Don’t Tell Me To Keep Calm And Carry On, I’m Liable To Thump You

Frankly, if someone gave me a “Keep Calm” mug right now I’d probably feed it them. Forcibly. And I might not be fussy about which orifice I chose. I’m so cross about the hoarding, panic buying and general stupidity, I’m done with being polite about it.

We don’t actually have any shortages, or at least we didn’t until a lot of selfish people, or to be charitable a lot of scared people, went completely nutso in the shops. Just give the supply chain time to work. Yes, I’m talking to you, the couple with a shopping trolley apiece pretending you don’t know each other. We may be lucky enough not have corona virus but we’re all suffering from its side effect, Empty Shelf Syndrome.

As a consequence of ESS there are many talented people writing about what to cook from your store cupboard. I don’t feel the need to add to this. Also, I haven’t a clue what you have in your kitchen. Beans and pulses? Tins of tuna? Cereal? Dusty spices you bought four years ago, used a pinch of and then consigned to the back of the shelf? A can of corned beef with a rusty key and a suspiciously bulgy appearance? (Throw that one out right now.)

Most of us, if we’re honest, have lurkers that are past their sell-by. Sometimes they’re absolutely fine to eat, sometimes they’re not. I’m not judging you, you haven’t seen the bottom of my freezer. Neither have I for a while, a situation I suspect will soon be remedied.

Or maybe we have slightly more exotic ingredients we bought because we read a recipe, thought ‘that sounds good’ and remembered too late that we’d used the newspaper to line the bottom of the henhouse. Mea culpa. The hens were nice and warm though.

I’m making a conscious effort to work my way through the frosty contents of the freezer, the over-stuffed store cupboard and whatever we have in the garden (mostly woody parsnips and some alarmingly robust greens, but I comfort myself that it’s nearly asparagus season and yes, I will sleep in the veg patch armed with a sharpened razor hoe). I don’t want to make a bad situation worse by buying stuff I don’t really need, ‘just in case’. That’s how panic buying escalates. Daft people start hoarding, then sensible people add a bit more to their baskets because they’re worried that when they eventually do run out, they won’t be able to replace stuff.

I’m glad to see that supermarkets have finally put limits on what people can buy, are setting aside special shopping hours for the elderly and vulnerable and that they’re giving some of their squillions to charities like the Trussell Trust. I hope they give their hard-pressed staff a bonus, too.

I’ve had to close my cookery school for the duration to safeguard the health of students, staff and the general public. It’s a blow but it’s the only responsible reaction to the crisis and I’ve still got a roof over my head and food to eat. I worry about friends in the food industry who’ve had to close or are seeing their customers evaporate: restaurateurs, pub and cafe owners, street food vendors. I worry about small independent producers who could find themselves facing financial hardship and freelance friends whose work has dried up overnight and who don’t qualify for government help.

And I worry when I’m told that a small local supermarket had a couple of hundred people queuing outside waiting for it to open, many of them of retirement age, and all too many of them shaking hands and chatting as they stood cheek by jowl. Please, let’s observe the safe distancing rules and use some common sense. People won’t just lose their livelihoods if we Carry On Regardless. They’ll lose their lives.

20 thoughts on “Don’t Tell Me To Keep Calm And Carry On, I’m Liable To Thump You

  1. Well said that woman! I’m aghast at the way so many people are behaving. I do hope no one ever looks in our freezer, it looks as if we have a pitta bread fetish going on… 🙄

  2. A very apt and timely post Linda and I agree with everything you have said and some of it made me smile. We are definitely working our way through our store cupboards in this household and rising to the challenge of producing meals from what we have available. We don’t have the luxury (or stupidity) of being able to go to the supermarket and getting a delivery slot for on-line grocery shopping is just not happening in our part of the country. The good news is that small independent shops that will deliver are seeing an upturn in business and I hope this will continue long after this nightmare is over. Thank you so much for this post.
    Ann xx

  3. Well said. I’m horrified at what’s going on. You’re right. Most of us have a got a guilty secret or two in our store cupboard. All the more reason not to buy yet more, but to be creative with what we have. Suddenly, we have the time. The world seems divided between the sensible – Masham Market yesterday was a masterclass in sensible shopping, with everyone – in the fresh air – keeping a more than Social Distance apart and buying only what they needed: and the madness of fisticuffs in supermarkets and rugby-scrum levels of people at ice cream van queues at the few remaining tourist attractions. Yes, the people who will lose their livelihoods through this, in different ways impoverishing all our lives is dreadful. I’m glad you expect to weather the storm, Linda. Good luck.

    • Thank you, Margaret. As a food writer I’m probably better off than many when it comes to storecupboard ingredients, but I think it’ll still prove to be an exercise in frugality. No bad thing, as long as the elderly, hard-up and vulnerable are taken care of. Lx

  4. I wanted to stop by, in the midst of madness, to say thank you sharing your recipes. Many are enjoyed by our family – next on our list are your Hot Cross Buns.

    • thank you, Caroline, that’s a lovely thing to hear and very much appreciated. The cookery school may have been suspended but I’ll carry on blogging. Warm regards, Linda

  5. This is sheer craziness. Even my daughter and her family are staying away out of respect to us “elders.” And I really appreciate it. As far as my pantry goes, i am always well stocked in non-perishables, but I am guilty of owning just about every unique or ethnic spice and seasoning mixture I’ve ever come across. Which I never remember to use. They’re not much help now….

