On Saturday, the first case of coronavirus here in the Highlands was confirmed, and since then it seems like the whole of Inverness has gone crazy.
I went out as usual this morning to pick up my daily bread and milk along with a few extra bits and pieces to top up my storecupboard, and as with everywhere else in the UK (and probably many other countries too) I found many everyday items were completely absent from the shelves. Dried pasta, rice, and flour were all conspicuous by their complete absence, leaving large swathes of naked white shelving looking very vulnerable and exposed. And tins of tuna fish and baked beans were particularly depleted too.
To be honest I always keep a reasonably full store cupboard and freezer at home – the result of growing up in the middle of nowhere with transport issues, including often being snowed in during the winter months, and old habits die hard. So I always have enough dried and tinned goods to see me through a couple of weeks of whatever emergency may arise. And I have a pretty good handle on how much food we may need if we do have to self-isolate for a fortnight, and it is definitely not a ton of dried pasta, rice and flour!
It makes me wonder who is buying all this stuff, and why – I mean, if you are the kind of cook who regularly uses these basic staple ingredients when cooking, then you will already have some in stock at home and may at a push need one extra pack of each just to be sure. And if you are the kind of non-cook who doesn’t regularly use these dry ingredients, what exactly are you expecting to do with them? Especially flour? Make cakes, make white sauce, bake your own bread? What about the other ingredients required? Do you even know how to make such items? No, I thought not.
The cashier who served me this morning was lamenting the craziness of multiple trolleys full of whatever people thought there might be a shortage of, regardless of whether or not they may need it or want it or use it. He was concerned that much of what was bought in such a panic just now would eventually end up either in the bin or mouldering away at the back of a cupboard somewhere, foraged for the sake of it, then forgotten. And I fear he may be right.
There is not a world food shortage, no long-term food rationing about to be brought in to force, we are not at war. There is simply a virus – admittedly a new scary and potentially nasty virus – that if we catch it we may need to stay at home for a couple of weeks or so until it passes. Two weeks. How much food can you possibly manage to eat in two weeks, especially if you are not well? Yes, it is worrying, but not enough for common sense to fly out the window. Get a grip, people. Stop and think, then act accordingly.
If, once all this panic is over, some selfish people find themselves with stored mountains of dried pasta and rice and flour unopened and untouched, I do hope they donate them to food banks rather than let them go to waste. I hope they think of others less fortunate than themselves and pass on their unwanted produce. But I suppose if they’d thought of other people in the first place, they would never have bought up the entirety of the supermarket supply in a blue funk.
Meanwhile all we can do is keep calm and carry on under restricted movement with whatever care and concern is required, and if we become unwell, then we must self-isolate, look after ourselves, and hope for the best…