Love in a Time of Quarantine
The last few months have been all about the virus. Having lived through SARS and several other viruses growing up in Singapore, I wasn’t particularly worried at first.
Now, it’s clear the best way to deal with all of this is too impose extreme social distancing measures. Where I live, in San Francisco, we haven’t gone full lockdown the way the European countries and Chinese cities have; we’ve implemented, instead, a ‘shelter in place’ policy. Stay home unless you have to do something essential; activities like walking and biking, doing laundry, going to the bank, are still allowed.
There was of course a run on the supermarkets and grocers. Despite many of my cynical compatriots in Singapore originally attributing this behavior to Singaporeanness (after all, ‘kiasu-ism’ is a known trait of ours, and a way of life), this turned out to be global behavior. Everyone wanted toilet paper, lots and lots of it. Everyone wanted hand sanitizer, masks and disinfectant as well.
We didn’t really do any of this prep until a few days ago. After all, my greatest fear is that I might run out of flavor and of Asian cooking ingredients. So I didn’t really care, until… I saw that tofu was briefly unavailable. That’s when I really started to worry.
As part of my work, I get to be involved in some of the tasks around helping San Franciscans find out more about what’s going on (I lead a few teams, and one of them is in charge of SF.gov, the main city website). It has been impactful to know that the work that we do, that we have done everyday, has contributed towards helping people get timely and accurate information in an easily understood manner. I’m so proud of what we’ve done. In such times (of high stress and anxiety), words really matter: I am a highly anxious person, so I am aware of how sometimes words make all the difference between feeling better and feeling like you’re going to meltdown. We’ve worked to break down complex information, and to ensure that everyone (including those who speak other languages) is able to read this and come away with the sense they know what to expect.
On the home front, being home most of the day with Sabrena and the pets has been fun, although I now wonder if I need a second TV. In times of high anxiety, I binge-play video games to feel better; that’s not logistically friendly in a studio with another person.
Not commuting daily, even if my commute is a 20 minute walk, helps me prep and cook fancier meals. In moments of crisis, I need to know that I have nice food. Spending an hour making something quite elaborate helps me calm down. So far, I have been steaming fish with Nyonya spices, making tempeh and pecel vegetables, many types of soups and congees. I expect to have a huge photo album of ‘quarantine food’ at the end of all this. It is unlikely that album will look anything like quarantine food, as long as I still have access to my butcher, fishmonger and farmer’s market.
Meanwhile, I am depleting my supply of good tea, so I must do something about that.