I’m part of the problem. Our pantry is full of food: pasta, rice, beans. Our freezer is packed: frozen fruits and vegetables, lots of French fries, some pre-made burgers, pounds of chicken. The snack cabinet, overflowing: cheddar pretzels, corn chips, popcorn, snack mix, potato chips (Utz, Lays, Hanover), granola bars, Clif Bars, fruit gummies. Boxes and boxes of cereal, there’s even some shelf-stable almond milk. It’s like we’re preparing for a pandemic.
Tonight, despite the $350 we spent last Sunday on groceries, we went to the store. Coming home from work we talked about dinner. “How do you feel about burgers?” This was Susan, she plans and cooks 97% of our meals. She’s an adventuresome and talented chef, but sometimes she needs a break. “Burgers and fries sound okay?”
“I’d like to save my burger binge for when we’re caught out at a restaurant. Maybe we can have frozen fish instead?” Frozen fish? Where did that come from? The last time we bought breaded frozen fish patties was five years ago. A treat for eight-year-old Eli. And what the hell’s a burger binge?
A few weeks ago, I became a vegan. A blogger read my post Crash. And Burn. In this post, I once again moan about how my crappy diet impacts my running. “Watch The Game Changers on Netflix,” she commented. “It will change your life.” The Game Changers is a slickly filmed documentary produced by James Cameron, Pamela Anderson and Jackie Chan. The movie describes a massive conspiracy—ala Big Tobacco—where the food and dairy industries falsely promote studies indicating that animal products are good and necessary fuel for athletic endeavors. Just the opposite, the movie claims, an animal-based diet is damaging to athletic performance and the athletes themselves.
I didn’t get to the movie right away. I rarely sit down to stream anything, it steals my reading and writing time, and I don’t actually find it relaxing. In fact, I needed to get the flu to carve out a block of time to watch it. Possibly it was my fever-clouded brain, or the savvy messaging, or maybe it’s just what I wanted to hear when I heard it, but at the end of two hours, I’d given up all animal products. When Susan came home from work, I said “I’ve decided we should become vegans.” You might think this would be a hard sell, but really, it wasn’t. Susan’s been talking about becoming a vegetarian for years. Plus, I browsed a few websites and came up with a recipe for Buffalo cauliflower bites.
As you can probably guess, I’m not a vegan. When I made my declaration, we had a pound of freshly grated Parmesan cheese in the fridge and a brand-new bottle of creamy Caesar dressing. It would be wasteful to throw those away. But still, we’ve made a pretty amazing change. In three weeks, I’ve eaten six ounces of chicken, four ounces of steak, three eggs and tonight’s breaded fish. Not bad for a guy who historically ate meat five to seven nights a week and thinks sausage is a necessary ingredient for distance running. I’ve made almost no effort to give up cheese, pizza being my favorite food, but I think on the whole, I’m nailing the spirit of the change I wanted to make.
Tonight, as we drove to the store, I said “Let’s get more toilet paper, too.” What’s going on with the toilet paper? First in China and Hong Kong, then Singapore and Australia, and now the entire Seattle metro area. Everyone’s buying up all the toilet paper. Based on my understanding of the coronavirus symptoms, toilet paper doesn’t even seem especially necessary. A CNN headline just a few hours ago: Truck carrying toilet paper in Australia bursts into flames. We bought another twenty-four pack of toilet paper.
Early in the Coronavirus outbreak (I’m talking just a thousand cases in China), I placed an order for N95 masks. When everyone else is scrambling trying to find masks, I reasoned, we would already have ours. The whole mask discussion is confusing. I keep reading quotes from medical experts insisting that the masks are useless, they won’t protect anyone from sickness. Then those same experts say that by buying up all the stock, we’re depriving the people who really need protection… like medical personnel. They either work or they don’t.
Now I can’t even use the masks I had the foresight to buy six weeks ago. If I walk into the grocery store wearing an N95 mask, I’ll be branded as unpatriotic. I’m doing my best not to hoard, but our method of shopping and dinner prep works like this: we buy some food, make a huge portion of a meal, eat leftovers for two days, and then shop for more food. We usually have about two days-worth of food in our house. If the supply chain gets even mildly disrupted, we’re eating cat food.
With our large shopping trip last weekend, we now resemble a normal family. We have a week’s worth of dinners planned, and I don’t need to stop by the store every other day for a new box of Honey Bunches of Oats. And if we ever find ourselves quarantined at home, at least we won’t run out of toilet paper.