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Coronavirus: Meal Planning


Let's talk about one of our favorite subjects now - food. People have probably always had the instinct to stockpile food for lean times, and as non-perishable food has become more available, it's easier to do - except that most people really don't. But now, because of the coronavirus outbreak, more and more Americans are facing the challenge of stocking up quickly whether they want to or not because school and workplaces are shutting down. But what to buy, what to cook?

For some guidance, we've called David Tamarkin. He is an editor at the cooking website Epicurious. And conveniently, he recently wrote a piece for the site called "How To Stock Your Kitchen For The Coronavirus Era And Other Emergencies."

And David Tamarkin is with us now. Thank you so much for joining us.


MARTIN: So even before this pandemic led to social distancing, as we are now calling it, you already had an experience with meal planning for an extended period of time - the month of January. Tell me about that. Why did you do that? And tell me about the experience.

TAMARKIN: Well, I've been doing this for five years. It's a resolution I make every year - to cook every single thing I eat in the month of January, so it's three meals a day. I call it high intensity interval cooking because that's what it is.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

TAMARKIN: And the idea is, you know, once the month is done, you've learned all these new skills. You've really grown as a cook.

MARTIN: And, presumably, this involves a lot of meal planning. If you're going to cook three meals a day for a month - and not even a short month, but, like, one of those long months - then there's a lot of planning involved. And to do that, you consulted public health researchers for this article - not just chefs and foodies. Just give us some idea of what they told you.

TAMARKIN: So we talked to a woman named Yona Sipos, who's a professor at the University of Washington School of Public Health. And one of the biggest takeaways I took away from my conversation with her was that you have to have a plan. When you're going into a grocery store with the idea to stock up for two weeks' worth of food, you have to have a plan. You have to have a plan. Otherwise, you're going to grab whatever you see, and then you're going to end up with many, many cans of diced tomatoes...

MARTIN: (Laughter)

TAMARKIN: ...And not know what to do with them. One thing that I will always get at the store no matter if I'm stocking up for, you know, self-isolation or not are beans. I might have a little bit of a bean problem. I'm a member of a bean club.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

TAMARKIN: I get 12 pounds of beans sent to me quarterly from a place in California.

MARTIN: (Laughter) That's, like, for real. You're not even joking, right? You actually do belong to a bean club.

TAMARKIN: I am not...


TAMARKIN: I am not joking.

MARTIN: I didn't even know there was a bean club. Now I feel like I really want to be part of a bean club.

TAMARKIN: Michel, there's a waiting list for the bean club.

MARTIN: Oh, man (laughter).

TAMARKIN: And I have such a problem with the beans that I have to hold twice-a-year bean parties to get rid of the beans.

MARTIN: What is your, like, go-to this-totally-makes-me-feel-better thing to cook when you're kind of sad or self-isolating, as it were?

TAMARKIN: Well, there is one thing that comes to mind, and it is a pantry thing. I'm a toast person. I need toast in the morning. And I actually will eat toast at lunch, and I'll eat toast at night, too. I mean, I just like toasted bread. And I keep my bread sliced and in the freezer because it lasts longer there. And I could just take out a few slices and pop it in the toaster. I also always keep chocolate around.

MARTIN: (Laughter) OK, see?

TAMARKIN: So I combine the two.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

TAMARKIN: So if I'm really feeling low, taking two pieces of toast, taking some chocolate, I'm going to grate the chocolate. I'm going to put the chocolate in between the bread - maybe a smear of jam in there - and I'm going to grill that sandwich like a grilled cheese. But it's grilled chocolate instead.

MARTIN: That...

TAMARKIN: That works.

MARTIN: ...Is what I'm talking about. That's what I'm talking about, OK?


MARTIN: David Tamarkin is an editor at the food website Epicurious. He's also the author of "Cook90: The 30-Day Plan For Faster, Healthier, Happier Meals." And that last recipe, of course, is an emphasis on happier (laughter).


MARTIN: David Tamarkin, thanks so much for talking to us.

TAMARKIN: Thank you.