Day 1My daughter Rosie, 13, and I return from food shopping with two plump weeks worth of food. This ritual once contained great likelihood of impromptu reunions by the dairy cooler; now we assess social risk in every aisle. Today, I saw my friend Gary picking out avocados. “Gary?” I ventured. “No,” the masked man shook his head, moving away.
Rose and her brother, Col, 15, bask in the carbo-decadence of the newly stocked pantry. They descend on the chips and cereal like they contain a vitamin in which they’re deficient.
Day 3We are all giddy over the food abundance, though also a bit panicky over the possibility of a family member finishing off the granola while our heads are obliviously jammed into a screen. This morning I hear Rosie in the kitchen, spelunking into the cereal every 20 minutes. “I don’t know how I feel about all this snacking,” I tell her. “Mom, this is how it is now,” she replies.
Day 5Our family dinners are more relaxed and lengthy these days, less of a drive-by between soccer practice and homework. Col, whose penchant for ease and comfort is well developed, wonders aloud how hard it would be to “accidentally” hit a cow with ones’ car and ride off into the sunset with a carload of steaks. We entertain the inquiry, secretly thankful that teenagers can hone their conversational skills with people who love them. Dan, my husband, makes a pumpkin pie for dessert, minus the crust, whipped cream and pumpkin. We learn that “Butternut squash custard” has a branding problem.
Day 7 The lettuce went out in a shredded blaze of taco glory. The red peppers, which provided six days of cheery sweetness in hash browns, omelets, burritos and salads, are history, too. Now, the apocalypse-proof vegetables that have hardly blinked in decomposition are ready to serve: carrots, onions, potatoes, celery and cabbage. Six avocados are all annoyingly ripe at once. Guacamole, chips and beans for dinner.
Day 8In a break between the kids’ online schooling and my own online teaching, we adopt a puppy. Our house is instantly filled with blameless love and unending responsibility. Tonight, I saute the enduro-vegetables, add venison sausage and a jar of home-canned tomato sauce and serve over steamed potato chunks. Everyone is thrilled and it feels like camping, when choices are limited and yet we didn’t resort to picking grubs off oak leaves. Maybe it’s that coalescing around a hot meal is the most uncomplicated way to meet two central needs of humanity: sustenance and connection.
Day 9It’s Saturday, and we take the puppy on his first hike, followed by take-out dinner from three different restaurants, proving that personal preferences have survived the pandemic. Col attacks a burrito, the size, and oddly the color, of his thigh. It’s bursting with two types of meat, something I might normally veto. But my own frugal and anti-gluttonous ways were not made for this moment. Tonight we celebrate.
Day 10The chips and cookies are dwindling. The cereal is a memory. Dan sings in parody to bereft kids, “It’s the end of snacking as we know it ...” Eye rolls commence. I bust out a jar of homemade salsa, canned in the oblivious era of last fall. We’re eating so well, I tell the kids “we could go another week!” They protest while the salsa joins the DIY baked potato bar toppings. The kids, who covet jars sealed in factories, are underwhelmed, though voracious. Rose makes six-ingredient peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and we burn our mouths eating them straight out of the oven. (Recipe follows.)
Day 11Cabbage is the new everything. We eat slaw with green chiles, with sun-dried tomatoes, with walnuts and apples, and soon are out of mayo, after which slaw is doused with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with sesame oil and rice vinegar. And I get it; this is not suffering. This is privileged people playing “Chopped: Quarantine Version.”
After dinner, we call my 78-year-old father, the astronomy enthusiast, with a burning question. I think we’re just desperate for any reason to stay in touch. He confirms that indeed, we are all made of stardust. Specifically, stars died and imploded, after which helium and hydrogen rearranged themselves into multiple other elements, which floated around space until they coalesced into planets. From which came life. And eventually, this current global permutation of us, quarantining in our homes, eating cabbage and playing board games, in hopes of saving each other.
Night comes. I cover the new spring garden from frost, Venus blazing in the west, and feel something tingly and hopeful. Is it that peanut butter cookie I stashed?
Day 12The household is getting a bit panicky and possibly overeating as a pre-emptive act against future shortages. We wait for our chickens to lay an egg for tonight’s pizza crust. We are down one hen that mysteriously died after Col brought her inside to attend a class Zoom meeting.
Today was pick-up day for our raw milk share. The businesses that I hope survive this pandemic are the businesses I am supporting now. Including Barry, third-generation dairy rancher, for whom the weather, which we always chat about, actually means something.
For dessert I make a carrot-cake thing, which is sweetened fattened flour heavily laced with grated carrots. No icing. The kids understand that on Day 12 any dessert is good dessert.
Day 13Rosie begs to go shopping a couple days early. “We have no food!” she cries, reminding me of a story about a Buddhist monk visiting a friend in L.A. The friend opens the fridge and proclaims, “There’s no food. We have to go to the store.” The monk spots enough food to feed a village, but they drive to the store and buy exactly four items.
A lifetime of having more than enough does weird things to you. I tell Rosie that we have plenty of food. “But it’s all food you have to make,” she says. We could go earlier. But I find pandemic shopping stressful and I want my kids to dig deeper, to experience adaptability, creativity and, most of all, gratitude for the basic privilege of having enough.
Day 14Our last dinner before resupplying is rice and beans, topped with cabbage, carrots and a smidgen of cheese. The kids would sell each other for a tortilla. Or chips. We’re all having seconds, when Col, homing in on his next easy-money scheme asks, “So, how hard would it be to intercept people’s checks and sign them over to yourself?” We take him through the life of a cashed check and he quickly sees the downfall. “Stick with cattle rustling, buddy,” Dan offers.
Rachel Turiel blogs about growing food and a family at 6512 feet at 6512andgrowing.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grain Free Peanut Butter Cookies
Yield: 15 Small cookies
Ingredients:1 egg1 cup peanut butter1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon baking soda1/2 cup dark chocolate chips1/2 teaspoon saltMethod:Preheat oven to 335 degrees.
Combine ingredients in large bowl.
Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto a greased/parchment-covered cookie sheet, and press down with a fork.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
Cookies will appear soft, though they will firm up as they cool.