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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #130

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.


Being Close in the Distancing

"Social distancing." I wonder who came up with that catch-phrase? How politically correct, how succinct, and how empty and sad.

I am a dichotomy. On one hand, I tend to be a bit of a loner. I'd much rather stay at home than go on a road trip. I'm not comfortable speaking in front of groups or even mingling at a party.

But I'm also an unabashed talker one-on-one with people. Much to the horror of my daughter, I strike up conversations in the grocery store with people in the check-out line. I converse with the bakery assistant, I toss jokes back and forth with the clerk in the meat department, and the produce manager and I are on a first-name basis.

And I can't do that now. We all need to keep our distance from one another. The mantra (with which I totally agree) is to assume that everyone you meet is infected with Covid-19. The better we are at keeping our distance, the sooner this horrible plague on our physical/social/economic/mental well being will be in the rear-view mirror.

But the loneliness is starting to creep in. When I go for a walk, I pass by people walking their dogs (many more than I saw a few weeks ago), but we now automatically move to our edge of the sidewalk to maintain that 6-foot perimeter. I don't shop at the grocery stores (grocery on-line order and pickup has become my new normal), and I haven't seen my next door neighbors in three weeks other than to wave to each other as they drive by.

What can we do to stay connected and erase the feeling of isolation?

  • Call someone on the phone. Surprise them with the blessing of actually hearing your voice.
  • If you have kids at home (home-schooling), weave "writing a letter" (not a text or instant message) into their curriculum.
  • Use a video chat to reach out to family far away
  • Find a way to volunteer. Reach out to local charities and ask how you can best support them with your time, keeping safety in mind. You can also search online for volunteer opportunities in your area. Helpful things that you can do safely from home in support of a nonprofit’s mission could include everything from assisting with grant-writing or serving as a crisis counselor on a hotline service. Nonprofits are also making adjustments to help keep volunteers safe—for example, meal delivery services for the elderly may move to a system of leaving a meal on a doorstep instead of bringing it inside. Yet they may still not have enough volunteers to meet all the need, and you could fill an important gap if you were able to safely take on some of those necessary tasks.
  • Sew masks. This one is very personal to me. I have two grand nieces who are nurses and they cannot get enough PPE (personal protection equipment) masks for their daily routines. If you have a stash of fabric scraps, you don't need Martha Stewart-like sewing skills. Here's a link for making masks for the everyday workers in the medical profession. These aren't for staff dealing with Covid-19 patients, but will help those taking care of the other day-to-day patients such as mothers giving birth.

Let's Begin

Let's get started with today's mailbox. If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.

Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.

I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.

Dry goods in the pantry

Dry goods in the pantry

How to Prep a Pantry for Disaster

The first question comes from Mary (Blond Logic) in Brazil.

"What would you say, is the best way to prepare, food-wise, for something like this (the Covid-19)? Keep in mind, my freezer is tiny. Our stores here are still well-stocked."

My husband and I had a conversation about this very thing over our morning coffee. We are reaching a point where the stash in our pantry and freezer (we have a large one) is starting to dwindle. We have not gone to a grocery store in 3 weeks. We have placed 3 online orders (the store employees select and bag your purchase for you and bring it out to the car). But there are some things that they will not shop for (fresh meat and frozen foods).

We are going to be VERY careful tomorrow and venture into a store. What should you do if you have limited freezer space? I know that we rely too much on meat as a source of protein. I would put these on my shopping list.

Spices to have on hand: cinnamon, black pepper, cumin, coriander, chili powder, smoked paprika, powdered garlic, powdered onion

Dry GoodsSeasoningsEverything Else



olive oil

split peas

spices (see below)

canned tomato products



frozen vegetables


soy sauce

frozen fruits

dried pasta


frozen juice concentrate

brown rice

curry paste and/or sriracha

butter (you can freeze it)

rolled oats

Worcestershire sauce

cheese (not soft or semi-soft)


lemon juice

marinara sauce


onions and garlic

ground meat

powdered milk

fresh ginger

chicken (whole or pieces)

A few more pointers:

  • Of course, you can buy canned beans (and it's always good to have a few on hand) but if you cook them yourself they have a better texture, way more flavor, you can control the amount of sodium, and they are much less expensive.
  • I tend to shy away from canned vegetables because they are typically high in sodium and lacking in nutrients.
  • If you are considering fewer shopping trips, use meat as more of a garnish rather than the star of the show. Focus on whole grains and vegetables. Use herbs and spices (not salt) to perk up the flavors and make your foods interesting.
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Trouble With Plastic (Saran) Wrap

"Although not politically or environmentally correct, I still use plastic wrap to cover items before putting them in the fridge. We don't have a serrated metal strip on our boxes and I am forever trying to unroll it using a fingernail edge. Sometimes I end up with half of it rolling and tearing and the other is still stuck. Have you got a kitchen hack for this? I have tried rolling it backwards to get a ridge and also inserting a piece of paper to help."

