Kate Flora: I’ve written before about how well-suited the writer’s regular life is to quarantine. We’re solitary. Disciplined. And used to having our projects go on for months or even years at a time. Recently, I wrote about the problem caused by news about the looming virus weighing on us until our carefully cultivated attention spans falter and fail.
Today’s issue of the quarantine digest–or what I refer to as “being in captivity”–concerns the difficulties of constantly worrying about the domestic food supply at a time when shopping trips are limited and hasty and the media is crying shortage! Between our faltering attention spans being snagged by alluring cooking articles, and fear that the food will run out, I, and I am certain many of you, are thinking about or worrying about food too much of the time. This is made more difficult by living with someone who is always anxious about food and worried about whether I’ve bought enough.
While I am content with canned beans and dying to try a recipe for rice and lentils and crispy onions, someone else who recoils at the word “lentil” is worried about whether there are cold-cuts and whether the freezer is stocked. That same unnamed person, famous in his family for having built a wall of tunafish in one of his apartments, worries that the tuna supply is inadequate while the chef is thinking about vegetarian black bean chili or Helgard’s Pea Soup which can be made with a few simple ingredients. https://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/laura-vitale/butternut-squash-and-black-bean-chili-3279023
When the short attention span and a spouse worried about running out of pretzels collide, some strange things happen to the food supply. Want to order Pretzel Man some bagels a neighbor has suggested? Why not get some of their pretzels, too? Trying to order a thermometer when none can be found in the house? Got to get that order up to $35 for free delivery, so why not get some pretzels? This kind of thinking has resulted in four bags of pretzels from the bagel store and 60 mini bags of pretzels to get free shipping on that thermometer, along with 10 bags of pub snack mix, regular pretzels, 3 bags of honey roasted peanuts, and a big jar of mixed nuts. The thermometer has never arrived.
As long as we can live on snack food, we’ll be fine for a long time. But those snacks are not the only answer to obsessive food thinking and distracted recipe reading. Everyone, it seems, is baking bread but bi-weekly grocery order purchased for the over-70 couple one of whom has an underlying condition never includes yeast, though it is always on the list. A 14 mile drive results in a small plastic bag of yeast being shared by two masked and distanced friends. Bread is made. And then Mr. Amazon, who has become remarkably unreliable of late, finally delivers enough yeast to keep us in bread for the next year.
If those shortages do materialize, Mr. Pretzel is set for pretzels but may have to learn to like, or at least eat, Black Bean Woman’s cans and vegetables concoctions. There will also be homemade bread, of course. Assuming more flour is acquired.
I wonder how it is for the rest of you? Who out there is cooking or baking, and what are you making? Old standards? Recipes from the New York Times or the Washington Post? Are you reading cookbooks for fun? Are you stocked up on flour and beans and lentils and canned food for when the food supply chain finally breaks? Are you joining the thousands of others who are starting gardens? I have my mixed lettuce seeds, and cucumber seeds, and will buy tomatoes and herbs to fill my pots.
I will be doing a virtual author talk at the McArthur Library this Thursday at 6:30 and I hope some of you will sign up to join me.