"Ten Things I’m Going to Make When This Is Over"
April 15, 2020 5:41 PM   Subscribe

Four years after writing "So Much Cooking" (previously), a sci-fi short story in the form of a recipe blog updated during a fictional pandemic, Naomi Kritzer reflects on its eerie similarity to the real one. posted by pmdboi (33 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
good heavens. I read portions of the story to my wife out loud, informing her that it was a fictional tale written a decade ago, and when the blogger’s sister fell ill she yelled “she can’t get sick” and when she died she said “SHE DID NOT” and wanted to send money to the GoFundMe, whereupon I reminded her that this was fiction written a decade ago. Then I told her about the bunny.
posted by mwhybark at 5:59 PM on April 15, 2020 [9 favorites]

I’m glad that it was only rabbits

(Of course my mind went there)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:14 PM on April 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

2015 is not a decade ago. It just seems that way.
posted by hippybear at 6:36 PM on April 15, 2020 [21 favorites]

sure as hell feels like it at this point
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:38 PM on April 15, 2020 [11 favorites]

posted by Greg_Ace at 6:38 PM on April 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

So Much Cooking is the reason I am as prepared as I am for this quarantine. Food wise, at least. Feeding people is my standard response to crisis anyway, so on that front, i am so fucking ready. Otherwise? For everything else besides the food? Not so much.
posted by notoriety public at 6:48 PM on April 15, 2020 [5 favorites]

But even shelf-stable goods have expiration dates; they also take up space. I resisted the temptation.

“I think we have hit the point where doing some minor nonperishable stockpiling is prudent rather than alarmist,” I wrote to my spouse on February 25th of this year

This is amazing, I was trying to do this same calculus around this same time; I was helped somewhat by that post on the Blue about stocking up at the end of January. I kind of wish I had read this story before so I had more motivation cause I feel like I was too worried about if I should stock up or not I wound up not doing it.
posted by bleep at 7:51 PM on April 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

She also has a new story in Tor, Little Free Library (it's a lot cuter than So Much Cooking, not quite as cute as Cat Pictures Please)

I made the mistake of reading So Much Cooking in early March. Haven't been able to get it out of my head since.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:30 PM on April 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

Also watching Sarah Pinsker go from 'haha this kind of sounds like my novel' to 'oh no. this sounds too much like my novel' to 'oh god, I'm sorry, virtual concerts are Good Actually' . . . certainly has been a thing.

(I preordered Song for a New Day on the strength of Sarah Pinsker's short stories but didn't get around to reading it before everything started, uh, don't know when I'll have the stomach for it now.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:33 PM on April 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

This was very well-written but rather upsetting in the present circumstances, and I wish I hadn't read it. Well, I wish I'd read it six months ago, instead of now. God, that plucky American blogger voice, saying YOU GUYS as the world falls down around her.

It also made me miss Disgruntled Housewife. Blogs in general, really.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:42 PM on April 15, 2020 [5 favorites]

Yeah, I read this when it was posted here, and it was both good and rather prescient.

I suspect pandemic fiction will Not Be A Thing for a generation to come. Stephen King was on Twitter the other day apologizing that we have to live through one of his stories.
posted by Harald74 at 10:15 PM on April 15, 2020 [10 favorites]

The only difference is we have plenty of food. Our sci-fi dystopia ends up slightly worse though, with Amazon taking over the planet. But at least we get pancakes.
posted by iamck at 10:29 PM on April 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

Stephen King did an entire hour of Fresh Air apologizing for his pandemic fiction. Found in the places you would expect.
posted by hippybear at 10:31 PM on April 15, 2020

An interesting thing that I haven't seen anyone talking about is that So Much Cooking is a prepper narrative. It fits in exactly with the, idk, folk mythology, of preppers and homesteaders and people-who-can-and-sew.

I grew up hearing stories like it, down the the plucky informal can-do tone and killing local wildlife to make broth for sick family members.
posted by Ahniya at 10:36 PM on April 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

You grew up over the past 5 years hearing stories about this short story?
posted by hippybear at 10:40 PM on April 15, 2020

Oh no, wait, you grew up with a preppier narrative. I get it now. Sorry for my confusion.
posted by hippybear at 10:42 PM on April 15, 2020

LOL, no worries!

It was wild to have people praise an, admittedly excellent, example of the folk tales I grew up with as a sci-fi story.
posted by Ahniya at 10:47 PM on April 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I read a thing recently (I can't possibly google to find it) about how preppier narratives are all fairly specific and how many who have Scenario 1 in mind can't imagine Scenario 9 and so their preps fall short. I don't know how true this is, but most prepares I know (I live in Eastern Wa close to the ID Panhandle) seem to have drawn a very specific narrative.
posted by hippybear at 10:55 PM on April 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Hm. Possibly the more fringe elements are like that? The groups I was / am in treat being ready for a variety of scenarios as just part of how to manage life, with an emphasis on everyone having basics and then people sharing resources in case of serious disaster. The narratives range from personal disasters like job loss to community-wide ones like natural disasters or disease. But we don't have many hardcore society-will-end types.
posted by Ahniya at 11:08 PM on April 15, 2020

At this point - consider, Barbara Kingsolver, "Unsheltered" - she describes/discusses the youngest child - no completed qualification - but knows how to knit socks; repair; maintain what there is

My two eldest children are a teacher and an engineer. And they are learning to read the vagaries

My younger children are stepping in to the maelstrom

I should be setting them loose - instead - "shelter at home"
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 1:47 AM on April 16, 2020

I think the more fringe elements of the prepper scene have really hurt people's willingness to participate in the sort of mainstream, every-day preparedness, TBH. I grew up in a community like yours, Ahniya, where everyone kind of took it for granted that you should have a stock of basic food (winter storms! hurricanes!) and know some basic skills. (Hell, we had our own cider press and treadle sewing machine.) But it was never about society ending. It was about society being resilient and being able to make it through challenges without relying entirely on an increasingly-fragile supply chain.

