Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #130
Being Close in the Distancing
"Social distancing." I wonder who came up with that catch-phrase? How politically correct, how succinct, and how empty and sad.
I am a dichotomy. On one hand, I tend to be a bit of a loner. I'd much rather stay at home than go on a road trip. I'm not comfortable speaking in front of groups or even mingling at a party.
But I'm also an unabashed talker one-on-one with people. Much to the horror of my daughter, I strike up conversations in the grocery store with people in the check-out line. I converse with the bakery assistant, I toss jokes back and forth with the clerk in the meat department, and the produce manager and I are on a first-name basis.
And I can't do that now. We all need to keep our distance from one another. The mantra (with which I totally agree) is to assume that everyone you meet is infected with Covid-19. The better we are at keeping our distance, the sooner this horrible plague on our physical/social/economic/mental well being will be in the rear-view mirror.
But the loneliness is starting to creep in. When I go for a walk, I pass by people walking their dogs (many more than I saw a few weeks ago), but we now automatically move to our edge of the sidewalk to maintain that 6-foot perimeter. I don't shop at the grocery stores (grocery on-line order and pickup has become my new normal), and I haven't seen my next door neighbors in three weeks other than to wave to each other as they drive by.
What can we do to stay connected and erase the feeling of isolation?
- Call someone on the phone. Surprise them with the blessing of actually hearing your voice.
- If you have kids at home (home-schooling), weave "writing a letter" (not a text or instant message) into their curriculum.
- Use a video chat to reach out to family far away
- Find a way to volunteer. Reach out to local charities and ask how you can best support them with your time, keeping safety in mind. You can also search online for volunteer opportunities in your area. Helpful things that you can do safely from home in support of a nonprofit’s mission could include everything from assisting with grant-writing or serving as a crisis counselor on a hotline service. Nonprofits are also making adjustments to help keep volunteers safe—for example, meal delivery services for the elderly may move to a system of leaving a meal on a doorstep instead of bringing it inside. Yet they may still not have enough volunteers to meet all the need, and you could fill an important gap if you were able to safely take on some of those necessary tasks.
- Sew masks. This one is very personal to me. I have two grand nieces who are nurses and they cannot get enough PPE (personal protection equipment) masks for their daily routines. If you have a stash of fabric scraps, you don't need Martha Stewart-like sewing skills. Here's a link for making masks for the everyday workers in the medical profession. These aren't for staff dealing with Covid-19 patients, but will help those taking care of the other day-to-day patients such as mothers giving birth.
Let's get started with today's mailbox. If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.
Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.
I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.
How to Prep a Pantry for Disaster
The first question comes from Mary (Blond Logic) in Brazil.
"What would you say, is the best way to prepare, food-wise, for something like this (the Covid-19)? Keep in mind, my freezer is tiny. Our stores here are still well-stocked."
My husband and I had a conversation about this very thing over our morning coffee. We are reaching a point where the stash in our pantry and freezer (we have a large one) is starting to dwindle. We have not gone to a grocery store in 3 weeks. We have placed 3 online orders (the store employees select and bag your purchase for you and bring it out to the car). But there are some things that they will not shop for (fresh meat and frozen foods).
We are going to be VERY careful tomorrow and venture into a store. What should you do if you have limited freezer space? I know that we rely too much on meat as a source of protein. I would put these on my shopping list.
spices (see below)
canned tomato products
frozen juice concentrate
curry paste and/or sriracha
butter (you can freeze it)
cheese (not soft or semi-soft)
onions and garlic
chicken (whole or pieces)
A few more pointers:
- Of course, you can buy canned beans (and it's always good to have a few on hand) but if you cook them yourself they have a better texture, way more flavor, you can control the amount of sodium, and they are much less expensive.
- I tend to shy away from canned vegetables because they are typically high in sodium and lacking in nutrients.
- If you are considering fewer shopping trips, use meat as more of a garnish rather than the star of the show. Focus on whole grains and vegetables. Use herbs and spices (not salt) to perk up the flavors and make your foods interesting.
Trouble With Plastic (Saran) Wrap
"Although not politically or environmentally correct, I still use plastic wrap to cover items before putting them in the fridge. We don't have a serrated metal strip on our boxes and I am forever trying to unroll it using a fingernail edge. Sometimes I end up with half of it rolling and tearing and the other is still stuck. Have you got a kitchen hack for this? I have tried rolling it backwards to get a ridge and also inserting a piece of paper to help."
Mary, I use plastic wrap too, but ours always comes with a metal strip to aid in cutting it (but it isn't infallible). It sounds like the most pressing problem for you is that the wrap sticks to itself (until, of course, you actually want it to stick). The best method of taming the beast is to store it in the refrigerator or the freezer. Keeping it cold seems to do the trick.
Now, although you didn't specifically ask, it is possible to purchase plastic wrap dispensers from Amazon (they work for wax paper and foil too). The price range is $15 to $20. I hope that helps.
Garden Insect Pest Control
"Based on your edible flower and mentions of gardens I have a straight-up question so as to make my food healthy -- what do you use for pesticide?"
Eric, I don't use pesticides. Ever. I do what I can to encourage the "good bugs." We have a pond and so dragonflies love it here. Ladybugs and ants do cleanup work too, especially on aphids. And remember, a blast of water from the hose is enough to kill some of the nasties.
Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.
Here's a link to that Table of Contents.
I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.
Let's do this again next week. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address: email@example.com.
And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.
© 2020 Linda Lum