As part of my morning routine, as soon as I get a cup of coffee at my office I pull up several websites. I generally start with the local news through my digital Argus Leader subscription, then onto a national news site, and finally onto a couple sites dedicated to food and cooking. Rarely does the local and national news intersect with articles on my food sites. As a matter of fact, I am not sure I can think of a time when they ever have, at least not before this last Tuesday.
The topic that brought about this extremely unlikely union was coronavirus. The news discussed the spread, government responses and preparedness. That’s been the case for weeks now. But right there, front and center on two different cooking sites are articles about stocking pantries to endure a two-week stay in the cozy confines of your own home, complete with a suggested meal plan and recipes. For me, that made this whole pandemic thing kid of real.
Unlike other fellow Midwesterners, I am not one of those over-preparer types. Living in Sioux Falls, being home-bound for weather is generally no more than a 24-hour problem. That means having stuff for one crock pot of chili and some extra beer, as opposed to clearing out all the bread, eggs, and milk at the grocery store. So, the idea of hitting a warehouse store to drop the better part of a thousand bucks on toilet paper, hand sanitizer, bottled water and frozen food sounds like total nonsense to me.
On the other hand, coronavirus poses a much different threat than winter weather. It’s not just a matter of being confined at home; it is also a matter of disrupted supply chains. Even without directives to remain at home, we may still encounter empty shelves because of what is going on elsewhere. Regardless of how real you perceive the coronavirus threat to be, for me, it is sufficient enough to devote some thought to augmenting things I have around the house just in case I have to stay inside on an extended basis or can’t get grocery items that I frankly take for granted on a daily basis.
Accordingly, here it is, the Secret Fork No-Nonsense Guide to Preparing for Coronavirus Culinary Complications without Going Completely Cuckoo.
Get your mind right:. If the going gets tough, this won’t be a time for cooking your way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking or other leisurely project cooks you’ve been putting off. Likewise, if you’re a charter member of the ACL (Anti-Carbohydrate League) this situation isn’t going to be exactly amenable to keto dieting. The point here is to have things on hand to make do. If you’re the planning type, you might want to consider researching some recipes.
Take Inventory. Check your foodstuffs. If you’re like me, you may tend to buy things because they strike you as a bargain, as opposed to whether you have a plan to use it. Note to self: quit doing this. As such, I’ve got a good variety of various cuts of meat lurking in freezers and who-knows-what in the pantry. If you’re short on meat, think big cuts that can result in multiple meals that will also freeze well. And while you’re taking inventory, check basics like salt and sugar.
Alternative fuels. In the event of a power loss, you might need to lean on your grill or any camping equipment you might have around. It might be worth having some extra charcoal or propane around in case you’re using it to boil water for coffee.
Forget the fresh stuff. Besides some root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions, that all keep well in a cool, dark space, I am not going to consider stockpiling a bunch of fresh fruits and vegetables. Clamshells of greens take up space and you’re risking it going bad before you can consume it all.
Canned stuff. Yes, canned stuff- vegetables, fruits, and beans. This is all shelf-stable and can be eaten or incorporated into a dish. Canned beans are also a very versatile ingredient. If you don’t like canned vegetables, just remember they are also handy donations for food drives. Don’t forget some canned soups!
Canned tomatoes. These are their own category because they are probably the most versatile thing in the pantry. If you have a 28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, you’ve got the makings of pasta sauce, soup, braising liquid for a roast, and an ingredient for countless other dishes. And, closely related, get a few jars of salsa which can also serve as the backbone of a fast dish. While you’re in the tomato aisle, grab some pasta sauce.
Canned proteins. For me, this is where this could get fun. You’d be surprised how much you enjoy tinned fish- smoked oysters, kipper snacks, sardines- when you don’t have a parent forcing you to eat them. Same goes for Spam. It’s kind of a comfort food when you make it as opposed to being told to eat it. Otherwise, I’d get some tuna (in water and in oil) and maybe some canned chicken.
Fats. If you don’t cook at home often, make sure you have some decent cooking oil, olive oil if you use it, and several pounds of butter.
Pasta. The President of the ACL might hate it, but it keeps well and makes for a good, fast meal.
Flour and yeast. I rarely bake, but when I decide to make a loaf of bread for fun, or whip up my own pizza crust, I need both these items.
Water. I’m torn on this one, because I loathe plastic bottles. If I pick any of this up, I’m going big with the largest containers I can find. At least I can reuse a gallon jug.
Booze. Wine is essential for cooking at my house, and sometimes we even use it in the food. We’re certainly not suggesting you use alcohol as a coping mechanism, but if you’re stuck at home with your whole crew, by about day three, a little happy hour may be in order. Make sure you’re stocked.
Pets. Don’t forget your furry friends. Make sure you have plenty of food on hand, along with a supply of any medications they need.
The nice part about this list, is that it is made up of things that we actually use, for the most part. And, for stuff we don’t, items like canned vegetables or pasta can easily be donated.
I’ll pick some of these things up at the store as I shop over the next week or so. And, I’ll see what else I can pick up to assist The Banquet with their guests or organizations like Feeding South Dakota.
And, in the meantime, I’ll be out enjoying our many fine establishments around town. And, you should, too.
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