We’ve long held it as true that one of the best things people can do for their health is to spend more time in their own kitchens — e.g. cooking at home with ingredients you know and trust. And this week and next (and how much longer we don’t know) as we hunker down as a country in a stringent attempt to mitigate the spread of covid-19, we’re given the opportunity to put that to the test. If there is any sort of silver lining to this catastrophe, maybe this is it.
You are what you eat.
At a recent trip to the grocery store, I was a bit dismayed to see the aisles of bread, packaged junk food, soft drinks, and (for no cogent reason I can imagine) toilet paper emptied out. Not that I wanted any of that stuff, because I don’t buy it, except for the toilet paper, but I was somewhat struck because there was meat — beautiful bone-in ribeyes were marked down by about 60% and racks of baby backs by half. And there was cream, full fat cheese of all types, and produce available. Yet people were hoarding bread, junk food … and toilet paper.
(To be clear — the shelves get refilled regularly, so there’s no need to panic. There should be plenty of food and toilet paper available if people don’t lose their good sense!)
For those of us in the low-carb community who typically eschew processed carby junk anyway, now’s the time (with a little flexibility and creativity) to enjoy eating high-quality food we cook at home, that we make ourselves with good quality fats (organic lard, EVOO, beef tallow, duck fat, avocado oil, coconut oil) and nutritious ingredients. So when you shop in your local store, keeping a mindful social distance of 6 feet, look for whatever bargains are to be had in the meat, seafood, and poultry cases and the produce bins. (I not only found huge bone-in ribeyes, normally priced over $25 for $9.99, but also a large bag of individually wrapped frozen salmon fillets normally over $20 for a store special of $9.99 and racks of baby backs for just over $10.) See what’s there and be creative.
For inspiration, here is a collection of Food & Wine’s 100 Best Stew and One Pot recipes that you can use to make good use of tougher meats, ground meat, and whatever lower-carb veggies you find at the store. It’s pretty easy to replace the starchier elements, such as potatoes, corn, pasta, and rice with cauliflower, peppers, spaghetti squash, shiritaki mushroom pasta, or zoodles.
And in another angle here, since radishes are usually not on the top of the junk food buyer’s list and likely available, a collection for Radishes 17 Ways!
Or this collection of 36 Chicken Soup recipes (including the poached chicken dish in the photo).
Get the family involved in the cooking. Substitute carbier ingredients with lower starch, lower sugar ones. Use good fats and bone broths (or make your own bone broth!) Spend time in your own kitchen creating good food to nourish your family.
What else you can do.
But most of all, use this time to improve yourself and the world around you in some way. Here are some ideas:
- Cook and eat nourishing foods to bolster your immune system. (Foods with vitamin D, such as salmon or mackerel, liver, full-fat dairy, good cheeses and those with vitamin C, such as tomatoes.)
- Do body weight workouts, such as this one (admittedly my favorite) or this one.
- Tackle the reading list you’ve been amassing, but not actually doing.
- Get on Duo-Lingo or some other free online language site and begin to actually learn the French or Italian (or whatever language) you’ve promised yourself you would someday learn.
- If you’re musical, play music or sing together. If you’re not, that’s OK, just listen to something soothing to your soul for respite. Involved listening is also participation in music.
- Get outside, if you can, but even if it’s just sitting by an open window, get some sunshine and fresh air.
- Meditate. Take a few minutes just to breathe and be calm within yourself. (The Calm app can be a big help!)
- Maintain your sense of humor — laughter is a strong medicine. Watch a really funny, LOL movie, whatever makes you belly laugh. (Mike’s all-time favorite in that category is The Great Race and I’d have to say mine is probably The Life of Brian or, oddly, Meet the Fockers or classics like The Pink Panther. But there’s also The Three Stooges or even Roadrunner and Wile E Coyote cartoons.)
Be vigilant but be hopeful, too.
As we stay in as required to mitigate the spread, there’s one bit of data we can look to for hope. Remember that on the Diamond Princess there were 3700 people of somewhat older age, who were confined closely together, with covid-19 in their midst, without knowing at first there was a problem. They were mingling, laughing, dining, dancing, shaking hands, and hugging. Of the 3700 passengers and crew, all of whom were tested, only 700 people tested positive, about 1 in 5 or 6. Of those, half were asymptomatic or had very mild symptoms, half exhibited symptoms, some were sicker, and only 8 of them died, about 1% of those testing positive. But if you look at the big picture, that is the whole 3700 person ‘test group’ on the ship (who all had the chance to be exposed) only 0.2% died.
Those numbers are about what we’re seeing currently in the US. As of yesterday over, according to Johns Hopkins, 195,000 people had been tested; there were 19,624 positive tests — only 1 in 10 people with suggestive symptoms is testing positive . And so far there have been 260 deaths, a fatality rate of 1.3%.
That isn’t to belittle the risk or seriousness of the virus in any way and we hate to know that there was even one death. But it’s at least somewhat comforting to remember that in the final analysis of that early microcosm of infection spread, this shipboard pilot study of covid-19 if you will, 99% of people came through OK. The great majority (81%) didn’t even pick it up and of those who did pick it up, they had no symptoms, mild symptoms, or got sick but ultimately recovered. We all hope that the stringent measures that have been put in place regarding travel, shutdown of schools, churches, and entire sectors of the economy, as well as voluntary social distancing will flatten the curve of spread.
And so our task must be to focus on protecting the segment of the population that is most at risk for serious consequences from exposure — in the case of covid-19, mainly the elderly, the immunocompromised, and the infirm. We should be eating nourishing food, washing hands well and often, covering coughs and sneezes (with a tissue that we throw away and then wash hands well again!), staying home when sick, checking on vulnerable family members, neighbors, or friends. But that’s really just what we ought to be doing every year when the typical (or atypical) influenza season rolls around, killing tens of thousands of Americans annually.
The days may be long and stressful right now, but the time will actually be short. Make the most of it and we’ll pray to come out the other side in better, healthier shape.