Visiting several restaurants in the Hermanus CBD over the weekend and speaking to some of their owners and managers brought home to me the uphill battle they were all being faced with since the Coronavirus reared its ugly head in South Africa. As Lemonicious at the Hermanus Waterfront posted on their Facebook page: “We are a local family-run restaurant and, as for everyone else, this is an extremely scary time for us.”

Now that our President has announced a lockdown of 21 days, the picture has turned even bleaker – and the most astonishing and nerve-wracking aspect of the COVID-19 crisis is how fast it escalates. Only a few days ago, most of our local restaurateurs were still determined to keep their doors open. Already battling to cope with the shortened opening hours and fewer customers, which meant less income for the business and also fewer shifts – and less wages – for their staff, several restaurants and coffee shops initiated take-out and delivery services to keep their businesses ticking over.

They are a resilient bunch, after all, who have had to cope with the disruption of riots, load-shedding and the general economic downturn over the past two years. Closing their doors would be a last resort, they said, but now, with Monday night’s announcement of the lockdown just hours before The Village NEWS went to print, the decision has been taken for them. Over the next three weeks our streets and piazzas will resemble those ghostly images we have all seen of once bustling tourism hubs such as Venice, Paris and New York City. (It is still unclear if restaurants will be able to continue providing take-out food for pick-up or delivery, or even whether this will prove to be a viable business option.)

Minimising risks and keeping everyone safe is all that matters now. How we are going to cope with the financial fall-out, no one really knows at this point. But for now, we’ll all be spending more time at home and preparing our own meals. While it is not necessary to frantically start stockpiling, we do need to plan a bit more carefully in order to minimise outings to the shops to buy food and groceries.

Most importantly, we don’t want to regress to the bad habits of our student years and live on canned food and instant noodles – the situation is already depressing enough – and we also need to ensure that we support our immune systems by eating as healthy as possible. Many of us have seen the meme on social media that reads: ‘The fact that canned foods, toxic chemicals and store-bought hand sanitisers are out of stock, yet fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs are fully stocked, shows that humans have no idea how the immune system works’.

So let’s not forget to include fresh foods when we fill our baskets. Although they obviously do perish sooner than frozen or canned goods, there are certain fruits and veggies that can last for up to two months if stored properly. Here are some examples: Apples and citrus fruits can last a few weeks at room temperature and much longer if refrigerated (take them out of plastic bags and store in fridge drawer), while vegetables such as onions (can be refrigerated and even frozen), garlic, potatoes, cabbage, beets, carrots and squashes also have a long shelf life if they are stored in a place where they get some air, and are not washed until ready to be used.

Families who need to ‘stretch’ meals have the opportunity to become creative. Just take minced meat as an example: it can go a long way if you combine it with lentils or beans, which provide extra nutrients to boot. The same goes for eggs – you can make an omelette or frittata by adding pretty much whatever you feel like or have to hand, such as onions, potatoes, peppers and cheese. Vegetable soups are another great option and there are countless recipes available online – or simply make up your own.

My own shopping list will include lots of pasta, canned tomatoes, capers and olives, and tinned tuna, pilchards and salmon (excellent for fish cakes), ground coffee, dark chocolate – and of course wine. (I’m hoping that most of our local wineries will continue to do deliveries; if so I’ll certainly be making use of that!) Good luck to everyone and remember, stocking up does not mean stockpiling. Please follow the safety protocols when leaving and entering your home and be considerate of others. If we shop responsibly, there will be enough to go around for everyone.

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