Don’t judge. Please.
I’m not hoarding toilet paper. And I didn’t order jelly-belly’s, even though it’s Easter season. (I had Brach’s jelly beans on hand, and decided they would have to do in this Lent unlike any other.).
I am wondering, though, about all the workers shopping my pick-up order for me at H-E-B’s Central Market — a grocery store, incidentally, that Texas Monthly reports was far more prepared for a pandemic than the federal government —and what they might think of me for some of the items I’ve requested. I think of them with gratitude, of course, for the service they are providing while I remain somehow less essential and more at-risk than they are thought to be. They’re brave and they’re generous and I deeply appreciate them. I just don’t want someone thinking “WTF???” when they see my list of the items I think I’ll really, really need in 10 days when my next order is scheduled for pick-up.
There’s room on the online order form to add notes, particularly to specify how firm or ripe you want the avocados and if an orange juice substitute is acceptable, but there’s a blank space, too, one that almost invites you to say, “I hate to ask, but could you look a little harder this week for the 78% dark chocolate I ordered last time?” One might also be compelled to explain, nay beg, “I’m not an alcoholic, but we are running out of wine and quarantines go down much more easily with a glass of wine each night, so, PLEASE can I have a full case?”
The wine gives me pause. But that’s not the only thing. As the quarantine climbs closer to its 40-day namesake, I find myself re-thinking my pantry and freezer essentials. For the first two weeks at home, I tried to maintain a certain sense of normalcy by cooking and eating as we would, well, normally. With a certain bravado, I tried to convince my husband and myself that the only hardship was the social isolation, but not the way we lived into it. I shopped (online) for key recipe ingredients, yeasts and flours like everyone else, but the locally made hummus, and the store -made tortillas, and the brand-name breads and condiments and, of course, as many fresh fruits and vegetables as we could consume without waste. I didn’t want Delicious apples; I wanted Honeycrisp. I didn’t want iceberg lettuce; I wanted Boston. And fresh fish and prime meats and the ready-to-cook cubes of butternut squash from the produce department and those little cherry tomatoes on the vine. I am so spoiled. And in a crisis, it doesn’t seem quite right that while my husband is worried about the macro — the entire supply chain — I’m focused on a particular cracker or spice or vinegar (having given up, let it be said, on finding disinfecting wipes and Mr. Clean anytime soon).
As I’ve tried to construct a “new normal” in my mind and in our household, rife as it is with anxiety these days, I’ve dispensed with any concern about “appearances,” i.e., hair color, manicures, dry-cleaned clothing, and Easter “outfit”(!), even routine, but clearly non-essential medical care. But it’s hard to give up comfort food, and in my book, I’ve discovered, almost all food I enjoy is comfort food. It’s not for nothing that I stocked up on Nothing Bundt Cake mini-cakes and shortbread cookies and potato chips and Naan bread and butter and, yes, wine. Plus potatoes and rice and pasta. Before we were told to shelter-in-place. And each grocery list I can submit with some reasonable expectation that I can pick up most of it curbside in 8-to-10 days is, well, a comfort, providing at the least the illusion that I am still in charge of something in this crazy world in these crazy times.
I know how lucky I am to have this service available and to be able to afford it and to have the luxury of obsessing about the local food supply rather than ventilator availability. I also know how important our donations to the local food bank must be, so every time I submit a new order, I will send another check.
Comfort food, I hope.
by Ann Sentilles
April 7th, 2020