Monday, April 27, 2020

Pandem-onium Week 7

We started our social distancing on March 13, so we’re heading into our 7th week. In addition, we’re having our house painted (something we’d contracted for last fall, pre-Covid). All the windows and doors are covered in plastic, taped, and painted over right now, so we are truly cocooning in our isolation. We do curbside pickup for groceries, we mask up to ride our bikes or walk the dogs, and a non-contact pizza delivery is a “festive night.” The U.S. president, who I like to call -45, is telling people to drink the Kool-Aid (ingest disinfectant, open the economy, go to the beach). Somehow, we’ve all been transported to an alternate universe.

Cocooning in the kitchen.

Gifts: Letter from granddaughter, grading-pen holder from Annie.

Here in South Dakota, which is somewhat sparsely populated, we’ve had 2212 cases of Covid-19 infection so far. This number seems low, until you learn that over a thousand of these cases (and 3 of the state’s 11 deaths) are workers and their contacts from one Smithfield meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls. This is made even more tragic by the fact that so many Smithfield workers are immigrants and working poor, and that Smithfield was paying employees a $500 “incentive” bonus to keep working after the first employees were testing positive for the virus. Sadly (and preventably perhaps), we’re seeing this situation play out now in meatpacking plants elsewhere in the state and in adjacent states.

It’s really hard to stay positive in this Pandem-onium. I watch the news in a sort of deer-in-the-headlights trance, knowing all the while that I should run for the trees. I have a hard time concentrating. I worry constantly about our little household, all of us at high risk. We’re all over 60 (my mom, who lives with us, is 84), and between the three of us, we have all the textbook “comorbidity factors” (oooh…I’m getting so pathology savvy): heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and prior strokes.

However, Pollyanna that I am, I’m trying to re-focus my thinking and appreciate the astonishing changes I’ve made in my life as a result of quarantine:

1.     I have a significantly expanded collection of recipes and cooking/baking/grilling/nutrition ideas from the Interwebs—praise be the Al Gore and his Interwebs!
2.     I’ve made several important kitchen upgrades: I got a mixer out I haven’t used since I got it last Christmas, I correctly seasoned all my cast iron, and I found my FoodSaver and pasta machine, both still packed away from the last move five years ago.
3.     I’m cleaning out my pantry and freezers in the service of culinary exploration. I have quite a collection of rare, exotic, and unknown (labels long since lost or faded) items, most of which I bought for that one dish I was determined to make and never got around to. Things like whole Bonita fish. Five lbs. of falafel. 25 lbs. of wild whole plums (my winemaking days). Tobiko (flying fish roe). Puff pastry. Sweet potato noodles. Nori. Cauliflower rice. Peri peri. Guava paste.
4.     Believe me, I am the LAST person who needs to be holed up with FOOD and new recipes. However, my haphazard experimenting (see #3) means that at least some of the dishes I’ve made are inedible by weak-toothed or finicky humans and must be either (a) fed to the dogs, or (b) ground up for the birds, so the calories don’t add up as fast as one might imagine.
5.     I now have an alternative-medicine/personal care storehouse: a fairly comprehensive collection of homeopathics; heating pads; OTC medications for mucus, phlegm, congestion, diarrhea, and assorted other grossities; a steamer, nebulizer, glucose monitor, blood pressure cuff, digital thermometer, and oximeter; herbs and herbal syrups; Epsom salt soaks. I already have a massage table and a footbath. I’ll be opening a wellness spa post-pandem-onium.

Socially-distant bike ride.

6.     I’m not a fan of exercise. Motivation and a self-replicating pile of work are usually the sticking points for me, but given the choice lately of a walk or bike ride vs. ONE MORE MINUTE IN THIS DARK HOUSE, I’m moving a bit more.
7.     I’ve had plenty of time in the house to procrastinate…er…conduct research. I know a LOT now about singers’ throats and paralytic vocal cords, the benefits of tonic water, Magdalene laundries in the Netherlands, fortifying the immune system, sound-triggered anxiety in dogs, and the art & science of sourdough bread.
8.     I’ve revived the personal barter system, thanks to my daughter’s overload of farm-fresh eggs: eggs for elderberry syrup, eggs for TP, eggs for parsley and mint. Eggs are the new currency.

Eggs for sourdough starter.

My first sourdough

So hang in there, everyone. Take good care of each other. Social distance and wear a mask to keep your elders and other vulnerable people safe—you could be carrying the virus and not know. We may have to do this a while, but humans have survived this long because we ADAPT. Remember that no matter what you see on TV, there are sane, smart people working on a vaccine. We’re learning that ventilators may not be the best option. We learned that antibodies may not equal immunity. We’ll figure this out. Until then, I need parsley and cilantro, and I’ve got eggs…

Bucket 'O Chicken (hen finds the food and dives in)

Hazel named this chick Victoria,
because the chick "victoriously stood on my arm without falling."