I always thought if Alton Brown were ever in a lock-down, he would be the only person who would survive. I imagine him standing in the pantry doorway saying, “Wow, licorice and a vidalia onion. Score!” I’ve been working from home and staying away from . . . well, everyone except my kids, and now with the official state lock-down in place, I’ve been ordering in. Not fast food, mind you, but meal kits and staples: Ingredients from Sunbasket, vegies from Misfit Marketplace and local farmers, seafood from Wild Alaska Seafood Company, and beef from Omaha Steaks. I’ve been extremely satisfied with the quality of the deliveries, but like any “normal” week, I end up with odds and ends: Two organic eggs left over from enchiladas because . . . nobody could comprehend eggs on enchiladas (except me — frownie face); a Japanese radish or Daikon; mangoes; dried blueberries; chia and mulberry oats; and leftover spicy chili.
So, it was before the seafood got here and after the first round of groceries ran out. No bagels, no waffles, no cereal.
Necessity must be the mother of invention because I’ve heard so many stories like the one I’m about to tell you. My social media feed is filled with declarations of “I didn’t know I liked Miso soup,” and “I guess vegetables aren’t so bad,” and “Look at my kid’s drawings! I didn’t even know he had talent!” Meanwhile, area restaurants are raising money to feed the hospital staff in my town, and people are parking in the hospital parking lot to pray for them. Universities are making everything from ventilators to face shields.
My thing is food. I’m the cook; it’s what I do. Everything else is a thin disguise.
So, groceries, waning and pantry nearly bare, Sunbasket half-eaten, inspiration hits.
First, I slice some mango (Misfit Marketplace), throw in dried blueberries courtesy of Walmart.com, and drizzle honey on top to make a compote. To this, I add the Sunbasket chia, oats, and mulberries. After it begins to gel together, I add a splash of coconut milk.
If you have never eaten mulberries, you have to try them. They are the sweetest berry on planet Earth and look sort of like a cherry. They grew in the back yard of my old house, and I miss them. Mulberry trees will produce a good crop from about five years old on. Mine grew wild in the fence row with the blackberries. I love a yard you can’t go hungry in.
You can think of these times as dearth and surfeit. We may go back and forth a bit on the pendulum. The Apostle Paul said, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” A little Alton Brown-style resourcefulness doesn’t hurt. It isn’t that we’ve lost our way of life; we’re just doing things differently because these are strange times we’re living. Maybe one day, our children will talk about how we guided them through the toughest moment in human history the way some of us oldsters praise our grandparents and great-grandparents for navigating through the Great Depression. We can do so much with so much less. We can trust ourselves, leaning on the good wisdom of those who went before us. They were resourceful, calm, and prepared. They preserved food, stocked up, tended gardens, and built tricycles out of hollowed-out torpedoes. They went without sugar, tires, and toys and didn’t complain.
Maybe we will learn to stop complaining out of inconvenience, impatience, or rudeness. Maybe we will learn not to judge others harshly, opening up our vision to different ways of being. Many of us are having to re-think our careers, create careers out of thin air, or find another way to pay the bills. Maybe we will be do-ers and not merely critics. The world has enough of those.