During the last year-plus, as the pandemic affected just about every routine and way of life for nearly everyone, if not everyone, I did go through some changes as a result.

With a busy work and home schedule, my free time is precious to me and over the last 13 months I had an epiphany of how some of that time is spent with trite activities.

For me, first and foremost, was the time I found myself spending on Facebook — or more accurately, wasting on Facebook.

I have reduced time spent on the validation network by about 90 percent, and truth be told, I don’t miss it.

Another bloc of electronic media that has become a sickening waste of time is television. It’s to the point where I don’t know who or what to believe, so I stay away from news stations. If I do want to gain some awareness of a major news story, I watch the BBC (British Broadcast Company). If I’m going to be fed false news, at least it’s delivered with a cool British accent.

Sitcoms and reality shows are completely inane, disrespectful, shallow, and of no value to the human spirit.

In lieu of watching the “idiot box” as it has been called a time or two, I’ve sought escape in books. I can’t count the number of books I’ve read since last March — all kinds. And that has been fun. But give me an old-fashioned hard copy publication, not an e-book where one swipes the pages. When is the last time you heard someone say, “Boy, that was a real page-swiper?”

Music too, has filled the void left by my exodus from Facebook and television. I have played guitar every day for months now, and it feels good.

But there are still times when I choose to sit and flick through the 4,000 channels on TV for something mindless to watch. My go-to is the Food Channel.

I used to like the shows that taught me how to make dishes I wouldn’t dream of attempting. Yet, even that format has changed dramatically. There are still informative cooking programs, but it’s mostly competition shows. Those have been an eye-opener for me.

As with all competitions, there is a victor taking home the spoils, in most cases, cash. The more I watch these shows, the more they gnaw at my sense of decency. Monetary awards range from $10,000 to $50,000 in most cases. 

It’s not the money that bothers me, it’s what the potential winners plan to do with the money that is the thorn in my paw.

There are some wonderful contestants who plan to donate some or all of their winnings to a good cause — feeding the hungry, helping a local charity, a family member in need, or supporting medical research and the like. 

Others arrogantly proclaim the winnings will go for a vacation or a trip abroad to study cooking techniques. The best one was last night, when the winner of $20,000 could “now use it to pay for part of his fiance’s wedding ring.” Part of it!

I’ve been married for more than 40 years, and obviously out of touch with such affairs, but our entire wedding didn’t cost $20,000, and now that covers part of the cost of a wedding ring!?

Then there are the shows where cooks/chefs create plates that only an alligator would have the jaw-span to open wide enough to take a bite. People chomp on the food mass, slobbering condiments and juices all over their faces as they laugh with delight.

Others prepare “high-end” dishes with ingredients I would have to remortgage the house to obtain.

Finally on my list of pet peeves are the judges of the contests. In most cases I find them to be highly-trained, highly-talented and highly-paid food snobs, many of whom never experienced a moment of hunger in their charmed lives. They ridicule simple foods and ingredients (that I commonly consume), then nit-pick the daylights out of the competitors’ entree entries.

All of this goes on while thousands in this country and millions world-wide have not a morsel to eat. The dichotomy of the life circumstances is astounding.

As I mentioned earlier, there are some on the network who diligently work to help feed the hungry and assist the restaurateurs who are struggling through the pandemic. But there are many who don’t. Many who see food as a right, privilege and entertainment, all while hunger, malnutrition and starvation are ugly realities every day in this world.

Maybe I’ve become more cynical during the pandemic, or maybe more thoughtful.

Just food for thought.