Boomer Unchained: Shopping for Healthy Food During the Pandemic
The shocking rush of masses of shoppers into the supermarkets in coastal Delaware around St. Patrick’s Day weekend made me take a hard look at how I was going to do my food shopping.
The fear of COVID-19 had set in for me a few days earlier after hearing scary warnings from my friend’s daughter-in-law who is a physician in Boston. We had not heard anything on the news about Boston. We were just hearing about New York. And, though Delaware had announced its first case March 11, there were no cases in Sussex County, and the beach area felt safe. Clearly, people jamming the Route 1 corridor from metro areas in other states that weekend knew more than we did.
I decided not to go to a supermarket if I didn’t absolutely have to, and turned to local farmers I was familiar with from Lewes Farmers Market, as well as to a local bakery and a local market, to see what they had to offer.
The result has been a pleasant surprise in enjoying meals made of mostly fresh (And I mean “fresh,”) vegetables, eggs, yogurt, freshly made pasta and pasta sauces, fresh quiches and meat pies, chicken, meats and fish. I have eaten almost no prepared foods, boxed foods or frozen ones. Occasionally, I have done a local restaurant, curbside takeout.
I started out with the Hattie’s Garden off-season program. First of all, Hattie’s small farm is around the corner from where I live, and I’ve known her for years at Lewes Farmers Market. You can order from her each week, and she carries all kinds of items from other local, family-owned producers, including jams and jellies, honey, and freshy prepared foods. It was a surprise each week to see what vegetables were available as early spring evolved. I made collard greens for the first time, and a soup out of the carcass of a chicken raised on a small farm. The chicken was a three pounder and it didn’t have any of that extra, yellow fat you find on chickens you get in the supermarket. I roasted it first for a couple of meals, and then used the bones to make a soup I made from recipe in a traditional Jewish cook book.
I reached out to Nice Creamery, a family owned Delmarva dairy in Maryland, and suddenly was receiving eggs from free-range chicken and the most delicious butter I’ve ever had. No offense supermarkets, but nothing in those refrigerated cabinets matches eggs straight from a farm.
Once April rolled around, Fifer’s Orchards was delivering into the coastal area a couple of times a week – or at least that’s when I found them. I ordered online, paid online with a credit card, and then did a curbside pickup at their place in Dewey Beach. Not a practice I am used to, but one that brought about rewards with wonderful vegetables.
Though I have shopped at Old World Breads in Lewes before (I remember when it opened years ago), the pandemic got me to shop there in earnest. Only instead of walking in and studying all the goodies before me, I had to study the menu online, call ahead, pay with a credit card, and then do a curbside pickup before 1 p.m. when they closed for the day.
I began discussing with friends about where else to shop locally. Some get their bread at the Station on Kings Highway. Others get fresh bread at Heirloom Restaurant. Many get vegetables from Ray’s Produce and Flowers, which normally operates out the Brush Factory in Lewes. In order to buy from her, you send her a text and she sends you what is available for that week. I had a problem being able to read the list on my iPhone, however, and a few friends chided me for that.
“We have to keep her in business,” I was told.
In this article, I have only touched the tip of the iceberg of all the local farmers in southern Delaware, and on the peninsula for that matter, where we can buy fresh food. While I am most familiar with the Lewes area, I know that there are many farmers around the other small towns that dot the peninsula who sell directly to consumers. We have to support them. Many have actually told me that selling to consumers have helped them ‘save their farms.’
Lloyd’s Market in Lewes carries many fruits and vegetables that are grown all around county. At the height of the pandemic, Lloyd’s only let 10 people at a time into the little store, and everyone was wearing masks. I felt safe in there, and appreciate the efforts the owners and their employees have made for the community.
This shopping experience has changed how I will shop in the future. No matter what happens with this pandemic, or how long it takes us to create a new lifestyle in which we move forward, I will always support the local, family owned farms. They are a gift to all of us living on Delmarva.
Websites for more information:
This website gives information about farmers markets in Delaware. If you click on each market website, you also will see which farmers and food producers sell through the market.
This website gives some general information about what is grown in Delaware.
I also am including a link to farmers markets in Maryland.