empty shelfRight before the zombie apocalypse hit, I went shopping at the Big Store. I don’t shop often. Our local Big Store isn’t well stocked on a good day, so it doesn’t tip me off that the shelves would soon be Soviet bare. Things looked good. There was bread and milk.

The bread and milk aisle is the first place Rhode Islanders go to panic–they buy both by the truckload as if neither will be available again. But as the first “long lines” story of Covid hit the news, bread and milk were both fully stocked.

We’re okay.

Less than a week later people lines wrapped around the corner at the warehouse store. People rushed the fork lift restocking water and cleaned out the toilet paper, then bought junk food.  It didn’t make sense–water and toilet paper?  Then, shortages began–no flour, yeast, and Cadbury eggs were more expensive than gold on Amazon.

Who’d have thought the new 1% would be measured in bags of flour or toilet paper?

“Mom, what are we going to do when we run out of food?” Declan asked.

“We are not going to run out of food,” I said.

“You know what I mean…stuff I like, like Oreos and stuff. And we’re out of bread!”

“We are not out of bread.” We had bread-like products in the freezer. And, I can make bread. When “his” bread ran out, he tried his first English muffin and declared it to be “not bad.”

Remember: this has happened before—just maybe not to you.

There’s a reason my grandma said, “Have some tea with your sugar,” and every old person collects packets of condiments and closets full of plastic bags. They remember rationing. They planted Victory Gardens. And, they went without. That’s why if you open senior’s purse all those packets of things fall out.

That was the generation of the sugar packet. This–is the Generation Toilet Paper. Your grandchildren will mock you over those extra rolls of Charmin.

Even though Covid is winding down, there are still some glitches in the supply chain.  American’s aren’t used to this. That’s why it’s time to change the mindset. Poser Homesteading will help you do that.

Think like an Iron Chef…or a Russian.

There are a lot of people who made Depression and ration cooking comparisons with Covid. I like this thinking better: Think “Russian food” or “Iron Chef.”   Iron Chefs can take any ingredient and make a masterpiece–so can Russians.

I lived in Moscow for a short while. When I was there, Moscow wasn’t famous for its full shelves. Getting a loaf of bread at the bakery was a one-to-two hour ordeal, and God help you if you were line when the clock hit “lunch o’clock.” You had to go outside and wait in line again.

Because of this, Russians can adapt and overcome. They have a concept that basically translates as “hors d’oeuvres table.” They take whatever they had that day, and make little dishes out of everything. It looks like a table full of tapas. People takes a few spoons of this, a little of that, and everyone leaves full. Beet salad, a bit of an egg dish, shred up some carrots… whatever you found, that’s dinner–a million microdishes, prepared simply. Delicious.

It’s the exact opposite of the American meal–three or four heaps of things not touching each other on a plate.  They decide based on what’s available. We decide based on what we’re in the mood for, then go to the store.

I think this is why I love “Iron Chef” and “shelf cooking” so much, too. Instead of rushing out to the grocery store, I look at what I have and see the possibilities. It’s gratitude training with food.

Do a Pantry Raid

Take a quick look at the “pantry raid” post if you’re not used to scratch cooking or you’re feeling nervous about supply chains still.

I bet you have a ton of stuff right now you’ve been making faces at that could be delicious if you took it off the junior varsity food shelves and put it into play. You’ll be a better cook, probably eat healthier, but you’ll certainly waste less.

Demystify ingredients

We’re in a culture where people actually spend $4 to buy pre-chopped veggies in clamshells. I once had someone ask me how to make mashed potatoes. Another person wasn’t sure the proper technique for boiling an egg. I’ve had friends ask how to reheat spaghetti without a microwave when hers broke, and one day when I was still teaching, students crowded around my mason jar of apple butter and poked at it.

“That’s not butter.” one kid said. I handed her a spoon.

“You can MAKE bread?”

“It doesn’t grow in plastic bags.”

We’ve lost touch with some basic skills–things our grandparents could do without thinking.

Today, we live in the land of boxes, and delivered-to-you meals. What if you were in a house with only raw ingredients? Would you thrive? Now’s a great time to learn your scratch-cooking ingredients, spices, quick breads, and make something you’ve never made before.

I have a friend who’s in New York City. “I live in New York City, no need to cook, ever.” At the time, he was right–it was more expensive to go out and get the ingredients than to let a famous chef make dinner. But during Covid, it was on lockdown–no restaurants, lines around the corner at the stores…  people stuck in very small apartments, and everyone had to cook.

Now that we’re out of the woods, it’s important to remember the lessons. Supply chains are still fragile, things come from around the globe and aren’t always easy to get. But, with a little outside the box thinking, some knowledge of ingredients, a little bit of skill polishing, you won’t really care that your Honey Nut Cheerios were sold out and you won’t want to reach for those clamshells, boxes and bags.

Learn something new–every year. This year was the first year I grew my plants from seed and got to the stage where they turned into food not dead pots.

Maybe you’ll learn to fix something, grow something, sew something, or make a new dish. Do something then cheer, “I did it!” on your own little poser homestead. Even if its a simple jar of bean sprouts or some home brewed beer. Cheer, and enjoy the ride.


PS: I have a newsletter. It’s been a “when I get to it,” but I’ll start sending out some positives, recipes, and things I’m learning once in a while. You can reply to it at any time with your requests.