This week, as local cases of coronavirus were reported, and federal and state governments readied for its spread, shoppers at Weavers Way Co-op in Mount Airy were calm and collected, but preparing. One clerk reported having placed orders for 25 pounds each of rice and lentils for one customer alone.
“We have seen an uptick in the canned goods. We’ve seen an incredible uptick in tuna fish sales,” said development manager Kathleen Casey. “We’ve certainly seen more use of dried beans and rices ... as well as water — and hand sanitizer.” (Hand sanitizer was long gone, as was the aloe needed for a DIY version, at the co-op’s nearby wellness/pet supply store, Weavers Across the Way.)
The thought of being cooped up in the house for a prolonged amount of time — whether by mandate or personal choice — didn’t intimidate most co-op employees and volunteers. Their cupboards are well-stocked, and there are plenty of recipes they’ve been meaning to try. “It’s true that most of us, if we really needed to — whatever we have in our kitchen right now — we could make it through,” one volunteer mused.
But Casey had suggestions for those who aren’t in the habit of keeping the government-recommended two-week supply of food and water.
“I would ensure that some of the very basics are in there,” she said, including dried pastas, rices, beans, canned soups, tomato sauce, and such essential items as salt, pepper, and cooking oil. “Don’t forget spices, nuts, and dried fruits, things that sort of round out what’s inside your pantry.”
Protein options include the aforementioned tuna and other tinned fish, as well as vacuum-sealed meats — Weavers Way has beef, sausages, and smoked turkey, among other options. But, as Casey pointed out, “you can get a lot of protein through non-meat sources.” Two of her favorite alternatives include cannellini beans and red lentils, both of which tend to cook down and add velvety richness to whatever dish they’re in.
“Red lentils, I find, are extremely easy to like. They take on the spice really well.” She began describing a rice and lentil dish. “You put tomatoes in it, put in Indian spices. They sort of disappear with rice. It just becomes a really nice, warming dish. So I’ll definitely be doing that — if and when it comes.”
For produce, she recommended buying plenty of onions and garlic (store them in cool, dark places), as well as long-lasting root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, beets, and especially butternut squash, which she suggested turning into a soup with coconut milk and curry powder. Frozen vegetables are just as good as fresh, and sometimes better. (Casey’s recipe ideas included the classic pasta with pancetta and peas, and a broccoli-clam sauce-pasta combo.) And such fruit as dried mango, apples, and bananas would go well with oatmeal breakfasts, as would frozen berries.
“You want to be sure to remember breakfast,” she said. “We’ll probably rely on things that aren’t cereals anymore if we don’t have milk. So we’ll have to do pancakes and things like that. You can do oatmeal pancakes, which are pretty cool.”