The rise of shows like Doomsday Preppers seems to have made some people feel - nervous? like they're over-reacting? -- when it comes to even basic preparedness, like having an earthquake kit or stocking 2 weeks of basic food. And it's a shame, because they're really not the same thing. I've been through a few different scenarios where I was really grateful I'd taken some (basic, not-that-expensive) measures like laying in some backup food and toilet paper, including the Boston Winter of 2015 that Kritzer says inspired this story.
posted by pie ninja at 4:38 AM on April 16, 2020 [14 favorites]

read a thing recently (I can't possibly google to find it) about how preppier narratives are all fairly specific and how many who have Scenario 1 in mind can't imagine Scenario 9 and so their preps fall short.

I've been thinking a lot about this. Because of my hobbies, I know a lot of people who are very "You must be PREPARED to face VIOLENCE at any moment" and have trained accordingly. For some reason they also tend to think that the virus is not that serious. It's my other friends who have laid in a supply of canned goods/got toilet paper and masks back in Feb, etc. There is clearly something that draws us to each scenario.
posted by Comrade_robot at 5:15 AM on April 16, 2020 [14 favorites]

preppier narratives

Apocalypse by Ralph Lauren
posted by zamboni at 6:11 AM on April 16, 2020 [15 favorites]

OMG. It's like a guide to what happened.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:04 AM on April 16, 2020

Sorry to threadjack, but for those in this thread discussing the more "be resilient" versus "apocalypse now" flavors of prepper, does anyone have any good blog or YouTube channel recommendations for the former? There's a huge amount of prepper content on YouTube but a lot of it falls into either "here's a video about my 300 guns, let's test them in various entertaining but useless ways" or "my family is going to live off the grid in a way that's interesting and works for us but requires structuring our entire lives around this idea" and neither of those are what I want to learn more about. Whereas something like having one's own cider press sounds fascinating and on the edge of doable for me.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:46 AM on April 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

“You must be PREPARED to face VIOLENCE at any moment"

This kind of prepper seems less interested in being prepared and more interested in pumping up their ego.
posted by double bubble at 7:50 AM on April 16, 2020

I have so much love for Naomi Kritzer. Cat Pictures Please was in a Year's Best comp that I got for Christmas a few years ago, and it led me on to So Much Cooking. Definitely check out Cat Pictures Please as a palette cleanser, it's fantastic.

W.r.t. to the 'everyday preparedness' angle, that's very much my regular life. I'm not a prepper by any definition, but I buy my flour and rice in 25 lbs. bags, and batch cook veggie dishes to freeze through the summer. When the panic buying started here, my freezer was already full, courtesy of some February curry, lasagna, and ragu making.

I don't do it as a hedge against the end of the world or anything. It's just what I grew up helping my mum do, and it's been a great buffer against work or hobbies getting busy/moving/etc. I'm always surprised when I meet people who have the means, but don't have a freezer full of food.
posted by Kreiger at 8:20 AM on April 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

One obvious thing would be a garage freezer, if you have the space, but good luck finding one right now.

It would be a good AskMe, or MeTa thread (because probably chatty).
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:36 AM on April 16, 2020

Wretch729, are you wanting basic emergency preparedness, or preparedness-as-hobby? A cider press or home-brewing can easily get pretty all-consuming, and you might be better off just researching that hobby if that's what you're interested in.

It's definitely a good thing to AskMe, I think in this thread we'd get offtopic pretty quickly.
posted by Ahniya at 11:41 AM on April 16, 2020

I ran into our next door neighbor herding four little kids down the street today on my walk and jokingly remarked, “you have more kids than I remember!”

Turns out, her friend is a nurse being rotated between testing duties in various locales throughout the region, so her friend’s kids are staying at her place.
posted by mwhybark at 1:52 PM on April 16, 2020 [7 favorites]

A garage freezer is only as good as your continual supply of electricity unless you get one of those RV propane fridge things, which is just reverse intuitive and requires constant refilling.
posted by hippybear at 8:06 PM on April 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

This story is awesome, and she really did predict a lot of things well. I could really identify with her cooking issues because we are having food shortages here in Atlanta where it is hard to get many things we want (not just toilet paper). The grocery store shelves are often still largely bare. I have attempted to make both refried beans and falafel, things we usually buy premade, from scratch using dried beans. It did not go well.

I was also amused to see one of my favorite food bloggers, Budget Bytes, write an entry yesterday that was very reminiscent of Natalie's early entries. She got ground chicken in her Instacart, ground chicken is gross, she found a solution.

Hopefully we don't have to resort to rabbits.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:06 AM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Sorry to threadjack, but for those in this thread discussing the more "be resilient" versus "apocalypse now" flavors of prepper, does anyone have any good blog or YouTube channel recommendations for the former?

Check out your local cooperative extension! They have amazing resources on gardening, cooking, preserving food, cool quasi-farming things like keeping chickens or tapping maple trees or using a cider press, energy efficiency, and emergency preparedness. Many of them are offering online classes right now, too, and they are generally cheap or free. They also offer connections to your local food system -- farmers offering CSAs, plant starters, etc.

It doesn't seem like "prepper" culture because it just all makes solid sense -- but imagine how "prepped" you'll feel with an awesome home garden, a cupboard full of home-canned deliciousness, and a strong connection to the resourceful community around you.
posted by ourobouros at 2:20 PM on April 17, 2020

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