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A letter from rural south-western Connecticut, USA 27 April 2020

Emilia Sereva

Greetings from the Connecticut woods! Lately, I have been preoccupied by logistical topics to do with supply chain management. I never thought I’d experience supply chain disruptions in a grocery store here, because, well, this is America and we’re #1 (note my sarcasm, please), but of course I now stand corrected. This has been a problem for would-be grocery shoppers the world over, who can hopefully relate the predicament I find myself in when trying to sort out a week’s worth of meals for my family. I have been endeavouring to only grocery shop once a week at most, and although it’s true that we all try to visit grocery stores as infrequently as is possible out of consideration for the health of ourselves and others, that becomes difficult if we cannot find enough food in one trip. It’s alarming to see stripped shelves at the local grocery store, although it’s understandable why shoppers would buy in larger quantities than they otherwise would when scarcity is a concern. Before the lockdowns and the supply chain issues, I would normally buy in bulk wherever possible to avoid unnecessary trips, but now I buy only what I need with other shoppers in mind. I’m surprised to learn I care about other people? I wonder what that’s about. My ‘new normal’ now includes trolling eBay for a decently-priced economy size pack of freezer storage bags, or else spending hours looking for an online distributor who sells flour that I’m not allergic to.

Here is my side of food-related conversation from earlier today, which would have seemed odd on several levels out of the present context: ‘I would suggest we pick up some Aubergine Parmesan for dinner, but the butcher who makes the cook-and-serve kind we like is only accepting curb-side pickup orders now, and orders must be placed the night before, so that’s out. I also thought of making scrambled eggs on toast, but we don’t have enough of them and I’d rather not go to the grocery store just to buy some eggs’ (which, by the way, are now 4x their pre-pandemic price). These sorts of conversations between household members point up the ‘new normal’ we keep hearing about. Thinking sociologically, what is ‘normal’ anyway? In this situation that we are all faced with, the best thing to do is to adapt rather than compare or pine.

Presented with limited options, I find myself concocting comforting dinner ideas on the fly based on what ingredients I can amass. I think the present problem of never knowing what will be on offer at the grocery store has definitely made us all a bit more grateful for what we do have, and has also provided many opportunities for ingenuity and out-of-the-box thinking.

‘What’s for dinner tonight? I’m making what we once called breakfast (because who cares anymore what things are called?): Blueberry pancakes and bacon!

Here’s the pancake batter recipe I use, just in case you’d like to make some too.

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