The highlight of the last month was when my roommate walked in from grocery shopping with a 10kg bag of flour. At the time, it was a commodity rarer than gold.
Losing yourself in baking is meditative, relaxing, and best of all, the end result is delicious and soul soothing. When I found out that my grandparents had eaten an entire loaf of warm homemade bread for dinner a few nights back, I felt proud and relieved. I can all too easily do the same thing. It’s in my DNA.
Rice noodle bowls
Cooking is how I show my loved ones that I cherish them. Sola I eat a lot of pasta, lentil soup, and oven fries. Serving a meal that’s designed to be customizable is a great way of accounting for a variety of food preferences. My favorite kind of meal has lots of little dishes where you have an idea of what the final product is meant to be, but you and your dining companions are essentially building your own dinner (BYOD). Perhaps I love this so much because I lived with my parents for many years, and since each of us preferred a different ratio of carbs to veg to protein, it became easier to make several different (easy) components and then let each person assemble their own meal.
Passover is drawing to a close and I am so excited to celebrate the end (and my successful adherence to its particular dietary laws) with carbs and cocktails. Tomato sauce simmers on the stove, the 72hr pizza dough I started Monday is on the counter coming to room temperature, and I have a plethora of toppings ready to go. Food normally takes center stage at gatherings as we celebrate momentous events and bring people together, exactly what we’re told to avoid at the moment. I don’t want to give up those special feelings that come about when you’re eating a good meal in good company. And now it’s easy for the days to blur together, especially since many people are either eating solo or sitting down with the same people over and over again.
There’s a lot of talk about improving your cooking skills right now, taking the time to tackle big projects (sourdough, I’m looking at you). Stay tuned for an installment on deliciously fun activities that you can do, either by yourself (stuffing dumplings is very meditative, especially if you do it while rewatching a favorite tv show) or as a group activity. However, many of these are white flour based, and as it’s Passover, I decided not to torture myself and to instead take it back to basics. Whether you’re just getting started in the kitchen or looking to up your culinary game, I think you’ll find some tips in this list that’ll help you out or at least get those creative juices flowing. And if you master them now, by the time you can have people over again, you’ll be such a pro that you can use your cooking skills to seduce someone (not that you’ll need to since we’ll all be so dessssperate for human contact…)
The easiest way for me to veer conversation towards a non-corona topic is to ask “what’s for dinner.” Everyone has to eat and what they’re feeding themselves tells me a lot about their current mindset. There are tons of phenomenal culinary projects that we can undertake, and I’ll focus on those in a subsequent post, but many friends I’ve spoken to have stocked up on white bread and Kraft singles since nothing says “the world is a safe place” like comfort food. A taste of childhood combined with the knowledge of consuming something naughty makes it all the more pleasurable.
My roommate (Marianne) and I are good friends, we have a beautiful apartment, and Montreal isn’t under quarantine (yet) so we can still go out for walks. But we spend the majority of the day doing our own thing, and I’m struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation. I’m so grateful for the meals and activities that Marianne and I do together, but I’m aware that a lot of people are solo (literally) in their social distancing and they have to feed themselves thrice a day.
Blended parsley, garlic, lemon, and oil – frozen into ice cubes
Parsley, garlic, lemon, and oil
Freshly squeezed lemon juice and zest – frozen into ice cubes
Before this whole thing went down, I kept thinking to myself “what would I do if I only had 90 days to live?” Though we’re not about to perish (everybody, breathe), I would visit my friends who’ve moved away since I miss them deeply. Though it’s not the same as actually seeing people, being socially isolated has brought my long distance friends and I closer. We’ve taken to chatting on the phone whilst cooking/cleaning – catching up on personal anecdotes, reminiscing times gone by, and providing each other with comfort in this uneasy time.
Backpack filled with groceries
I turn to the kitchen in times of sadness and joy. Right now I’m shaken, fearful of both the long and short term repercussions. Everything is off. Culinary escapism feels like a perfect reason to avoid the news and engage in something so tactile, rewarding, and predictable. Cooking is full of encapsulating magical moments; the sounds of a gentle sizzle, the smell of onion frying, and the (usually) delicious reward for your efforts. All this free time, plus the guarantee of my roommate being around for meals, means that I’ve been thinking about food constantly and cooking voraciously.
I grew up in a home with an open door policy. Friends dropped by for lunch last minute and we were grand central for large dinner parties. The fridge was flung open for casual meals with guests and it was a “help yourself to leftovers + salad + good toasted bread” situation. But for suppers (or large lunches) my mom and I carefully plan the menu and cooked elaborate feasts. The table was always full from the multitude of dishes we prepared. If my mom knew that you loved blueberry pie or hated cinnamon, she wrote it down in her entertaining book and it would appear/disappear from the meal. My grandfather’s moto “if you go home hungry it’s your own damn fault” rang true. Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up between being my mom’s assistant, and hosting my own plethora of dinners and dinner parties.
My friend came over dinner the other night and as we sat down to the main course, she commented that she was envious of my calm and control in the kitchen, my multitasking abilities. For that reason I’ve put together a few tidbits that I’ve picked up over the years that I’ve found helpful.