Pandemic alters life, and is a chance to slow down and get creative with recipes

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 30 March 2020 at 10:03 am

(Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series – “Pandemic Perspectives” – with local residents sharing how the coronavirus is impacting their lives and the community. We welcome more submissions. Send them to

Photos by Tom Rivers: Ginny Kropf has been a long-time local news reporter. She lives in Medina.

I don’t think any of us in our wildest dreams could have imagined our country in the state it is in now.

I can’t help but think back when my husband Larry and I were raising five kids and lived paycheck to paycheck. While we wouldn’t have had money to pay the bills, we wouldn’t have starved, as our cellar was always full of canned fruits and vegetables, raised in our garden.

Larry was an avid gardener and anyone who knew us knew we had the most beautiful garden anyone ever saw. He worked full time at Abex, came home early afternoon and went to work on the farm for our neighbors, the Dressers. Then, to relax, after supper he worked in the garden until dark.

We had rows of potatoes that were neatly hilled up. And there was not a weed to be found anywhere. Larry planted everything from blue potatoes to purple beans and half a dozen varieties of sweet corn. We also had raspberries, strawberries and rhubarb.

My uncle had a fruit farm, so I had access to unlimited peaches, apples, cherries, pears and plums, which I canned and froze. I made jam, applesauce, relish, mincemeat, chili sauce and pickles.

But, back to our current crisis and how we are coping.

First is the frustration at not daring to go anywhere. Just at the onset of this pandemic, my computer crashed and I spend a big share of my time on the computer. Fortunately my new one is up and running and now helps occupy my time. I am sending messages to people I haven’t contacted in a long time, and we have also made and received phone calls from friends out-of-state that we’ve been meaning to contact for months.

And I must say it was a very warm feeling the other day to go down Park Avenue and see half a dozen families walking together. I’ve never seen that before.

Let me say how frustrating it is to see how people are hoarding food. Who would have ever thought we would go into super stores like Walmart and Tops and find shelves and meat cases totally empty. I must admit I did clear the shelf of canned tuna with oil a week ago (there were only four cans left). Two cans of tuna, a cost of $2, makes a great meal combined with chopped boiled eggs and peas and stirred into a cream sauce.

The shelves for paper products, including toilet paper, were cleared out by customers at the Tops in Albion on March 14.

Bread is another thing that is being snatched off the shelves as fast as it comes in. We ate our last slice this morning, and I am tempted to go looking for some, but am hesitant to go out any more than I have to. I have plastic gloves, which look and feel horrible, but I think I’ll wear them into the store. I have also used napkins out of the glove compartment to open the door of a store, then came home and washed the door handle and steering wheel of my car with bleach and water. (You can’t find a can of Lysol or any other disinfectant spray anywhere).

Then I remembered how I used to make bread. I have a recipe from a longtime friend, Rose Allard, formerly Schlegal. It makes three loaves and is the best bread ever. I just have to go out and get some yeast and hope I haven’t lost my touch.

I have heard several people exclaim how upset they were not to find hamburg or chicken or steaks, but I bet they never thought of some of the alternatives.

Fortunately, we like everything, so when I was in the store the other day and there wasn’t a piece of meat in the cases, I walked along and discovered frozen liver. One store even had oysters and oyster stew is a favorite of Al’s. There has always been an ample supply of shrimp in several stores, and in an out-of-the-way store the other day I found salted codfish in a box. Rinse the codfish several times, cook it for a few minutes and then stir it into a cream sauce and it is delicious over toast or mashed potatoes. And a pound box of codfish would feed a whole family. The $8 purchase provided us with two meals.

When all the canned vegetables have been cleared off the shelves lately, in the fresh produce isle there has been asparagus and rutabaga (a member of the turnip family for those who aren’t familiar with it). Rutabaga is Al’s favorite vegetable and after I introduced it to my daughter-in-law Cindy at a holiday dinner, she now incorporates it in her mashed potatoes. And I’ve never seen a shortage of that.

I sure hope this virus is contained soon, as I know the devastation it is causing to individuals and the economy, but I am reasonably sure we won’t starve. Not as long as people don’t start hoarding liver, oysters or codfish.

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