Pureeing leftover garden tomatoes and putting them in freezer bags for use all winter. Picking all the grape leaves, lining them up neatly and freezing them as well. Making big batches of jam out of leftover or bruised summer fruit and canning them in mason jars. Storing countless containers of bulgar wheat, lentils, freekeh, rice and dried chickpeas. Lining the pantry with spices, tahini paste, bread mixes, and sauces. Packing the refrigerator with enough meat to last 6 months. These have been the continuous habits of my parents since I was born, and I never really knew why until now.
Living in a war zone, both of my parents can recall a time when not only was it impossible to shop for food, it was downright dangerous. Mandated curfews in Palestinian towns while military planes flew overhead were common, and my mother learned about food prepping and storing from her mother so they wouldn’t have to risk shopping outdoors everyday. I don’t want to sound alarmist, but with this uncertain crisis, food storage can provide a safety net. From canning, pureeing, and freezing, people didn’t start these habits by accident, but from necessity during difficult times.
Here is my mother about to sort and freeze the bounty of grape leaves we picked on a hot summer day in Napa Valley:
With both economic breakdown and joblessness expected to soar in the months ahead, sadly the number of families facing food insecurity and starvation is bound to rise as well. Major world disasters like this Covid crisis produce multiple ripple effects, now causing the imminent collapse of global food-supply systems. The challenges to global food availability are coming from two directions: On the supply side, farmers and distributors are cutting back on production as major customers like schools, restaurants, hotels, and airlines cease operations–and as food industry employees become sick. The US Department of Agriculture is also clamping down on small food producers with expensive regulations that have historically benefited the larger corporations. On the consumption side the world’s poor and unemployed households are running out of money and are unable to buy food, even when it’s still available in local markets.
With all of these crises happening at the same time, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about my experiences with a friend of mine, a Syrian American who lived in a parallel universe with an identical upbringing. We thought we would bring levity to this dire situation while sharing useful information at the same time. This is an almost podcast format, but I hope you find it educational, entertaining, and even hopeful. There is always a silver lining even the most dire of situations, and we sought to find them in this honest and frank conversation:
Here are some tips to keep important food purveyors alive:
-Right now it is SO important to support the farmers at the farmers markets and the mom and pop produce markets. Try to buy as many fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood from these markets
-Instead of looking to Amazon for food delivery, look for community supported agriculture delivery services, (CSAs) which are now in almost every state. Look up CSA and your zip code to find one near you. Not only will the food be fresher and tastier, but it will be more sustainably and organically grown.
-If there is a restaurant that you love and you have enough in your budget, try to buy a meal from them once a week so they won’t have to close their doors for good.
-If you can grow anything in your garden or even balcony, now is the time. Some of the easiest things to grow are tomatoes and squashes.
-Stock your pantry with heart legumes and grains in jars to have ready in a crunch, along with your favorite spices. (see my video on pantry staples if you haven’t already for more tips here: HERE
If you like this podcast format and want us to explore more topics, please leave them in the comments below. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you Mother’s out there, and I will be back with more recipes soon!