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Mario’s Quarantine Diary, Day 8: Lessons from the vegetable crisper

There are lessons to be learned from this global pandemic. Some will be huge. Others will come from our refrigerators.
A grocery cart full of fresh vegetables and fruits lowers the stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tri-City News journalist Mario Bartel is voluntarily self-isolating and working from home for the rest of the month after his wife and son returned March 13 from a brief getaway in Arizona. He is writing a daily diary during that time.

The lessons being learned from this global COVID-19 pandemic will keep virologists and sociologists busy for decades.

Meanwhile, eight days into our own familial self-isolation, were learning lessons of our own. Like, what goes around, comes around.

My son’s interest in Ninjago — a Lego-created world of young, dragon-riding martial artists united in their battle against Lord Garmmadon — has been dormant for months. But suddenly it’s reinvigorated. The movie had another spin through our Blu-Ray player, the dust has been blown off several reader books and I’m being implored to search Google for every tidbit of information I can find about the animated TV series and the possibility of a sequel to the movie (alas, not likely).

Hmmm, could this be his seven-year-old’s way of processing the battle against coronavirus?

And then there are groceries.

In normal times — i.e., all of two weeks ago — I would make almost daily pitstops at the grocery store or green grocer on my way home from work. I’d replenish dwindling staples I noted on a list I wrote in the morning or pick up that night’s dinner entrée depending on the specials in the week’s flyers that come in our newspaper.

It’s a marked contrast from my childhood, when my parents headed to the grocery store on a Friday night and loaded the trunk of the car for the week ahead.

It ensures our fridge and pantry are consistently stocked. The fear of running out stresses me out.

But it does make it harder to track how much we spend on groceries and what exactly are essentials vs. nice-to-haves.

That all changed this week.

Knowing we would be headed into this 14-day period of removal from our routine as my wife and son flew back from their five-day getaway in Arizona, I was able to stock up. I even bought a few extras like an additional carton of milk and loaf of bread to ensure we wouldn’t have to lean too heavily on friends to do our shopping.

But as our vegetable crisper became lighter through the past week, the supply of Gala apples my wife favours for a snack dwindled and the long-forgotten cans at the back of the pantry were exposed to the light, my anxiety became palpable.

It’s hard to entrust your grocery shopping to someone else.

Over the years, I like to think I’ve become pretty good at recognizing a quality cucumber from one that’s about to go flaccid and bitter. I know the particular tastes and preferences of our family; those Gala apples better be firm, crisp and about the size of my fist.

How to express those stringent requirements in a list without sounding too OCD?

Fortunately, our shopper came through with flying colours, and we’ve learned we can survive about five days between trips to the green grocer, and seven days for staples at the grocery store.

Desperate times…


Miss a day? Catch up here:

Day 7: Let's do the time warp again

Day 6: The new normal is taking some adjustment by everyone

Day 5: She's fit, she's strong, but she has diabetes which make her vulnerable

Day 4: Trying to contain the fear

Day 3: How much do you tell your kids about COVID-19

Day 2: Doing the right thing at the 25th hour

Day 1: A brief trip means a COVID-19 condo quarantine