Once upon a time, when a specific ingredient that I like to include as an “always there” pantry, freezer, or fridge item would be near running out, I’d make a note on my phone to refresh it the next time I went to whatever market I’d typically get it from, whether it was one of the Chinese, Vietnamese, or Thai markets in Chinatown, the Indian/Pakistani markets in Jackson Heights, and so on. I never really thought much about the inability of attaining these items when I wanted them because I knew they were always available. But now, in a time of shelter-in-place when I cannot just hop on the train to Queens or downtown Manhattan, I find myself feeling some of the more minor pains of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s obviously not detrimental. We have a full fridge, freezer, and pantry. We have fresh fruit and vegetables every single day, and if we didn’t, they’d be easy to access with the markets that are walking distance from us. We have food — that’s what’s important, and a good variety at that. It’s more that now, I realize what a luxury it was to be able to readily get my hands on red-fermented cubed tofu, gai lan vegetables, or frozen grated coconut. I had those choices and could act on those choices extremely easily. And now, I don’t. If I want to order some of these things via Mirchi Market or FreshGoGo, the wait time could be anywhere from a week to over a month. This is one of those times when it’s important to use what you have, improvise, and get creative. Or, really, just put off making a particular dish until… whenever this all ends.