    • I know, it’s madness. Like you, I’m well-stocked, I could probably outlast a zombie apocalypse, but it’s intensely irritating not being able to buy everyday basics like butter and loo roll. Stay well, lovely woman. xxx

  6. I really don’t get the panic buying at all. Especially the paper goods… why? Thankfully no long lines at our local supermarket, but they are running low on some key items like milk. It’s at time like these that I’m grateful to be a “foodie” (even though I hate the term!) I’ve got more food around the house than the two of us could eat through in a month probably. Including, like you, some long forgotten items in the freezer that we will finally get around to eating, if they’re still edible!

    • Yes, it’s not like it’s a diarrhoea epidemic. 😀 The advantage of being a food writer or enthusiastic cook (see, I’m avoiding ‘foodie’) is that we do tend to have a lot of the ingredients that makes any food taste better – and the wherewithal to cook it. One of the things there’s been a run on here has been pot noodles. But each to his/her own.

  7. Hi Linda, as I write this I am sitting here watching the sun rise above the city in Xiamen, China. I watch the BBC and CNN totally bemused, annoyed and sad at what is happening in the UK and elsewhere around the world. I can only agree with everything you had to say above. Since this whole issue started there has been not a sign of any panic-buying here and the shops have all remained well stocked throughout with shortages of nothing. The people, with only one or two exceptions, have behaved stoically throughout and life has gone on pretty much as normal with a few notable exceptions.
    A degree of lock-down and isolation. Our apartment complex closed down to having only one entrance and exit point. Only people who live here were allowed in and out for a while. All deliveries were made to the main gate where we could pop down and pick them up. Everyone living here who produced food of any description made it available to all. The management company delivered bags of fresh vegetables to every family during the tightest of the lock-down. Everyone wears masks even now when they go out and about but the sense of community has been excellent and to date we have had not a single solitary case of the virus. In fact, until a couple of days ago when they started letting people return from abroad the country had been totally free of any new cases for several days.
    Imagine how I start to think when I see the BBC interviewing a bunch of crass American teenagers on the beach during their Spring Break or their equally crass and mentally younger president mouthing-off or pictures of ASDA’s empty shelves and people fighting over toilet rolls….
    I have to look out at the window and calm myself down again while I watch people getting on with life as normal and wonder what I am going to pop out and buy for lunch today.
    If anyone is interested I also have 30kg of home-made Lincolnshire sausages sitting in the freezer at the moment. Slight seconds with splitting skins that I cannot seem to resolve. Stay safe everyone wherever you are

    • Thank you, Malcolm. It’s fascinating to hear how people in other parts of the world are responding, particularly in China. And the rationality and responsibility with which your neighbourhood has responded gives the lie to some of the extremely racist, anti-Chinese remarks I’ve heard in the UK. Thank you and I hope you continue to stay safe and well.

  8. You have made me laugh and then cringe a little since, I think, we began the utterly crazy toilet paper wars here in Australia, being amongst the first to worry about the virus. incredible photos of people coming out of Costco with two trolleyfuls of nought but 32- and 64- packs of such looking as if they had found gold! Friends in England have said they are finding things normalizing . . . here all our supermarket on-line deliveries have been suspended as have some of my rural transport services . . . quo vadis indeed if this has been the only way to reside here for decades . . But, talking of very British sayings as in your title . . . I am old enough to remember WWII . . . would you believe I have been playing Dame Vera Lynn on vinyl and singing ‘When the lights come on again all over the world’ . . . and remembering . . .

    • Hi Eha, I can’t say things are normalising here yet. We’re self-isolating and it’s getting harder and harder to find a delivery slot. Parliament is debating giving the PM emergency powers. I think our government has been criminally slow to respond adequately, but it’s a done deal now, so all we can do is join Vera in a singalong.

  9. Excellent post! I am gutted for you that just as things were picking up you’ve had to put the school on hold. I’m sure it’ll return with gusto! I think you’re right about those who are suggesting recipes to use up stuff: it’s actually in effect no different than just writing a ‘normal’ recipe except that they can’t just go out and buy what they don’t already have. No one can guess what someone has in leftovers or rapidly going off in the limp lettuce drawer of their fridge. It’s better to suggest several alternatives, or provide a list of what foods can be substituted. It *will* all go back to normal soon in the supply chain. My son saw a woman with only tins of tomatoes and nothing else in her trolley at the till… the staff counted them out and put 76 back on the shelf, leaving her with four. Honestly, what are these people eating with these mass single varieties of food? I mean, you know how much I love pasta, but 10kg of plain fusilli? REALLY???? I’m trying not to be judgy on those hoarding but it’s difficult when I know some people who need this stuff who can’t get it. We’ve not hoarded, we’ve only got a small amount of storage space and we’re still doing OK (and I live with three men who have no fat genes and bottomless appetites). Like you say, a few weeks and it’ll be back to normal. Much love and keep the both of you safe.

  10. apart from the great loo paper rush, things haven’t been so very bad here in Australia. i mean we still can’t get everything we want in the shops, but none of us are starving! and easter was a bit grim – stuck at home, instead of going away and eating lots of choc eggs. we had no eggs at all!:( our choice, as we just didn’t feel like it. we are only an hour or so away from the NSW border, and it’s kind of weird and almost funny that we now have police manning the border – and with guns. crumbs. feels like a fascist state. let’s hope it all gets better soon! stay safe.

    • I do worry about the homeless and vulnerable here but generally speaking no-one is starving here either – we just find it harder to get some of the basics now. It does point up how spoilt for choice we’ve been until now – and the potential shortfalls in the food supply chain. A lot of people are finding it easier to find things from small independent shops – let’s hope they continue to patronise them when this is all over. No armed policemen on the border between Suffolk and Norfolk yet (that’s a cue for a local joke if ever I heard one) but the lockdown continues. Stay well, Sherry, good to chat! Lx

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