Mary, I use plastic wrap too, but ours always comes with a metal strip to aid in cutting it (but it isn't infallible). It sounds like the most pressing problem for you is that the wrap sticks to itself (until, of course, you actually want it to stick). The best method of taming the beast is to store it in the refrigerator or the freezer. Keeping it cold seems to do the trick.

Now, although you didn't specifically ask, it is possible to purchase plastic wrap dispensers from Amazon (they work for wax paper and foil too). The price range is $15 to $20. I hope that helps.

Lady beetle (ladybug) having lunch

Lady beetle (ladybug) having lunch

Garden Insect Pest Control

"Based on your edible flower and mentions of gardens I have a straight-up question so as to make my food healthy -- what do you use for pesticide?"

Eric, I don't use pesticides. Ever. I do what I can to encourage the "good bugs." We have a pond and so dragonflies love it here. Ladybugs and ants do cleanup work too, especially on aphids. And remember, a blast of water from the hose is enough to kill some of the nasties.

We're Organized

Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.

Here's a link to that Table of Contents.

I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.


Let's do this again next week. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address:

And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.

© 2020 Linda Lum


Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 05, 2020:

Eric, you are always challenging me, and I love you for that. When we stop growing we stop being alive. The lemon thing? Wow that's a great topic. It's too late for tomorrow's Q&A, but I'll having something for you in a week, OK?

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 05, 2020:

On that wrap issue -- like Bill it drives me crazy. My wife tired of my crazy bought an industrial size box/roll. I just love it.

Bugs, two weeks absent at this spring time of our year and now it is the weeds.

Now my sister told me that lemon was found to be as good of a disinfectant regarding virus's as alcohol. Vitamin C is one thing but lemons have the whole thing. So I have a lot of lemons. What do you do with a squeezed lemon. Zest? Pulp?

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on April 04, 2020:

I guess I'll have to look into that. I remember calling my mom cheap when she tried to wash and reuse plastic bags and aluminum foil. Now I wonder if I shouldn't take notes. I have started foraging for wild greens for my salad. That's something I didn't think I would do on a regular basis before.



Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 04, 2020:

Funny you should mention the rationing. I have one of my Dad's ration books. But my perspective is that the rationing was a good thing, not only because it gave everyone a way to contribute to the war effort. There was recycling of toothpaste tubes, foil, etc. too.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on April 04, 2020:

I was surprised to see the whole wheat flour gone. There was still some all-purpose flour on the shelf but no whole wheat. Isn't that remarkable? I too haven't been in the market for a month but I had to go get some money orders so it was a necessity to walk inside. On the upside, there was a new stock of TP on the shelves, limit one per customer. If you are like me, you remember your parents talking about the rationing of food and paper products during the war. I remember thinking that must have been tough but I could only imagine. Suddenly I don't have to imagine anymore. It's downright annoying.



Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 04, 2020:

Hi Denise. Yes, I too buy as much as I can at the bulk food section, but I have heard that it is closed. You see, I haven't set foot in my store in over a month, and the Governor just extended the order for another month. I've been ordering food (mostly fresh produce) online and then picking up at a designated spot in the parking lot. I am down to almost zero flour. There is simply none to be found.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on April 03, 2020:

When plastic wrap gets me down I just pull out the scissors. I'm glad you encourage the good bugs. I did too. As for pantry staples, I just came back from the store today and I was pretty disappointed that they have closed the bulk food section. Most of my seasonings and staples I get there so I'm not happy. Do you shop in the bulk food section normally?



Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on March 31, 2020:

Hi Sha, thanks for answering my question. The bootheel of MO isn't very far, about an hour's drive from the foothills of the Ozarks where I grew up. It is Southern in customs if not otherwise. I'm sure we have a lot of foods in common.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 31, 2020:

MizB, I'm a transplant but have lived in Florida since 1976. I was originally born in Texas but wasn't there very long. My birth father was an Air Force pilot, so we moved quite frequently while my mom was married to him. They divorced when I was six. We lived in California at the time. Mom moved my brother and I to York, PA where a few of her brothers and sisters lived. She met my Dad, they married and we moved to Philly, which is where he's from. They had my sister a few years later. We moved to Jersey just before my freshman year in high school. They moved to Florida after my graduation and followed a year later.

