Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Pandemic Pantry

We haven't been inside a grocery store since March 13, so exactly 2 months now. We have been making it work with Instacart and what we call our "grocery angels," those neighbors who have been picking up food for us, and one wonderful food truck in town who has connected locals with some of the small farmers who are his suppliers to the benefit of both.

I didn't realize how intimate it is to share grocery lists. Most of our friends know we're vegetarian/pescetarian, but there's so much in the details. Now my delightful neighbor R. knows what we eat every week, that my junk food tastes tend toward the salty/crunchy rather than sweet, that I like a specific fancy imported Irish cheese, and that we've been drinking far too much wine.

My Facebook timeline has been filled with beautiful pictures of homemade breads and cakes that my more creative friends are making while in lockdown. I had a Zoom "high tea" last weekend with friend S. who had gone all out. She lives alone but her table was set for a gracious party -- on the little screen I saw her surrounded with candles and china and freshly-made scones on gold-rimmed serving platters.

I ... don't seem to have the emotional bandwidth to do any of those creative lovely things. So I took it in the other direction, put the cooking on autopilot and streamlined our galley. It's now something of a cross between "Chopped" (the cooking show where contestants are given a bag of mystery ingredients that they then have to turn into a dinner -- half the fun is seeing how wildly divergent the results 2 or 3 people can come up with using the same components) and a capsule wardrobe (relatively few basic pieces that you can mix and match to make a wide range of looks). We started with about a two-week rotation of some favorite meals that were comforting and at least reasonably healthy. We loosely follow a Mediterranean diet anyway, heavy on fish, fresh veggies, and beans. Social distancing gives us one unique advantage -- we can use all the garlic we want to make Spanish meals we learned on El Galeon, because no one is going to stand close enough to us to smell it!

The average grocery store, I learned researching this post, contains almost 40,000 discrete items. Forty thousand. As we learned after coming back from our trip to the Bahamas 10 years ago, too many choices can be paralyzing! My pandemic pantry list contains only about 40 basic items, not counting herbs and spices and condiments. Bell peppers and green beans, tomatoes, onions, olives and oranges and slivered almonds; eggs and fish and cheese and garbanzos and lentils. We're having a Spanish-style cod stew or blackened salmon on wilted spinach salad or cheese omelet with mushrooms and tomatoes or Peruvian beans and rice or shakshuka or moqueca (those two are as much fun to say, as they are to eat!) or just plain old pasta. The limited palette gives us room to be creative without being overwhelmed, perfect. I'll also be making a separate page here on the blog to link these recipes, and update this post when that is built.