The run on the grocery stores during the coronavirus crisis has seemed over the top. Although I can undertstand in the context that if you stock up on groceries, including needed paper products, then you won’t have to go back out to a grocery store for a good length of time, thus lowering one’s risk of possibly coming into contact with the virus.
The situation, however, did make me think about what it might have been like if this type of crisis had happened when I was growing up. Admittedly we did not have the medicines that we have today. That is not the part of this battle that I was thinking about. It was the social distancing and staying at home that I’m thinking about.
Growing up we didn’t go out to eat at restaurants other than maybe on a Friday night after Dad got home from work, around 4:30 p.m., we would drive to Reynoldsville and eat at Pete’s Tasty Freeze. Or maybe on a Saturday night we’d meet up with cousins and go to Mancuso’s for pizza in Reynoldsville. Other than that or picnics with relatives, we normally ate at home. Mom cooked supper each night. Breakfast and lunch were at home, except for during the school year. My brothers and I would have lunch at school when we were all of school age.
Every summer Dad would plant a large garden. It would have cabbage, carrots, lettuce, green beans, yellow beans, peas, potatoes, zucchini, butternut squash, tomatoes and one year we planted a small patch of corn.
Dad grew up in a family that planted a large garden and so he continued that tradition after he and Mom married and started having children. It was a good tradition or habit to have.
We talked about it recently. He said as a child, he and his siblings would help take care of the garden, weeding and such. At harvest time, carrots would be put in a barrel, layered with sand to keep the moisture down Cabbages would be pulled out by their roots and then the roots tied to the rafters in the dirt-floor basement. Potatoes would also be placed into a bin. Those food staples would keep the family fed from harvest until spring when planting would take place again.
Mom and Dad would follow that process, although instead of hanging cabbages they would can or freeze most of the vegetables. There were many a summer we would drive to Chambersburg area and buy a bushel or two of peaches. Then Mom and Dad would take a Saturday and begin the canning process. I can still remember being handed a ripe, warm peach without skin to eat. They would pour boiling water over the peaches to make it easier to remove the skin and then cut the peaches in half, remove the seed inside and put the halfs into canning jars. Later in the winter those peaches tasted wonderful.
Nowadays, the habit of planting a garden and canning isn’t as commonplace as it once was. In light of the current situation, maybe it should be. Even at this time of the year there would have been a lot of canned items left on our shelves downstairs from the prior year’s garden.
As for items such as meat, we either stopped at a local butcher shop or there would be canned venison at least for a little while. In those days one couldn’t be in possession of canned vension past a particular date without getting into trouble with the Game Commission. As Dad hasn’t hunted for the last few years, I cannot say if that is still true or not. Admittedly I never really liked the taste of venison, despite it being one of the meats that is better for you. In fact I talked to my younger brother recently via phone. He lives in Montana and is an avid hunter. Both he and his wife hunt – mule deer, antelope, elk, and of course, white-tail deer. They are both very good at it and have a freezer filled so they are in good shape to weather the current crisis.
Before even hearing about COVID-19, during the summer months last year, I talked with Dad about having a small garden again. We hope we can still be able to plant one this year, but if not then we will next year.
Until this year, I didn’t realize what a sense of safety one would have with knowing they had homegrown, canned food on their shelves that they could access at any time. Maybe it’s time for all of us to think back to what are parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents did. We’ve all gotten used to the convenience that technology has given us in the food industry but maybe we should also look at being a little more self-reliant when it comes to our food. It couldn’t hurt, that’s for sure.
For now, we will weather the storm and continue social distancing – even at the grocery store. Stay home and maybe if you’re looking for something to do, plan a garden, decide what you might like to try to grow and check out the online gardening sites to see what vegetables and fruits can be grown in our area and how long it takes. If we’re lucky, maybe there will be a vaccine or serum in place and still time to plant and harvest a garden this year. Just think how wonderful those carrots you serve at Thanksgiving will taste when you know you raised them in your own garden.