On food, groceries and sensory perception in the Age of the Pandemic

First of all, let me say that I am more thankful than ever in my life to have enough food to eat and to be able to purchase more if I run low, which I am now. When I read about food banks nationwide scrambling to meet he needs of millions of newly laid off workers, I can hardy imagine the suffering out there in this Age of the Pandemic, where everyone’s world has been turned upside down.

I’ve been losing my sense of taste and smell for years now. I don’t know the cause but I’ve had a congenital nasal blockage all my life. Up until I started using nasal strips to help me sleep 25 years ago, I had been using nasal sprays for as long as I can remember, since high school at least. When I was traveling around the country back in the 1980s I have memories of that small ubiquitous container of Sinex next to my bed in every motel I stayed in. I imagine I was addicted to the stuff. That could have something to do with my loss of smell decades later. So bottom line, eating is not that pleasurable an experience for me anymore. I can’t taste much of anything except seasonings and certain foods like chocolate (a blessing since I’m a true chocoholic). I use my imagination and I can taste just enough to allow me to enjoy food to some extent..

Now, during the pandemic, when you take a calculated risk just going into a grocery store if you’re older than 65, I’m grateful for what I have and content eating for simple nourishment. Horrifying images and news stories of people hospitalized in often chaotic conditions for Covid-19 have made me very content to stay home.

I haven’t been to the grocery store in about five weeks now, and I really have been okay with that. It’s amazing how one can make adjustments in daily living habits including eating. I miss the fresh produce and buying cut flowers and the impulse shopping for new frozen dinners to try, but it’s no big deal when it’s just yourself and no one else to feed. In that regard I feel very fortunate to be single. When I was taking care of Mom I had to go often to the store because I was always running out of baby food which she lived on the last three years, that plus nutrition drinks.

I miss the friendly staff at my favorite grocery, which I still will go to even though I no longer live nearby.

To reiterate, news stories about the Coronavirus have so spooked me because of my age (69) that I am quite reluctant to enter any public space, including grocery stores. Very fortunately, and presciently for me, I bought some medical masks 15 years ago when it looked quite possible we could have a bird flu pandemic, and that was really terrifying. Forty percent of people died from that, and that hideous virus keeps popping up in bird flocks such as mass-raised chickens and turkeys. So I bought some masks and never needed them until now. They’re so old I’m not sure they even work any more but they’re better than nothing so I’m going to wear them. I did for the first time yesterday when I had to go to the auto parts store. The two employees behind the counter looked at me warily, or maybe it was me being paranoid. I can’t even wrap my head around the fact that we even have to do this in the first place. It was so surreal.

Okay, more my food situation:

I have lots of beans and rice. It’s filling and somewhat nutritious even if you’re using white rice.

No fresh produce for me now, but I have dried fruit, applesauce and large jars of sliced peaches.

I’m on my last Apple. I buy only Honey Crisp because with my major loss of taste these are the only ones I can enjoy. I don’t care how much they cost they are so good.

No bananas. Dried apricots instead to make up for lost potassium

Frozen dinners. Gone. Frozen veggies will last another couple of weeks.

I’m using a lot of canned vegetables before the expiration date. I’ll have to live with the higher sodium for now.

No butter or margarine, so I’m getting used to having my morning oatmeal with some creamer, syrup, a packet of Stevia, a little wheat germ and ground cinnamon. Oatmeal is my best meal now. Fortunately, I bought a huge box of it at Costco a couple of months ago.

About two years ago I bought on impulse a huge jar of pickled asparagus at Costco, and it’s sat on the counter all that time. Only a few more months until the expiration date. What shall I do? I have a more recently purchased huge jar of Greek salad I got at Tuesday Morning. I’m eating that now.

Instead of reaching for cookies, I eat a lot of salted and toasted pumpkin seeds, my favorite snack, and one that’s very healthy. I have a big bag of roasted almonds.

I have lots of trail mix, walnuts and peanut butter. Enough peanut butter for several months, plus a ton of Belvita crackers which are nutritionally more dense than regular crackers, and certainly more so than cookies. But I can’t eat them with peanut butter because that was Mom’s diabetic snack for years, and memories of preparing that every night are quite intense. Toward the end she was so tired she could barely hold them in her hand, and the next day I’d see half crackers with peanut butter which she’s dropped in the folds of the sofa.

Eventually I’ll have to go get groceries. I mean, that’s what you have to do to live. I don’t have a vegetable garden like my new friends. Oh, but I have a huge container of Orgain plant-based protein powder which I can mix with oat milk which I can get through Amazon plus small containers of orange juice. I can get my favorite cheese straw crackers and my favorite butter shortbread cookies through Amazon, too.

Foodwise, Im doing okay, though this is far from normal. In these strange times I’m glad, for me at least, less is more.

I guess I will postpone a little longer that trip to the grocery store. And to think there was a time not so long ago when I didn’t even give it a second thought.

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April 21, 2020

I can relate to much of this. I haven’t been to a grocery store in about four weeks.  My daughter is very protective of me because of my age (Hard to believe, I’ll be 75 in June. Yikes!  How did I get here so quickly) and also because of past health conditions.  She’s a vegan so we usually have fresh vegetables, etc.  Granddaughter and I eat a vegetarian type diet with occasional seafood meals.   We always have protein powders on hand and apples are a must — Honey Crisp or Pink Lady.  Staples are Beans, rice and vegetable pastas.  Both daughter and granddaughter are allergic to nuts, but sunflower seeds are a Yes!  Once a week, we will barbecue Beyond Beef burgers, assorted vegetables and cabbage.  We have a friend who makes amazing salsa, so chips and salsa are our indulgences.

It is strange to have to think twice about going about such a routine errand as going to a grocery store. Yes, we definitely took it all for granted.  Now, every trip is carefully thought out… safe distancing, masks or not, sanitizing sprays, how badly do we really need something…

Take care my friend. Praying you stay safe and healthy.

April 21, 2020

@adrift I’m so glad you have your daughter and granddaughter.  What a blessing, and it looks like all of you eat very healthily.  My little indulgences, as I noted above, will be arriving in a couple of days:  my favorite cheese straws (I think this might be a Southern delicacy) and butter shortbread cookies.  Yum!


April 23, 2020

@oswego What I failed to mention is that our indulgences also include ice cream and dark chocolate… LOL

April 23, 2020

@adrift   Oooooh!  I love dark chocolate.  Have you tried Bouchard Belgian dark chocolates?  Fortunately,  I bought a huge bag of them at Costco about two months ago before shopping became perilous!

April 21, 2020

You sound as if you are doing fine and I’m very glad to hear that. I put raisins in my oatmeal. Lil extra iron and a touch of sweet that I like. Just stay safe!

April 21, 2020

@snarkle  Thank you.  I really am doing as well as I can be, mainly because I relish my solitude in this now quiet and empty house.  If we have to quarantine, it suit my solitary nature perfectly.  I’ve been this way all my life.

I hope you are doing well.  What would we do without oatmeal?  Lol

April 22, 2020

@oswego Oatmeal is the staff of life! So much you can do with it. I love to make oatmeal muffins. Great breakfast stuff!! I’m a hermit by nature. Grew up in a very small town and just never really clicked with society as a whole. Have a beautiful day!

April 22, 2020

I’m amazed at how long you’re able to go without shopping. That’s wonderful! I should take lessons. I could maybe go two weeks. Right now, lost of the sense of smell sounds like a blessing to me. I eat out of boredom. And I’m easily bored. And gaining weight. I figure if I had no sense of smell and couldn’t taste anything, I probably would lose my appetite. I know….be careful what you pray for!