With the COVID-19 pandemic steadily growing, many states, my own included, have initiated a stay-at-home order. The introvert that I am, this hasn’t been too hard for me, with the exception of eating out and library runs. While not minding the lack of social interaction, I do miss food that isn’t cooked by me, and I miss my frequent trips to the local library. What can I say, I love being surrounded by books. Oh, and being temporarily furloughed (I’m nonessential… who knew?) is also an issue, but to curb my ever-increasing anxiety, I’m ignoring that problem, you know, as one does.
As most of you may know from past entries, my parents were born and raised in the mountains of West Virginia as were their parents before them. Great-Grandma Mooney of Vinegar Valentines fame – among other stories and her husband were also Appalachian born and bred. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here or not while discussing my family, but my mother’s father died in the coal mines when my grandmother was very pregnant with my mom… so she and the kids (my mom and her brother) lived with Grandma Mooney in her house in the ‘holler’. For those of you who aren’t from the south, a holler is a small valley between mountains. Some people would say it’s a hollow, but they would be wrong. There was only one way in and one way out of the holler, and traversing that road was, well, let’s just say that it wasn’t for the faint of heart. Now you know what all those country songs are talking about. You’re welcome.
I can’t help but think that they would do better at this sheltering-in-place gig than the rest of us. I mean, they were nothing if not self-sufficient. Grocery store runs? Nonexistent. Mostly because grocery stores themselves were nonexistent. I was talking to my mother the other day about this very thing and she said that once a month, this one gentleman (the son of a preacher man… hmmm, sounds like a song, if you ask me) would come around to all the houses in their mountain community, which in and of itself was a trek, because it’s not like these were neighborhoods, these folks were spread out – which takes me to the point of social distancing. Since you had to walk a mile or more to see a neighbor, social distancing wasn’t an issue, but I digress. This one gentleman would come around once a month and take your order for items like flour, corn meal, sugar, powdered milk, maybe cereal (puffed wheat) and a pound of bologna if you were lucky. A couple of weeks later, he’d bring the items to you. Where he got them is a mystery, but got them, he did. The flour and cornmeal were always bought in bulk – 50-pound sacks, because everyone made bread, biscuits, and/or cornbread every day. When the stash was gone, it was gone. Then you’d have to wait until the next time he came around. If you wanted eggs or milk, but didn’t have chickens or a cow, you traded or bartered with a neighbor. In most cases, you could simply just ask nicely, and you’d find yourself heading home with a quart of milk and a couple of eggs. If you’ve even glanced at the news the past few days, you’d see that today’s masses are hoarding toilet paper, bread, Excedrin, and frozen vegetables. We’re a narcissistic society born of selfishness and greed. But back in the day, people shared what they had, at least in the hills where my parents grew up.
Throughout my mother’s childhood, my family raised chickens, pigs, and what my mother calls a vegetable garden, but was actually more like a mini-farm. Along with burying certain harvested vegetables like potatoes and cabbage (I found out recently from my mother, that this was a thing, and not only that, it worked perfectly to preserve these provisions), my grandmother canned vegetables, fruit, and homemade soup to put up in the root cellar. In addition to canning fruit of all kinds, she dried apples too, since that kept well. She did this all summer long to ensure they had food through the fall and winter when the growing season was long over. Since they didn’t live on veggies alone, my grandmother also put up canned beef, homemade sausage, and salted-down bacon… it was their only source of meat in the winter.
Quarantine? Hell, it would just be like December for them, only warmer.