true COVID fashion, many are also offering take-home and picnic packs. Myself and editor-at-large Stacey got DD Mau’s picnic this week—that’s two banh mis, an order of salad rolls and two drinks—and flopped down at a park among a few buzzing children and screaming wasps. It was a welcome sensory overload.

xStacey in the park, circa Monday.

Plenty of restaurants also have take-home goodies available (DD Mau has kimchi and sate sauce) so you can cook up your own culinary masterpiece. You can find all the restaurants here.

We’re in this for the long haul, folks, but having something to look forward to—like a distanced, outdoor lunch date with a beloved coworker/comedy friend—really helps the COVID-19 blues. I challenge you all to make an honest, real-life plan soon. If there’s food involved, even better. It’s time to feed that starving social calendar. 

Dine Outside runs until September 21, 2020. Check out their website at dineoutvancouver.com.