Eating Like an Expat in the Time of Coronavirus

Caveat: I am not an expert in anything, but living abroad. 

Having lived for 16 years in what some have undiplomatically call “shit holes”, how did I keep myself and my family healthy while eating a bounty of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables?

Cleaning fruits and vegetables like an expat.

Where the original suggestion came from is lost in the haze of 18 moves, though I remember the recommendation as if it were tattooed on my brain along with my social security number.

The recipe begins with an 1 ounce bottle of iodine*, widely and cheaply available at grocers and pharmacies. Pour the entire contents into a plastic 16 ounce bottle, preferably a squeeze bottle with a closable lid. Top up the iodine with clean tap water to the top and close the lid.

Each and every time I buy fruit, I fill the sink with cool, clean water and a generous squirt of the iodine mixture. Into this bath I place all of the fruits and vegetables, letting them soak for a minimal 15 minutes. That includes bananas and if you’re really conservative, pre-washed lettuce and strawberries too.

Rinsing under clean tap water, I air dry or use a clean towel to dry the fruits and vegetables. When I had an open window house with flies, I also covered the air drying items with a second clean towel to prevent flies feet from landing on the clean items. After dried, only then do the fruits and vegetables enter the inner sanctum of the refrigerator.

Why the bother? Because putting fruits and vegetables directly from the grocery bag into the refrigerator contaminates the refrigerator drawers and shelves. And washing fruits and vegetables under tap water doesn’t do any more cleaning than washing your hands in only plain water after using the toilet.

unnamedAs to the question of whether this mixture kills the coronavirus, I simply don’t know. If I were more concerned with catching coronavirus from fresh foods, I’d probably add a surfactant like dish soap to the soaking mixture, with a lot more rinsing. But as a lover of salads, I most assuredly would not stop eating them or other fresh fruits and vegetables.

Living abroad 20 years I learned that life comes with risks. That my family didn’t get gastroenteritis eating at home while living in Peru, Paraguay, Curacao, Ecuador and Mexico, was all I could ask for.

At our last overseas posting in Mexico City, my suit and tie dressed husband took a bag lunch to work even though he was the head of the office. His employees chose to eat ‘on the street’ going out daily to eat at various mom and pop stalls. They got gastroenteritis constantly, he did not.

Postscript: In Guayaquil, Ecuador where each of the potatoes I bought came from the grocery store encased in dried mud, I created a pre-wash. Since the climate was like Miami, we had a swimming pool, so tossing the muddy potatoes in the swimming pool I waited for my 7-year old son to come home from school. After a hard day at elementary school where his last class was PE class in the sun, in came my red-faced son, thrilled to jump directly into the pool in his school uniform.I got my potatoes stripped of the mud, ready for their iodine bath, he got to chill out.

*Note: if you’ve a shellfish allergy, iodine may be a problem for you. The recommendation was to use bleach instead of iodine, though I have no experience with that.


















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    Candace Drimmer

    TIMELINE June 1972 to June 1973---Candace moves to Lima (Peru)----- June 1973 to May 1974---Candace and The Husband live in Glendale AZ----- May 1974 to August 1974---Living in Toronto, Ontario (Canada)----- September 1974 to May 1975---Living in Aberdeen SD----- May 1975 to July 1979---Living in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)----- July 1979 to June 1980---Living in Asuncion (Paraguay)----- June 1980 to September 1980---Living in NYC----- September 1980 to November 1982---Living in Connecticut----- November 1982 to January 1983---Living in Ponce, Puerto Rico (USA)----- February 1983 to July 1986---Living in Willemstad, Curacao (Netherlands Antilles)----- July 1986 to July 1989---Living in Guayaquil (Ecuador)----- July 1989 to July 1995---Living in Connecticut (yes, again)----- July 1995 to August 2001---Living in Mexico City (Mexico)----- August 2001---Return to Gringolandia (a.k.a. United States of America)----- I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew I met a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, fell in love and moved to Peru in the 1970s. WHAT an adventure it's been!! NOTE: I gave up Facebook, so apologies that I cannot answer any comments since it is only set up via FB.

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