When the Gulf War ended in February 1991, I remember our collective feeling of relief – and my family’s creeping dread. The dread was because our store-room still boasted two dozen cans of Cream of Lentil soup, bought as emergency rations in the nearby supermarket within hours of the war being declared.
None of us knew what to buy or whether we should stock up on foodstuff. So we filled our car petrol tanks and the boot with anything edible that would last at least six months.
When I visited the neighbourhood hypermarket yesterday, it felt like déjà vu. The streets outside were deserted because of the Coronavirus scare but the aisles of the store were heaving with people shovelling supplies into trolleys as if preparing for Armageddon.
Shoppers were not only picking up supplies that they regularly used in their households but checking out each other’s trolleys and adding stuff that they saw in other people’s shopping lists. A friend was near the check-out counter when she saw a trolley with tetra packs of long-life milk and rushed back to get half a dozen before she remembered that she didn’t need them because she was vegan and lactose-intolerant.
Strange retail behaviour is affecting shoppers. Yes, you must keep hand sanitizers in stock but do you really need enough to fill a couple of bath-tubs? Frozen food needs a freezer and will not last in the refrigerator, so it’s really no use buying industrial quantities of it unless your home has an industrial-size freezer.
In many other ways, this pandemic has shown how quickly we can adapt to challenging circumstances. So many schools have started virtual classrooms so that this enforced vacation does not affect students.
In fact, it is the parents who are finding it more difficult to adapt. One parent complained that she was forced to miss her daily television soap because it clashed with her child’s online study time and the school had set ‘parental guidelines’ that the child should not be distracted.
Fathers are getting a close-up experience of exactly how ‘hands-on’ moms are in child care and it’s leaving them awed. All this enforced family time is going to change family bonds too – just as scientists predict ancient climate conditions by studying tree rings, sociologists will probably see patterns of changed behaviour emerging a couple of decades from now and trace it to throwback ‘old-fashioned’ relationship patterns during this period.
We need to learn to trust the government more – the Bahrain government has done an exceptional job of containing the threat and treating patients of the virus so far.
I understand from sources that at any given time, the kingdom always has a year or more’s worth of essential dry goods for the whole population and enough perishables to last at least five months – mind you, Bahrain has not stopped inflow of vegetables and fruits and food supplies as far as I know and there is really no question of perishables running out.
However, as responsible residents, we have to carefully monitor use of our food sources so that food waste is reduced and we can make even this quantity go farther.
At least, I’ve learnt my lesson from the Gulf War – I did not go to the soups aisle at all, this time.