I’m writing this on March 17 from Antigua Guatemala. My husband and I are down here and were scheduled to return home to Seattle at the end of March. Seattle, as you know, is like 9/11 Ground Zero with respect to the Coronavirus, and at first, it was very chill and relaxing to be here in Antigua, away from the constant changes related to the virus. However, almost two weeks into our visit the panic hit (for good reason) and all flights and roads and waterways into the country were canceled.
I sat on the phone with United Airlines for three hours the other day, trying to figure out return reservations, and still, no one knows anything for sure. Everything is closed for at least two weeks, all eat-in restaurants are closed, yoga studios and gyms are not open, stores are closed, just pharmacies and banks and the supermarket are still open for shorter hours. No public transportation is available, no one is to be out after 4 pm, no alcohol from 6 pm until 5 am. Lots of rules, not as much panic as in Seattle – but this is just starting here.
These new regulations were announced by the president and began yesterday and we decided not to eat food that we did not personally prepare. I have a teeny weeny kitchen in our rented apartment with three pans, one frypan and maybe 10 utensils. It is enough, really – particularly when I compare what I have to what the poor Guatemalans cook with every single day. I mean, there is electricity in this apartment and I have soap and running water too.
This morning we got up at 5 am and walked to the one large supermarket in town to be there when it opened at 6 am. Last night it was bustling and people’s carts were loaded, not to mention that everyone was standing shoulder to shoulder. No thank you! I took my hand sanitizer and Chlorox wipes and an N-95 mask in case it was crowded. We watched the store unload pallets of canned fish, Coca-cola, laundry detergent and the like. FINALLY at 6 am, we entered and within 20 minutes we had our non-perishables-lots of kinds of rice and grains, several varieties of beans, Corn Flakes (not for me, but for Wayne), eggs, boxed and canned milk to name a few things. We came back, washed our hands for 20 seconds, cleaned all the containers with bleach and water and then realized how tired we felt.
My yoga teacher here did an online (Zoom) yoga class that I followed virtually. I had to manage on our tile floor, but it was just what I needed. Meanwhile, I heard a lot of cupboard doors banging, a lot of chopping, water running, the fridge opening. When I finished my virtual class, Wayne was almost done making chicken soup using the bones and a little meat from a rotisserie chicken along with leftover white beans, fresh carrots, fresh corn kernels from two ears of corn and tomatoes and cilantro and lime and tiny new potatoes and and and. We now have a large pot of this soup – really more of a stew – and I made some couscous to add alongside. What is left of the couscous will turn into a couscous salad with diced veggies, lime and olive oil.
We decided after eating a couple of bowls of the soup that every week that we are self-isolated, we will come up with a different version of vegetable soup. It will be simple, it will not be gourmet, but it will be comforting and nourishing and hopefully keep us healthy until we can fly back to Seattle.
The “recipe” here isn’t really a recipe, but here is how it happened. First, take any bones from a previously cooked chicken and cover them with water by two inches. Add about one tablespoon of water and one teaspoon of pepper. Simmer 45 minutes, and strain. Next, add about two huge peeled and sliced carrots, two cups of diced potatoes (I like mine abut ¾ inch in diameter), three sliced tomatoes (don’t bother to seed and peel-this is a rustic soup), about two cups of trimmed green beans, a cup of fresh corn kernels, two cups of leftover beans if you have them, and a handful of chopped cilantro. Add and simmer another 20 minutes and season with more salt or pepper or cilantro to taste. Make some couscous or rice or barley to add to the soup when you serve it.
Stay healthy and stay safe!