Pandemic Diary Day 26
April 19, 2020
I can put on a five course dinner for ten at the drop of a hat, but I stand in front of the refrigerator with a giant empty thought bubble above my head when I have to cook for myself. I stand there, feet firmly planted on the ground, gripping the door handle as though it were a portal to another realm that causes the thing you are craving to magically appear ready for you to simply pop in the oven.
It has never worked, no matter how long I stand there furrowed brow and mouth agape nothing, absolutely nothing comes to mind or magically appears.
That is where my late husband Michael shined, he could make dinner out of a refrigerator with nothing but olive oil and flour. You know that type, how do they do it?
Outside of a big pot of beans tossed with what is in the refrigerator as the answer to everything, Michael left me with memories of his three easy-to-cook last-minute go-to recipes: polenta with hot dogs, Sicilian tomato and onion salad and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Polenta with hotdogs. I refuse to judge, as there are way too many people out there that find this comfort food. As for the others, they were his favorites not really mine, although seriously, who doesn’t love a good grilled cheese sandwich (hmmm, I better add bacon and tomatoes to the grocery list).
I am beginning to do more cooking for myself in this difficult time. I have found it easier when I double the recipe and share it with neighbors. It doesn’t feel like cooking for one that way.
I have managed to share my polenta (with gorganzola not hot dogs), Cuban rice and beans, my favorite black sesame ice-cream, pistachio soup, Jambalaya and a failed batch of Potato Kuku. This is actually giving me such pleasure while sharing the calories.
My comfort food is Soba noodles . I don’t quite have all the ingredients to make a beautiful bowl of Soba, but with patience I will assemble them and then dive in.
I love to make desserts, especially ice cream. I had the ingredients for my Black Sesame Seed ice cream, but haven’t received my cooking grade matcha yet to make my favorite Matcha ice cream. Interestingly I do a modified, simplified, heretical to the true ceremony, chanoyu most every day, but this uses a ceremonial matcha that is too expensive to use in ice cream.
The wrinkle in this new exploratory dive into daily cooking is the shopping. I am a compromised individual so I am having all of my food delivered. It is hard to get all the ingredients in one delivery, and often hard to get a delivery for 3 to 4 days, making meal planning a tad more difficult than normal, which is why the udon will have to wait. But that is just part of what we are all going through, trying to normalize our lives as best we can.
I have been enjoying watching the recipe exchanges on Twitter and the people that are sharing sourdough starter by hanging small bags from trees in San Francisco, there is even a Shelter in Place Cooking Page on Facebook, we are a resourceful species, and these are great examples of how we reach out to help each other even in a crisis.
Then there is the hero José Andrés who has turned his Spanish Diner in Hudson Yards New York into a community kitchen. You can not have missed Jose Andrews and his charity World Central Kitchen, his smiling face and unending energy can be found where ever there is a disaster.
World Central Kitchen has a new organization running during Covid19, Chefs for America. This new program promises to pay the costs to prepare 1 million meals at more than 400 restaurants nationwide. According to a recent James Beard Foundation survey of more than 1,400 restaurant owners these establishments have, on average, laid off 91 percent of their hourly workers and nearly 70 percent of their salaried employees.
The Aim of Chefs for America is to provide jobs for unemployed restaurant workers in virus hot spots coast to coast. This is more vital than ever since the Small Business loan program has maxed out its monies. The next part of the Chefs for America plan is to hopefully feed people who are in dire need. They will be able to do this because World Central Kitchen will pay restaurant owners in the neighborhood of $10 per meal and guarantee to do this for a fixed period of time. This will help restauranteurs plan menus, hire the appropriate staff and buy the appropriate amount of food from suppliers.
Here in the San Francisco Bay Area one of those restaurants is Reem’s California, a Middle Eastern bakery and cafe in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland. Reem Assil and her staff are serving between 200 to 500 meals a day, to vulnerable populations and first responders. This isn’t a cure all, but it might be a good pilot program for a possible government funded support system while we are working our way through this pandemic.
If you feel so inclined you can donate to their cause here.
The other part of this for those of us sheltering in place is dining alone. That has never been fun and I try very hard to not eat standing up in front of the stove, but it happens. I miss having friends around the table, and in those cases as W.S. Gilbert said, “It is not so much what is on the table as what is in the chairs”. I miss conversation over fine food.
Underlying all of this attempt to find a new relationship with cooking and food, is that little thought that runs through all of us eating well, but not getting the exercise we are used to, the fear of not getting into our clothes when this is all over. There is the Freshman Fifteen, the Tech Twenty, and now the Covid-Nineteen (I made that up). I am trying not to go down that road, but this is not the time to give a whit either.
So as I pull down some of my favorite cookbooks, I am finally enjoying asking myself what can I make with what I have? Presently I have all the fixings for a mirepoix, and a lot of frozen chicken, I can’t wait to get into the kitchen again.
My Horoscope for today: Making decisions today is apt to be nearly impossible for you, Libra. That’s why you should leave them up to someone else.
The NYT Crossword Puzzle: eh — it included one of my downfall words aegis
San Francisco weather: 57 degrees and cloudy
NYSE DOW closed
Italian word of the day: gabbiano (gull)
Spanish word of the day: calentamiento global (global warming)
OED word of the day: ember months (The final four months of the calendar year)
Days under Shelter In Place: 37
Reading: The Great Influenza by John Barry
Reading Canto XXIV of Dante’s Inferno
My Black and White Picture of the Day
Something Silly From the Internet: · Quarantine Day 5: Went to this restaurant called THE KITCHEN. You have to gather all the ingredients and make your own meal. I have no clue how this place is still in business.
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