COVID-19 is on pretty much everyone’s mind. And like many of you, we are hunkered down, practicing physical — not social — distancing.
Crises like the coronavirus require us to band together and lean on each other — something our Kodiak community does very well.
Yet as things change and shift daily (and often hourly) in response to this global health emergency, it presents an opportunity to re-examine the rituals of our day-to-day lives.
Exactly how long will we have to cope with these changes? It’s anyone’s guess.
Meanwhile, I didn’t want another column to go by without addressing the coronavirus.So this week’s column will be a little of this, a little of that, as we look at two timely topics:
1. A short look at how to stock up sanely for quarantine (and other emergencies)
2. How to behave during quarantine
How to stock up sanely (without having to buy the whole store)
In my lifetime, I’ve cooked in tiny spaces: in tent-camps (need a recipe for homemade cheddar cheese powder?), remote cabins (pancakes without eggs or milk?), and aboard boats and motorhomes (how to keep romaine lettuce fresh for four weeks). Storage, especially refrigerator space (when applicable), is a premium. I’ve learned how to solve problems without running to the store and best ways to simplify recipes.
First, I probably don’t need to remind you, but don’t forget about medications, paper products, your pets’ needs and cleaning supplies.
Okay, as we continue with self-isolation, here are a few key points to consider about food:
How many people in the household?
How much storage space do you have?
Don’t go overboard.
Take shelf life into account.
I won’t be going into these points in detail, but something to consider is that a quarantine will be challenging enough, so eating items you or your family dislikes because it’s all you have on hand is not a way to help you get through this happily. Focus on items you know your household will enjoy. And don’t forget spices and a few treats.
But how do you know how much of what to buy?
Long-time Kodiakans can recall a time when groceries and other goods arrived by ship once a year. Once a year! Can you imagine planning for a year’s worth of supplies?
Two ways of tackling this:
A. Meal plan. Start by writing out each menu you will eat, for each day. Then expand it for a week. (Most Americans have a repertoire of 6 to 8 standard dinners). Then create the shopping list from this and go to the store. This is an easy way to make sure you have exactly what you need. This can also get tiring if you’re accustomed to stopping by the store every day after work, or if you’re not interested in cooking or eating what you’d planned.
B. Cook by inspiration and mood. Have your basics on hand and create dinner each night based on what looks good and what you feel like. If you’re not an intuitive cook or don’t feel confident in the kitchen, this might be a challenge. I’d argue you will become good at this way of navigating a kitchen.
For example, if you have a variety of leftovers in the fridge, make salsa, as in Socially Responsible Salsa. Today’s salsa ingredients: Corn, cilantro, diced cucumber, tomatoes and cantaloupe, black beans, juice from a jar of jalapeno peppers, chopped onion.
A few specific tips:
What are considered “basics” will vary of course between households. But consider staying clear of expensive, pre-fab food. Better to stock up on basic ingredients which you can embellish later with spices, mixes and sauces. You’ll save money and be healthier for it.
Think soups, stews and other one-pot meals, and wraps. Basic foods, which give the biggest bang for your buck and health, include beans, legumes, brown rice, cabbage, diced tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, onions, pasta, whole-grain bread, your choice of protein, frozen veggies and fruit, apples, oranges, bananas, milk, rolled oats and so on.
As I mentioned before, we don’t know how long this physical distancing will last. Still, you don’t need to depend solely on local grocery stores. When farmers markets are up and going again, buy locally grown produce. And make a concerted effort to grow at least some of your own vegetables. You can begin now with windowsill crops of broccoli or bean sprouts. “Growing your own” translates to increased food security and healthy food for the table.
How to behave during quarantine
Maybe you, your partner, your dog or whole family is home and around each other a lot more than you’re used to. Funny, you’ve started to notice things a little bit more. In close quarters, everything is amplified — quirks and habits, things people do that are helpful, and the things they do that might drive you a little batty.
In a Newsweek article, David Cates Ph.D., says, “Being together in a small space for a much longer period than usual under stressful conditions means more opportunities to amplify both positive and negative dynamics.”Dr. John Gottman, author of the New York Times bestseller book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,” reminds us that “to survive and thrive during quarantine, couples [and all people] should look for opportunities to show interest, find areas of agreement, express affection and appreciation and demonstrate empathy.”
And then there’s the fear factor. “We should also recognize that worry, fear, stress and guilt are expected and normal reactions during quarantine,” Gottman reminds us, “and not criticize one another for expressing these feelings.”
Most importantly, be kind to each other during this time. Slow down and be compassionate.
Now go wash your hands.