Friday, March 27, 2020

Getting food safely into your kitchen during a pandemic: advice from a doctor

Here at TECHknitting blog, we've been taking a tour pretty far from the subject of knitting. A global pandemic will turn many things on their heads, this change of topic in a technical knitting blog the least among them.

Today's installment was planned to be about cooking.  But, the first thing about cooking is, you have to get the food into the kitchen before you CAN cook. This turns out to be more problematic than you on.

How to get food into your kitchen in the first place

Please have a look at this video--this Covid-19 corona virus is such a serious problem that you actually have to CLEAN THE FOOD and its PACKAGES before you can begin cooking.  Yes that's a LOT of capital letters, YES this is a problem that no amount of old-fashioned houskeeping ever prepared anyone for.  Not the strictest old-timer ever thought of scrubbing food packages or washing the oranges and apples one-by-one, yet here we are.  Watch and learn. I know I did, and many, many thanks to Dr. VanWingen for posting this video. He has asked people to share it, so please pass it along in your turn.

Groceries to buy

Note that in the video, Dr. VanWingen says to bring two weeks worth of food into the house at the same time.  So, you have to ask yourself what you are going to buy to get through two weeks.  This is question for which old-fashioned housekeeping does have an answer.

Obviously, "staples" such as rice, flour, pasta in all its glorious variety, oatmeal, dried beans, salt, sugar, jams and jellies, peanut butter all store excellently, and can be used in lots of different ways. With tons of time on your hands, an internet connection and some basic ingredients,  bread-making is easily (yes, easily!) within your reach, so maybe throw some yeast into that basket.

Dried fruit is good for snacking and baking and putting on cereal. It requires no refrigeration to stay good.

Shelf-stable versions of perishable foods also fit the bill: condensed milk is good in recipes, canned veggies such as tomatoes and corn are even pretty tasty. Retort-packed tofu, milk and non-dairy milks store well in your pantry, and in a time of sickness, you simply can't have too much chicken broth--go for unsalted because you can always add salt, but you can't take it out.

As far as fresh food goes, "storage crops" are those traditionally relied upon to get through the winter.  In the fridge these hardy fruits and veggies will be just as good at the end of two weeks (or even more) as when you washed them and put them in

--Apples (as long as they are sound and unbruised. I vote for Golden Delcious as the best all-around easy-to-find apple.  Bonus: they don't turn brown when cut.)
--Brussels sprouts (will actually keep for months--even if the outer leaves go dry and yellow, the heart is still good and fresh)
--Cabbage (cabbage comes in its own sanitary wrapper: toss the outer leaves and you are good to go.  Further, cole slaw is a good raw food to eat when you can't have regular salad, see below)
--Celery and its rooty analogue, celeriac
--Radishes in a fridge are practically immortal.  They pack a nice spicy crunch
--honorable mention to oranges, lemons, grapefuit and tangerines: citrus will last a good long while in the fridge.

If you have a root cellar, dark cool basement or even just a dark closet
--Squash (champ of the storage veggies!)
will all keep for a long time.  Potatoes will sprout with even a little light, and are the least store-hardy of these, so give them the coolest, darkest spot you have.

Fresh foods best avoided until things get more back to normal:
--Avoid soft small fruit, such as strawberries, raspberries, even blueberries.
--Avoid leafy things like spinach and lettuce. think about substituting cole slaw instead.
Not only do these items go bad fairly quickly, but these things would be hard to wash the Dr. VanWingen way--scrubbing each blueberry for 20 seconds would get old, fast.

Frozen veggies are also excellent, and certainly frozen peas and green beans are much tastier than canned, but note that all frozen foods should be wiped down. My son-in-law, a PhD candidate in a vital yet mysterious sub-genre of biology says that when scientists want to preserve viruses, they keep them in the freezer.  That's good enough authority for me! Freezing does *not* destroy viruses: it preserves them along with the food package they might be sitting on. Wipe down your frozen food packages before you put them in the freezer.

Finally, don't forget the condiments: ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, vinegar, mayo.  All these will make food taste better with no particular effort on the cook's part, plus, they store beautifully.  Win-win.

Next time we're on to the topic of food, including the famously curative powers of chicken soup. In the meantime, if you do need to bring food into the house, shop safely, the Dr. VanWingen way. Thanks again, Doc!
This is part 3 of a five-part series.
The others in this series are