How The Coronavirus Has Turned Me Into Elaine From ‘Seinfeld’
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SEINFELD, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Season 7. 1990 - 1998. (c) Columbia TriStar Television/ Courtesy: Eve
Columbia TriStar Television/Courtesy Everett Collection
Coronavirus

How The Coronavirus Has Turned Me Into Elaine From ‘Seinfeld’

Is he 'spongeworthy'? Is this three 'eggsworthy'?

In the past few weeks, baking has been an excellent distraction from the news.

Although I am a novice baker, I have been pretty impressed with most of my culinary creations. I’ve made fantastic cookies, breads and blondies. But last week, I made popovers and they came out so bad, I almost cried.

I wasn’t upset the popovers were inedible or because 10 minutes after I took them out of the oven, they deflated and resembled post-coital flaccid appendages. What made me teary was the fact that I wasted three eggs on this recipe and two equally precious cups of flour!

Remember the Seinfeld episode when the contraceptive sponge was being discontinued? Elaine had stockpiled a dozen, but didn’t want to waste them on any guy who wasn’t “spongeworthy.”

The pandemic has turned me into Elaine — not about sponges but about groceries.

When I look at a recipe, I ask myself, “Is this three eggsworthy?” or, “Is this two cups of flourworthy?” There have been many recipes I have dismissed outright because I just couldn’t take the risk.

I thought the popovers were worth the investment of my limited egg supply. I have never had my trust so betrayed by a baked good.

We have all seen the pictures of the half-empty grocery store shelves. Toilet paper, Clorox bleach and Purell are still hard to find. Other items — like flour, eggs, dishwashing detergent and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese cups (yes, I let my kid eat those; and clearly, I’m not the only mom who does!) — have been elusive. And of course, as with anything that plays “hard to get,” it makes you only want it more.

Like many people, I have been avoiding the supermarket altogether and relying on a grocery delivery service. While it's an excellent service, securing a delivery time is like calling in for tickets to a Springsteen concert in the 1980s. But instead of getting a busy signal and having to redial, you are hitting your computer refresh over and over again.

I’ve become obsessed. I check first thing in the morning, throughout the day and one more time before I go to bed. Please, please, I think as I wait and the boldfaced NO DELIVERY TIMES AVAILABLE appears. Refusing to give up, I check another store. Costco? Target? ShopRite? Fairway? Is there even a Fairway in my state?

When I finally do get a slot, I am elated! I have been known to fist pump and shout a “Yes!” like I just scored the winning goal for my team. My family has mocked my enthusiasm (the same family that asks me “What is there to eat?” 10 times a day), but I don’t care. In these stay-at-home times, securing a grocery delivery IS a high point for me.

Unfortunately, the grocery delivery service can be fickle. I've had a few orders canceled on me at the last minute without being given a reason. It’s disappointing. It reminds me of having a blind date. You get all dolled up and fantasize about the future. (In this case, though, instead of putting on makeup the prep is clearing fridge space, and the fantasy is all the ways you can prepare the chicken.)

And then he doesn’t show up, and it’s heartbreaking. I think, Why would he agree to a day and time and then dump me for no reason? I saw your truck at Susan's across the street. What does she have – or did she order — that made you choose her over me?

For the most part, the grocery delivery service has been a reliable resource. Seeing my no-contact delivery of goodies on my stoop is like being a kid on Christmas morning. Score! I got flour! I really wanted a cantaloupe! Frozen shrimp! Wow, somebody loves me!

In a pandemic, the adage, “You get what you get, and you don't get upset,” is put to the test.

Just like all the kids that wanted Tickle Me Elmo in 1996, not everyone can get the paper towels or the Brussels sprouts. It’s important to be appreciative of whatever the grocery delivery service brings you to eat. Yes, even when they substitute saltines for matzo or send some odd-looking chickpea crisps instead of the salt and vinegar chips you ordered.

In all seriousness, I am truly grateful. Hardworking grocery store and delivery service employees (as well as all of the other essential workers) across the country are going to work every day. These selfless people make it possible for the rest of us to stay home and stop the spread of COVID-19.

And while food shopping is more stressful in a pandemic, I am fortunate that my family is not going hungry. On March 31, Monica Hakes, senior research manager at Feeding America, wrote, “While changes taking place are disrupting the lives of nearly everyone in some way, food-insecure individuals — who numbered 37 million (11.5 percent) in 2018 — will face particular challenges, and the number of people who experience food insecurity is expected to grow.”

If you do go to the grocery stores, be patient, courteous and say thank-you to everyone who works there. If you use a delivery service, tip generously. And regardless of how you shop, if you can afford to, put a few extra nonperishables in your cart to donate to a local food bank.

To find your nearest food bank or to donate financially to help those in need, go to feedingamerica.org.

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