I Used to Be Somebody: (Un)Retirement Lessons Learned

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Shaking up Routines — Herb Shopping in a Pandemic

Carl Landau | August 25, 2020

The pandemic has obviously affected all of us in many ways. In some ways unexpected and for the better. Like switching up some household responsibilities.


COVID plot twist: My wife is an amazing cook and loves to shop at the market. Now? That shopper is 100% me. For the past 5 months, Diana  hasn’t been inside a store, anywhere. (She has a rare condition and can’t fight infection well. So she’s high risk for respiratory problems.) 


Eleven years ago, when we were first together, we went grocery shopping just once. I guess I was too much a novice and when we walked out of the store, she said, "You don't ever need to come with me again… I’ve got this.”


So now this poor woman has to rely on me — who knows nothing except that I love eating great food. The shopping list is not ordinary. She uses exotic (at least to me) ingredients. And it involves going to 5 different places — normal grocery store, old Italian grocery, a butcher, a fresh fish store and the local farmers market. There are no frozen foods from Trader Joe's in our meal planning.


Here's just some of my culinary challenges: Herbs are the toughest — what’s the difference between cilantro, dill, mint? (There are 2 kinds of both parsley and basil, by the way.) Cucumbers — English, Persian or regular? Fennel (which they label as anise); savoy cabbage not plain cabbage; tofu has different levels of firmness; potatoes come in russet, gold, red, fingerlings oh my! Thin spaghetti vs. uh… spaghetti; orecchiette pasta, which is hard to pronounce and even harder to find. Couscous but Israeli couscous (THERE IS NO AISLE MARKED “COUSCOUS”!) Pork butt, is it bone-in or bone-out? WTF. Feta — it's supposed to come packed in water? Fish with skin on or skin off? Cornstarch: What is that? Where is it? When picking tomatoes at the farmers market, you're not allowed to squeeze them but don't get them too ripe or too hard.


So what have I learned from all this? I've embraced what I thought was a boring chore that I thought I wasn't good at. And it ends up being something I really enjoy doing! I'm chatting up the produce guy and grilling the fish guy — “Hey, what is the freshest fish today?” I’m loving it. And I feel like I'm doing something important to help my wonderful wife. Plus, I’ll be honest — come mealtime, I am definitely the beneficiary.


There’s never a better time to shake up the routine and learn something new!

Tags:    the carl diary   retirement   food   groceries   routine   pandemic