Valencia – Boots on the Ground

It’s time to start thinking about hunkering down. For most of the children in Spain the schools have been cancelled. This includes universities, elementary schools and infant schools. And more extreme measures are being suggested, with many rapidly coming down the pike.

Our regional vice premier for all of the Valencia Communidad has suggested that all high speed rail service be cancelled. To help stop the proliferation of the Covid-19 virus. Funerals are cancelled. As are weddings. The streets are deserted. The idea of locking down the entire country is being thrown around. The border between Morocco and Spain has been shut down by mutual agreement. And according to reporting in El Pais (the newspaper) the government are stopping porters from bringing goods across the straight of Gibralter. Morocco is instituting their own measures, closing street markets, etc.

And speaking of markets, we realized that we needed to make sure we had enough food supplies and essentials in the house to last a quarantine. In the province of Madrid – the greater area around the capitol city – they are asking people not to leave their homes unless it’s an emergency. So we need to be prepared, as these measures seem to be heading our way. Tonight we headed to our local Mercadona store. And this is what we found.

There was no food left, if you don’t count dried pasta and olive oil. There was no fresh fruits or vegetables. No meats or cheeses. But if you’re a fan of Fanta your pantry will be flush with your favorite drink!

Were we going to give up? No way! We’re not from the Northwest of the US for nothing. Our people are from solid pioneer stock. We can traverse a country – nee’ an entire continent – in a covered wagon, for gods sake! What do you take us for? OK. None of our particular ancestors were in covered wagons. But you get the idea. We lived in Snoqualmie, in the Cascade mountains. We survived being snowed in with no power for a week. With small kids! Wind storms that blew all the power pole in the entire area down. And lightening storms…well, you get the picture. We’re hearty folk.

So we left the Mercadona and walked to the new Consum store. Its the most like a US grocery store and it’s brand new. Most people in Valencia don’t drive to the grocery store. They walk. But this new Consum has an American-style parking lot. And it was packed. Not a good sign for getting the last of the food in this city.

We entered the store with our food stroller. It’s new and shaped like a big bucket. It’s my pride and joy and I was ready for battle. I saw the lines snaking from each check stand. All the aisle were filled with people frantically filling their carts, baskets, trolleys. Suddenly time slowed down. As though everything was in slow motion. I could no longer hear the sound of people talking. I turned to Jeff and nodded. He just stood back. My training kicked it like muscle memory.

Here’s where you’re probably a little confused. What the hell is she talking about. Training? Who trains for this? But it’s a little known gaunlet known as the Nordstrom Employee Sample Sale. Nordstrom is a large luxury retailer in the US. And I spent much of my career working there – first at stores in regions across the country, and then at their corporate headquarters in Seattle. And twice a year they held an employee sample sale for charity. And I was The Queen of the Nordstrom Sample Sale. I even wrote the unofficial rules to assist others, who professed to become overwhelmed when shopping the sample sale, on how they might approach it – as I did – with maximum efficiency. and precision. Like a war. And the most important rules are these:

1 – Take a moment upon entering the room. A deep breath is in order. DO NOT GET OVERWHELMED. You can do this.

2 – Locate the high value items. Don’t get bogged down on the cheap crap. Go for the cashmere, coats, leather and boots. These are your high value items. You’d hit handbags, and then accessories – but only if you have time.

3 – Gather, Gather, Gather – Edit later. Do not let me catch you dithering. If you think you might want it, grab it. You can edit later while you’re in line to check out. But if you don’t take it when you see it, it will be gone when you go back.

4 – Defend your Stash – Do not take your eyes off your stuff. It’s too juicy. Other’s will pounce.

And finally – 5 – Bring your own bags and a Sherpa, cause you aren’t getting all this stuff to your car and then home on your own. I used to bring a set of luggage to the office on Sample Sale days.

So tonight it all came rushing back. High value items were quickly identified. Protein matters so I headed to the meat section. I got the last of the chicken but there was no beef, except some pre-made hamburger patties labeled ‘American Hamburgesa’. I can make spaghetti or lasagna out of those in a pinch. Grabbed 3 packages. Boom!

Then I headed to the ethnic section. Here this means Mexican, Indian and Thai. I scooped up ingredients for Chicken Tikka, enchiladas and Pad Thai. Spaniards don’t generally like super spicy foods so there was plenty. And it goes with the chicken I just scored. Like building a spring wardrobe.

Then I grabbed cheeses of every variety and nabbed the last two litres of leche de Cabra – goat milk. For my morning coffee. Then moved on to the breads, sauces, and finally the fruit and veg. It was pretty picked over but I’ll be able to make do.

Lastly, the bean/lentil section. These are high in iron and fiber. Good in a pinch mixed with some of the last of the frozen veggies I nabbed in the sad freezer section. I can also make a pot of soup – if I get desperate.

I looked up after a solid 20 minutes of surgical shopping. Towards the front of the store I could see Jeff was guarding our cart. I looked around at my fellow shoppers. Some of them were reading labels. What?! Tonight is not the night for dithering (see Rule #3). Tonight is the night for precision and decisive action. People – work with me.

I was sweating and dizzy. I made my way to the check out after realizing my cart and basket looked just like it used to when I shopped with my kids at a Trader Joes on the day before Thanksgiving. We were not going to go hungry. We checked out; there was no way all this was going to fit into my food stroller and I’d have to purchase additional bags.

Then we made our way home. Jeff was quier. I could tell part of the reason he didn’t lock up the shopping stroller and shop with me was because he was a little embarrassed. He saw the Sample Sale look in my eye and he’s seen it before. He wanted no part of it. But walking home he smiled. Like a huntress, I had ensured all of his favorites were there and we are flush for the next 10 days. We might just invite our neighbors over for dinner if it comes to a total lock down. I’m pretty sure I would have made an excellent pioneer or buffalo hunter. I would have owned that prairie. Buffalo meat for everyone. And I feel sure I could have fashioned a stylish coat out of the pelt. That doubled as a blanket on a cold night.

We’re back home now. No reason to leave the apartment for the next week. But all joking aside, I do hope it doesn’t get much worse here with the spread of the virus. Seeing the shelves empty gave me pause. People are hurting. This isn’t a drill and lives are on the line. One thing is for sure, though. I feel sure our supply of humor will hold out among this crisis. and so will the Chicken Tikka Masala. Stay safe out there, my friends.