We all have to eat. But the mere act of sitting down to a meal in a restaurant is not happening soon, and so “Let’s Eat” will shift its focus — but not its mission of spotlighting interesting, tasty food experiences in the Philadelphia region.

My colleagues and I at The Inquirer’s Food section are here to help you navigate these unimaginably difficult, stressful times with real-time tips and ideas, including recipes and cooking info. When FDR said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” he could have been referring to cooking. If you’re a novice, this is the perfect opportunity to dabble for yourself and to share the results with those hunkered down with you. (If it’s a spouse, remember that vow, “For better or for worse.”)

Food is an escape for many of us, and we’d like to offer a respite from the grim side, of course. But we also know that food is an all-too-real concern. So let’s make the very best of it.

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What you need to know about buying food (and booze) during the shutdown

Vincent Finazzo, owner of Riverwards Produce, stocks the shelves, as Marsha Nishi Mullan shops at his store.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Vincent Finazzo, owner of Riverwards Produce, stocks the shelves, as Marsha Nishi Mullan shops at his store.

Our food options have shifted

As shutdowns in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have halted operations for many bars and restaurants, the options for buying food (and booze) have shifted. First off, your grocery store is probably open. Jenn Ladd tells of all sorts of changes, such as Giant and Whole Foods opening early to allow senior citizens to shop, and describes the assorted delivery options. She also gets an answer to my question: “Do I need to worry about getting coronavirus from food deliveries?” Short answer is no.

What’s happening in the restaurant and bar biz

Kevin Lang, bartender at Kostas on Girard Avenue, cleans the bar area. The Fishtown bar is offering food and beer to go.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Kevin Lang, bartender at Kostas on Girard Avenue, cleans the bar area. The Fishtown bar is offering food and beer to go.

This week, thousands of people were forced out of work literally overnight: cooks and waiters, bussers and hosts, dishwashers and reservationists. Many of these workers were already scraping by, earning just minimum wage. All of the bartenders, a profession whose opportunities and cachet have grown meteorically in the last decade, are idled since they cannot sell that $12 merlot or that $15 purple woo-woo to go. I share an initial broad sweep of what is happening at every restaurant in America.

Our guide to takeout and delivery options

Spice 28 at 1228 Chestnut St. is only providing takeout and delivery after the city ordered dine-in restaurants to close.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Spice 28 at 1228 Chestnut St. is only providing takeout and delivery after the city ordered dine-in restaurants to close.

Some sit-down restaurants have pivoted to takeout/carryout and deliveries. We have a list of restaurants that have reached out, but be aware that this is a fluid situation. Some restaurants that started the week with grand plans of curbside pickup are beginning to question whether it’s worth the effort. There’s also a chilling force at work: If someone on a restaurant’s staff gets sick, the whole operation can grind to a halt.

Dining Notes

Have a special dinner that supports restaurants in your living room and online yoga are among the fun things to do that our reporter Grace Dickinson has complied.

Now that schools are closed, what are you going to cook for the kids? Our partners offers some advice.

Massive amounts of food are at risk of going to waste. The nonprofit Sharing Excess is helping to transport the food to hunger-relief organizations with storage space which include Philabundance, Share Food Program, Philly Food Rescue, Food Connect, and Fooding Forward.

Craig LaBan answers dining questions

Reader: So now that we all can’t eat in restaurants, what is a restaurant critic — not to mention the rest of us — to do?

Craig: This is obviously a scary time for everyone on multiple levels, and many of us in the food media have been moving fast to refocus coverage in the most relevant, useful ways. I also plan to continue to patronize restaurants that are able to remain open for takeout meals. Those options are devolving fast, too, and it may be the best way possible to continue supporting those businesses in some way. More on that later as the situation evolves.

In the meanwhile, it’s also clear Americans are now going to have to embrace home cooking in a way they’ve not done in a very long time. For me, it’s an opportunity to dive into the cookbooks from Philly chefs I’ve collected, over the years.

Pizza Camp offers bake-at-home wisdom from Joe Beddia of Pizzeria Beddia.
Abrams Books
Pizza Camp offers bake-at-home wisdom from Joe Beddia of Pizzeria Beddia.

Among the first I’ll get to is Dinner at the Club: 100 Years of Stories and Recipes from South Philly’s Palizzi Social Club (Running Press Books, 2019). Co-authored by chef Joey Baldino and food writer Adam Erace, it has everything from Chinotto-braised ribs to spaghetti and crabs. But Baldino’s soulful escarole and bean soup is an especially easy place to start with a bowl of genuine South Philly comfort.

Speaking of comfort, pizza is near the top of my list – and a great family activity. I’m going to recreate the crusty magic of Pizza Beddia (my 2019 restaurant of the year) with owner Joe Beddia’s masterpiece book created with home cooks in mind, Pizza Camp: Recipes from Pizzeria Beddia (Abrams Books, 2017). Veteran chef and author Aliza Green also has a pizza book, but I’m going to be consulting her quarantine-friendly guide for Y2K-era “Leugmaniacs,” The Bean Bible (Running Press, 2000). I’ll be turning to Marisa McClellan’s Food in Jars oeuvre of books to preserve the bounty of spring produce about to arrive.

Some of our most inspired Philadelphian chefs bring an international flavor to their books. I want to cook through all of Reem Kassis’ award-winning The Palestinian Table (Phaidon, 2017), but will start with her relatively easy lamb kafta and tomato casserole bake.

For modern French cooking with a seasonal Philly twist, it’s worth turning to Erace’s other collaboration with Nicholas Elmi, the Top Chef (and four-bell winning) owner of Laurel, ITV and Royal Boucherie. Laurel: Modern American Flavors in Philadelphia (Running Press Books, 2019) is coffee table gastro-dream guide considerably heavier on labor intensive haute techniques and high-end ingredients. But my xanthan gum-averse colleague Allison Steele’s successful hands-on attempt at Laurel’s truffled ricotta gnocchi gives me hope: one day, when we can start thinking of such luxuries again, I’ll be ready to roll.