Last week I dashed to Delaware to help my 89-year-old father, who lives alone, get stocked up — and mentally prepared to stay put. I can’t tell you how hard it was to leave him to come home to the Vineyard, but he’s safest in our house there and has a garden out back where he can fuss with his plants. Fortunately, he’s also a great cook. (The obsession runs in the family, so meal prep in our house can get a little over-stimulating with all of the opinions flying around.)

I arrived with a box full of canned beans (his favorite), canned tomatoes, dried pasta, and olive oil. I also brought frozen sausages. And a bag of onions. And potatoes.

And I admit, sheepishly, that I also ordered a chest freezer from Lowe’s, which will hopefully be delivered this week. I realize I am trying to control an outcome over which I actually have no control.

While I was there, my Dad spent an hour or so one afternoon meticulously wrapping up individual portions of meatloaf mix he had bought — and portions of scrapple, which is a Delaware-Pennsylvania thing. By the time I left, we counted 40 meals he could make without leaving the house.

We only had to go to the grocery store once while I was there. Reluctantly, I took Dad with me, hoping I could model what I thought were best practices if he does need to go to the store. (No wonder older parents think adult children are a pain in the neck.) Gloves, Clorox wipes, the whole deal. He was good on that, but while we were in line, he naturally started chatting with the nice lady behind us.

“Dad,” I said, slightly alarmed, “You can’t stand so close to that woman. Six feet!” I felt like a proctor at a middle school dance in another era.

On my last day there, Dad and I raided his stash of black beans to make quesadillas for lunch. I followed my own recipe (always entertaining) for a butternut, corn, and black bean quesadilla, but instead of messing with the squash (which I didn’t have), I chopped up some leftover bell peppers and used frozen corn instead of fresh. The filling was so tasty that we put the extra in a shrimp stir-fry we made for dinner.

While I was improvising, I was thinking about the newsletter I write every week for Wouldn’t it be a good thing to encourage people to do the same — to use whatever is on hand, to get gutsy about making substitutions? After all, so many recipes will work brilliantly with ingredients swapped out or shortcuts taken.

Plus, it can be really satisfying — and fun — to cobble together meals with what you’ve got on hand. Sort of like being on an episode of Chopped! Maybe people could have a household competition for the best pantry concoction, with the winner getting the last remaining chocolate bar in the house.

It also feels good to be thrifty and efficient, to cut back on food waste. Now is not the time to follow a recipe slavishly, running to the store to get a huge bunch of fresh parsley when you only need a few sprigs.

So after Dad and I finished dinner (he peeled the shrimp and made the rice), I sat down and thought about all the different kinds of recipes that really function almost like templates. Egg dishes top the list for versatility: frittatas take on leftover roasted potatoes or pasta; savory bread puddings gobble up bits of leftover bread and cheese. A savory Dutch baby pancake with curried cauliflower or sautéed mushrooms and ham becomes supper.

Soups, of course. Minestrone is the original stone soup, coming together with whatever vegetables, beans, pasta, and meat are around. Brothy noodle soups are good with greens or mushrooms or carrots, chicken or shrimp or tofu.

Ground meat dishes like meatballs and meatloaf and meat sauce can take on that lamb or pork or venison you’ve gotten locally and popped in the freezer.

The list went on. Best of all, these template-ish recipes were all on, so I knew I could link folks to them.

It was a little weird to write my Vineyard newsletter from Delaware, but it had to be. I knew people were starting to cook like crazy.

The next morning I finished stuffing my car with odds and ends, leaving just enough room for me and for my dog Farmer. Dad had gotten up at 6:30 a.m. to make a giant pot of coffee for me, washing my thermoses and filling them up for my drive. While I packed the cooler, he sliced a banana into a cereal bowl, topped it with blueberries and a drizzle of Lewes Dairy heavy cream (our family favorite) and handed it to me.

“And here are the last two quesadillas,” he said, offering me a little foil package while I ate standing up in the kitchen. “These will be perfect for your lunch.”

He told me to get going, wanting me to leave plenty of time so I wouldn’t have to drive too fast to make my ferry at the other end of the long trip.

We walked out to the car, Farmer jumped into the back seat, and we stood there. Dad got kind of quiet, like he does sometimes when he’s really concentrating on a thought. Then he reached out to hug me. Social distancing not applicable here.

I rolled down the window and waved to him as I backed out of the driveway, then looked back again at him waving as I drove off, heart in my stomach.

After that, I imagined him back at the breakfast table, eating his scrambled eggs and fried scrapple, letting his little dog Shortie lick the plate after he finished. I am grateful for Shortie and for cooking in the time of coronavirus, for all the comfort it affords us. But I am not glad that an 89-year-old widower has to eat alone.