Organic Ciabatta buns (Reciever Coffee Co.)—one of many offerings made available to Islanders by local businesses during the pandemic lockdown.

Local lessons

Shopping the pandemic

by Ann Thurlow

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On a whim we decided to take a drive to Kelly’s Cross. I heard that someone was selling asparagus out there. Asparagus is my favourite vegetable. We pull into the yard and there’s no one around. Then a pick-up comes wheeling from behind the barn. The farmer gets out and says they don’t sell at the farm gate, but she just picked some asparagus and, since we’re here…

We took the asparagus home and, I swear, steamed it in the very dew it still carried from the morning.

And that, really, sums up my experience in local shopping during the pandemic. The more I looked, the more I found. Every transaction turned into an adventure, or a surprise.

Our first trip out of town in a month took us to some friends to drop off supplies. We decided to just check Larkin’s Poultry store in Crapaud and discovered some mysterious force had landed us there in one of the two hours a week it was open.

I was already a fan of Receiver Bread. But the sight of a little white truck pulling up and a brown bag landing on the doorstep actually stunned me by making me cry. From gratitude, maybe. But mostly just from seeing local people getting it done, even in terrible circumstances. I found many farmers eager and able to sell me fresh local vegetables. I found veggie burgers and garlic sauce on my porch. I ordered cake from Whisk and Sugar whose owner had made the unlucky decision to open her business for the first time in March. She opened anyway and I admire her grit and the deliciousness of her products.

I bought herbs to plant in my garden at the Heart Beet Organics plant sale. I fulfilled a wish and bought a clematis at VanKampen’s. I got PEI tulips whenever I could.

Clothing? I finally had to admit that one t-shirt was not going to see me through the summer. My finger was poised over the online cart icon when I decided to give a local store—Jems Boutique—just one try. At the back, to my astonishment, there were the very sort of clothes I wanted, on sale, sold to me by a lady in pretty pink lipstick—who turned out to be the very person who had designed the clothing. I felt lucky. Also gobsmacked.

I watched my favourite local performers online. I took yoga from an Island teacher there, too. I appreciated take-out from Bombay Cuisine on those nights when the lockdown felt interminable. I did my patriotic duty and ate PEI lobster for the team.

I get it. I have the time and the means to do this. But I am very grateful to be able to share my good fortune with people I care about. I don’t like to shop, really. But if my shopping locally helps my challenged and imaginative and hardworking friends, I am more than happy to do it.

That’s the lesson the pandemic taught me. Everything is local now.

Ann Thurlow