Life in Los Angeles under lock-down

Angelenos are slowly getting used to social isolation. But from fearless chefs to resourceful home cooking, there are plenty of silver linings

32w ago

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From fearless chefs to resourceful cooking, there are upsides to the pandemic

Last week I went to my local Target in West Los Angeles to pick up a few essentials. Most of the shelves were bare: no fresh fruit and veg, nothing in the bread aisle, no frozen goods. And of course, no toilet paper anywhere. There was a tense atmosphere in the air, but the staff were upbeat and helpful.

This scene has played out in communities across the US. And like many Angelenos, it’s taken a while for me to adjust to this new reality: life under coronavirus. It feels like the ground has shifted underneath us, and the ripple effect of the pandemic is being felt everywhere.

Just a few days ago, bars and restaurants across the city were bustling. And now? We’re on virtual lock-down. Eateries have been ordered to shut down across the county of LA, a move that will impact more than 10 million people and businesses. Street food vending has just been banned across the city. Schools and offices are closed; anyone who can work from home is doing so. The streets are empty, and that infamous LA traffic is much quieter.

It’s hard to gauge the mood in the city — especially as most people are practising social isolation, or at least social distancing. I hope we’ve moved past the panic-driven stage of hoarding and gouging, and into… not calm exactly, but something nearer to acceptance.

Earlier this week I walked past one of my favorite coffee shops in the neighborhood (keeping my distance from the handful of other people out on the street). I saw this sign.

That’s a brave and responsible move — sadly, many other small local businesses will not be able to do the same.

Another surreal moment came last night, when I was texting with an Instacart team member. I’d arranged for an online food delivery, figuring it’d be safer than risk spreading the illness (I don’t have any symptoms, but I’m trying to do my bit to flatten the curve and lessen the burden on healthcare providers). Cecilia, who was packing our groceries, was sending me regular updates on all the missing items and empty shelves — even sent a few photos.

The mayor of LA has been reassuring everyone on Twitter that there’s not a shortage of food, but that hasn’t stopped people panic-buying.

I’m very lucky. As a freelance journalist, I work from home already. I have enough food to keep me going while I’m in social isolation. Many others aren’t so fortunate, and I’m constantly grateful to the heroes fighting this thing on the front line — and I don’t just mean healthcare teams, but also the retail staff and restaurant workers who are keeping us fed.

After reading the news for the past week (translation: nonstop doom-and-gloom), I ended up in a pit of hopelessness, wanting to help but with no idea how. I decided enough was enough. I began to actively seek out positive stories and silver linings. And they weren’t hard to find.

In these dark and difficult times, we see what people are really made of. I choose to believe that when the fear-driven self-preservation subsides, what emerges are stories of hope, humanity and compassion. Tales of innovation, creativity and resourcefulness.

This has been particularly true in the food industry. Like chef José Andrés feeding quarantined cruise ship passengers in the Bay Area. Or the Historic Filipino restaurant that converted to a market so people can grab provisions while minimising the virus spread. “We don’t have a choice but to be fearless,” said owner Minh Phan.

And let’s not forget the Hollywood bar that’s delivering DIY cocktail kits for all your quarantini needs. Small businesses and some larger companies (we see you Grubhub) are reacting with grace and dignity in a time of unimaginable uncertainty.

Personally, I’m finding a lot of calm and comfort in cooking. I’m spending my evenings trying out new recipes. (Shout-out to this great thread of quarantine cooking recipes.) And I'm getting resourceful with the pantry ingredients that I do have. Because Instacart had to replace a bunch of my items in that online order, I discovered that *frozen garlic* is a thing. You just pop a clove into the pan as you need it. Thanks for that, covid-19.

It’s easy to despair (not to mention go stir-crazy when we’re all stuck at home) but there are plenty of causes for hope. And ways you can help. When it comes to the food industry specifically, you can buy gift cards, merch and of course, order for delivery (with a bigger than usual tip for your delivery driver, if you’re able). You can also donate to food banks, which have been hard hit by the pandemic. Contact your favorite local eateries, especially family-run businesses, and see how you can help. You can donate to local or regional relief funds (here’s a nationwide relief fund you can donate to).

A big silver lining of the pandemic is realising we actually are all in this together. But some are going to be much harder hit than others, and this is the time to reach out and do what you can.

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Comments (4)

  • Really hope you're ok over there Clare ❤️.

      7 months ago
    • thanks Rachael, doing as well as can be expected! hope things are ok on your end

        7 months ago
  • Pretty much quiet. Reseterautns and cafes are open, but social distancing is advocated. Food deliveries are on from Uber eats etc. However, supermarkets are not delivering on time. Most people are at home and chilling.

      7 months ago
  • The people behave kind of stupid- grab for toilet paper, tissues, sanitizer, canned food, noodles and rice, sugar and flour are out. I was in three supermarkets yesterday and today and no flour. The staff of the supermarket do their best, there is no need to behave like this. But every time some new goods come in, the people run and grab everything (some bloke tried to buy 50 kg of flour, other people start fights). The hardest part for me is, I know I am able to pay for expensive toilet paper. I have enough to eat in my storage, can forget to bake the next days, it is not necessary. I just like to bake. But there are helpless elder people, poor people, can’t pay higher prices, can’t ride to three supermarkets in two days. The universities, schools, kindergarten, most of the shops, most of the offices are closed. We try to live as normal and usual as possible. Go to work, mailing and telephone with customers. No personal contact. The people try to stay at home, when they show intelligence. The other have corona parties, meet with much people as possible. Some remember that there are ill people, elder people, who need help. Some remember they have grandma and grandpa - try to help them, not meeting them. But do the shopping for them. Most people struggle with the problem, where to keep the children, while working. They closed the borders. You see the numbers getting up. Every number is a human. Was everything to late? It is crazy, so unusual, like a bad dream that does not end. I live in the area next to Frankfurt in the middle of Germany. I hope, everything will be good. My thoughts are still with the people around in Europe, Italy and Spain. I hope our political leaders and our medical experts learn - there are Italian people living in our area, they can’t understand why we are acting so stupid. That is the way I see my area. Please stay safe und healthy.

      7 months ago
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