BTW, my mom is from Kennett, Missouri, which is in the boot heel across the river from Nashville. That has a lot to do with the comfort foods I enjoy and my Southern-ness. I know Missouri isn't considered the south, but their accent says otherwise.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 31, 2020:

Sorbet would be great if it ever warms up. We had hail yesterday the size of shelled peas.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on March 30, 2020:

Hi, Linda, you and Sha tickle me. One of her posts sounds like a true Southerner, lol. I have to ask if she is a Florida native or a transplant. Anyway, thanks for the hint about "saran wrap" (note the small "s"). We've already worn out two of those dispensers you mentioned. My brother gave them to me for Christmas one year.

I need to check your list against my pantry. Our freezer is a small upright, and I've already decided to clean it out and do some discarding to make room for more practical items. Like some frozen watermelon waiting to be made into sorbet -- that kind of stuff. Sweet kitty today, my friend.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 30, 2020:

Oh Sha, I love you too. Just kidding.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 30, 2020:

Linda, I don't have that luxury. My company is still in operation, so I'm working five days a week.

Keep an eye on those skinny fingers, Sis!

P.S. I could never hate you! What's wrong with you, woman?!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 30, 2020:

Shauna, please don't hate me (too much). I've been writing up a storm. (If exercise helps one lose weight, my fingers should be toothpick-size). If I publish one Hub article per week which is my norm (I'm not counting the weekly Q&A) I have enough articles set aside to last until July 21. Yes, if you count on your fingers and toes that's 16 articles.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 30, 2020:

Linda, this social distancing thing is so depressing. Although I'm pretty much a homebody, I'm also a hugger. Not being able to be me is messing with my psyche, so I've been making a lot of comfort food lately. Last week I made my mac and cheese with tomatoes. Yesterday I made fried pork chops (I shallow fry in grape seed oil), mashed potatoes, and asparagus. I think a lot of people are stress eating and/or reaching for those old time favorites that remind them of family and friends.

I was thinking this morning about everyday items we use that we still call by the brands we grew up with. For instance, the tissues you blow your nose with are called kleenex (at least that's what I call them). The powdery stuff you scrub a sink with is called Ajax, and that pesky plastic wrap is not-so-lovingly referred to as Saran wrap.

Funny, the things that pop into your mind when you have too much time to yourself, huh?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 30, 2020:

Flourish, I'm done with my 90-day trial subscription to 2020. I'm canceling my order and asking for a refund.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 30, 2020:

That well stocked pantry was exactly what I’ve been wondering. The virus is really starting to hit my area. My sister is a nurse practitioner with the health department and today is testing a bunch of residents of a local nursing home. Very sad.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 30, 2020:

Thanks Mary. BTW, yesterday I wrote an article on Covid-19. You might find some of the links helpful. Take care.

Mary Wickison from USA on March 30, 2020:

Hi Linda,

It looks like I did pretty well for shopping then, other than quinoa (it's pricey here) and I'm not sure I'd know what to do with it.

I've two packs of butter in the freezer as well as 3 packs of cheese.

I never thought of putting the plastic wrap in the fridge, I'll give it a go or head over to Amazon. Thanks.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 30, 2020:

Thank you Ann; yes this is definitely a strange time. I am seeing more people out walking their dogs than ever before. I hope my list helps others

Ann Carr from SW England on March 30, 2020:

This is great and fits perfectly with our current situation world-wide.

I find that although people are keeping their distance, many more are saying hello, even if they're shouting it across the road!

Family is the hardest to be away from, as I'm lucky enough to go to their houses often. Thank goodness for the internet and FaceTime etc. At least I can still see them and talk 'face to face'.

Your list of basic groceries is a great help. Thank you.


Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 30, 2020:

Pamela, yes that was my intent, and to also focus on using seasonings (other than salt) to flavor our foods. Thanks for stopping by. Stay healthy my friend.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 30, 2020:

Bill, yes I did get your question and I'm still working on an answer. Please don't feel rejected. You are very special.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 30, 2020:

Saran wrap drives me crazy, and that is never a good thing.

Did you get my question about deep fried foods? I'm feeling rejected here in this social distancing world. lol

Be safe and have a Happy Monday!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 30, 2020:

Your article has good information for food that can be stored for a long time. I like your pest control methods as well.

I hope you have a good week, and stay healthy.

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