Last night several friends and I used Zoom to gather for apéritifs—called apéro here in France. We’ve only been on lockdown for less than a week, and we already feel isolated, especially those of us who live alone. The Zoom party turned out to be a fine way to connect with our friends, hear each others’ stories, ask questions, and drink a toast to each other. < Clink! >
I’ve just read that people have various names for this phenomenon, and my new favorite is “Coronapéro.”
One thing that was discussed was feeling vulnerable when going out to get groceries. Several folks agreed that, given that we have no idea how many hands have touched any given item in the store, we have no idea how much of the virus is snaking around our own supermarket. The proliferation of masks, gloves, and the plastic shields that now barrier the cashiers is both a good safety tool and a constant reminder of the risk. All of us who talked about it said that we couldn’t wait to get back home; it’s certainly the place where I feel the safest.
The day after my last post, I decided to try my luck at grocery shopping. I dutifully filled out my attestation form, got in the car, and headed for the market, with a stop along the way to borrow some hand sanitizer from a friend. Oh, and he gave me lessons in how to sanitize and what to touch with which hand (one hand for surfaces at and around the store, the other hand for food), and really, a lot of it flew right out the window because I’m not used to doing this.
Here’s what it was like. The roads were a dream, empty and easy to drive. In the whole trip, I only saw one gendarme with a car pulled over. The two stores I visited were well-stocked with nearly all that I needed; one is a store that specializes in fresh food (produce, meat and fish, dairy, and a few packaged foods), and the other is an organic shop where I hoped to find a few key ingredients. What I did not visit was a standard supermarket, because the two I went to both had long lines, and I decided I could wait for the few things remaining on my list.
That was the good part. The less-good part was that at the first stop, I waited in a long line in the parking lot for 25 minutes, each of us standing two meters apart and looking a bit glum. They were letting around six people into the store at a time, although that number seemed to grow by the time I paid and left. And there was quite a variety of approaches to staying safe: some people had masks but no gloves; others the reverse. I didn’t see anyone besides me who wiped down the handle of the cart. But really, when it comes to stuffing a large head of red oak-leaf lettuce into a bag, what is the protocol? I don’t know, so I did my best. I’m grateful that I always keep a box of latex gloves in my house. Oh, and no cash at the grocery store, which I knew, but the woman ahead of me did not. There was a lot of arm-waving and a stress-laden exchange of words, and finally the cashier relented, albeit reluctantly and with a roll of her eyes.
I came home and put away my groceries, pondering this strange new life I’m living. And it’s about to get stranger, as the lockdown is soon to become more stringent and will last much longer than they’d originally said. This is a surprise to no one (see the cartoon below), but it still feels harsh.
There are two things I’m consuming regularly to help boost my immunity: warm water with lemon and master tonic.
Warm water with fresh lemon juice is a great thing to drink first thing in the morning. Its health benefits are many and varied: it helps to balance the body’s pH (which in turn lowers inflammation); it’s an excellent cleanser for the liver, which is usually overburdened; it gives a digestive kick start; it helps fight respiratory infections; it can help with weight loss; it boosts the immune system with Vitamin C. Apparently it makes you smarter, too.
A few things will make this more successful:
- Use warm water, not cold.
- Juice a fresh lemon, rather than using the stuff that comes in a lemon-shaped plastic container.
- Crucial: this is the first thing down your throat in the morning, before coffee or anything else is swallowed.
I first learned about master tonic around 15 years ago, when we went into a hip café for lunch, and there was something called “Flu Shot” on the menu. I asked what it was, heard the description, and ordered it right then. It’s called Flu Shot because the ingredients are known to boost immunity in a variety of ways and also to be antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal. I have friends who call it Fire Cider, which you will see is an apt name for these ingredients!
Flu Shot is essentially a liquid tonic that has been lacto-fermented; the ingredient list for my recipe is turmeric, ginger, hot chiles, horseradish root, onion, garlic, lemon, dandelion leaves, basil leaves, black peppercorns, and apple cider vinegar (I prefer to use the live version that includes the mother). The food is chopped and fermented in a salt brine for 7-21 days; then the liquid is strained off and the cider vinegar is added for preservation. You can find a variety of recipes online by searching for “master tonic.”
Beware: this stuff is potent, and it will add a noticeable smell to the fridge! But I consider that a small price to pay for the powerful immune boost I get from it. Plus I love the spicy taste.
Here’s another one from my friend Sophie. Merci, Sophie !