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Mario’s Quarantine Diary, Day 13: ‘Shopping for meat is a very personal thing’

Tri-City News journalist Mario Bartel and family, while in COVID-19 quarantine, make a run for the border after a trip to the freezer looking for foodstuffs
chicken on the grill
The early days of our self-isolation: our chicken breasts are plump and plentiful.

We all have a powdered milk story.

It’s a memory of a time when we were young and our parents struggled to stretch every grocery dollar to keep our bellies sated and the comforts of home embracing us.

Thirty years from now, will our son be telling his kids his Mexican food story?

When our journey into self-isolation began, I had the luxury of a few hours to make sure our pantry was stocked and our refrigerator full. We had several portions of chicken breasts in the freezer, some lamb, frozen shrimp and even a fine fillet of salmon.

Friends and neighbours stepped up to offer their services as our shoppers should we run out.

We knew the fresh things would dwindle as we relish our salads and fruit. And it seems this pandemic has lit a love for milk in our son that now has me pondering those giant four-litre jugs.

The produce lasted five days, the staples stretched to seven before we had to call in some of those offers.

But shopping for meat is a very personal thing.

I know the size and quantity of chicken breasts that will make us a meal and leave enough for protein leftovers on my wife’s lunch salads. I can spot a gristled cut of lamb from a mile away, or the hue of salmon that will make for a particularly flavourful dinner.

So we left that stuff off our lists, figuring the freezer was pretty well stocked anyway.

Which it was. Except some of that valuable real estate, it turns out, was occupied by: ground beef that had been intended for meatballs that were never realized; ground sausage for winter chilli, except now it’s spring; and seasoned ground turkey for who-knows-what, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

freezer filled with food

With our options diminished, it was time to improvise.

No burger buns, so the obvious choice for the beef was off the table, even though our son said he’s been craving them for weeks. And since we can’t get to the nearby bakery for a fresh baguette, what’s the point of making chilli?

My wife hit Pinterest while I took stock:

• a tub of fresh salsa and a stack of corn tortillas in the fridge.

• a can of refried beans, a package of flour tortillas and even a bag of nacho chips in the pantry.

• plenty of spices like chilli and garlic powders as well as cumin.

And so it came to pass we concocted Mexican dinners for two of our last four nights in “captivity.” Dressed up with a side salad, it was pretty filling and nutritious. In fact, our son enjoyed his burritos and tacos so much, he has declared he wants us to take him to Mexico so he can eat such food all the time.

dinner plate


Miss a day? Catch up here:

Day 12: Let us eat (ice cream) cake

Day 11: Ode to joy, wherever you can find it

Day 10: Thank goodness for doodle time

Day 9: Cycling through the uncertainty

Day 8: Lessons from the vegetable crisper

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