This morning, I plugged my headphones in and went to cleaning the kitchen with Michael Pollan's Cooked keeping me company over my dishes. Much of what he said in the first three chapters it took me to get my kitchen back in order took on a new meaning when I thought of it in the context of our current times. He speaks of cooking as a protest against the commoditization of our everyday life, and who would have thought that a virus would be one of the forces driving us to do this work for ourselves again?
A year ago, I dabbled in bread on the weekends for funsies. A year before that, I didn't bake anything beyond the pumpkin cheesecakes my husband adores. Now-- two months into COVID-19 self imposed lockdown-- I am making bread of some kind almost every day. Now, when I'm furloughed and ineligible for UI benefits until the Pandemic Assistance is granted to me, I am constrained by financial difficulty to make the most of everything I have.
This means that I cannot turn to premade meals. I can't call for a pizza or a burger unless I want to make what is ultimately a large sacrifice just for some time outside of my kitchen. COVID-19 has robbed us of the comforts of our modern life that once alienated us from food, and I know that I am not among the most unfortunate in America right now.
Most of my closest friends are completely unemployed. Family members are furloughed, and the people that aren't are putting their lives on the line every day in the care of others. We are all living lives significantly tighter than we are used to. This is the hardest moment of my adult life, and I will remember it that way likely until I die. That doesn't mean that there are no lessons to learn right now.
Meat shortages are coming down the pipes for most of us. Now there are folks out there trying to tell us farms will face similar problems are meat packing plants, which means we as consumers have choices to make. We have to take care of each other if the world is not going to do it for us. We have to turn to our local farmers for produce, and if we are lucky enough to have them, our local butchers and meat packers. Not everything can be bought from these purveyors, but we have the opportunity to reshape our food economy.
We are taking more responsibility for our own nutrition the farther away we get from our old lives. We can't blame the fast pace of our lives anymore while we are all stuck at home. There is no McDonalds on the way home from work when the work is taking place in your living room-- if you're lucky enough to be working at all. We are what we eat now more than ever.
So let’s take advantage of it together. This is our chance to change the way we eat at home for the better. With enough time, these habits will stick long after we go back to the outside world. COVID-19 has made cooks of us all. It's up to us to choose what we cook and how we cook it.
Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overruled the governor’s stay at home order. For about three hours, bars opened, and then the counties began to issue their own stay at home orders. By Friday night, Brown county rescinded that order. Most restaurants were not prepared to begin opening that weekend, which in most cases was probably the smart idea. But, some of them did open. This is the story of our experience going out to eat on Saturday, May 16, 2020 at the Wisconsin Supper Club staple: The Redwood Inn.
I’m a well known homebody, and coming up on two months into quarantining at home, I was beginning to miss sitting at a bar and talking to the bartender and waitresses. Dinner time came, and I suggested Rob and I take a drive to see if the one place we knew was open would be too crowded. He agreed. We got in the car. I had a panic attack the whole way there (yeah, I know it was my idea). I imagined the parking lot looking exactly like it did the last time we were there: grass to grass cars and a wait for a table that would take us more than two hours.
The time of the budget has risen across America in a way rarely seen in our history, so allow me to introduce the first of our budget meals: Leftover Fry Hash, a quick and easy way to use up the potato product of a previous night’s take out order. I thought I was a fucking genius when i woke up at 6 am and thought, oh my god what if I use my fries for a hash?
Turns out, I was a genius. It’s one of the few times I’ve cooked breakfast for myself and had to turn out a second plate for my husband when he woke up an hour later.
Looking for a meal that costs less than two dollars per individual serving? This Leftover Fry Hash is for you. The below recipe is for one serving. You may multiply as needed for the number of mouths you have to feed.
We’ve reached a period in this pandemic where the belt has tightened here at the Eating Normal kitchen. I did not qualify for state unemployment, and now I must wait an extra thirty days for additional pandemic unemployment relief. It’s game over for bigger grocery orders. There’s no stocking up anymore. It’s time to learn how to use coupons and cook with what can be bought cheaply.
And I know I’m reaching this point later than a lot of people in the United States. I’ve been lucky to mostly enjoy the first month of my furlough, but that’s over. The struggle bus has come to town. We won’t even be doing a new cookbook next month. We’ll be engaging in a redemption tour of previous cookbooks to reduce the amount I’m spending on this hobby. That will continue until I start working at my furloughed job, or find a new job. Whatever has to come first.
Or, Yogurt and Cheese flatbreads
Carpathia offers a lot of bread and street food goodies for anyone looking to sharpen their teeth on some new recipes, and among these new recipes was one for Scovergi, a yogurt and cheese fried flatbread that caught my eye immediately. She describes them as Romanian popcorn, often ate while watching TV with the family. The picture looked like something I wanted in my mouth right that minute.
So I made them. The good news is that they come together super easy. The dough has a relatively short proofing time compared to most of the recipes that I’ve been trying lately, needing only an hour or so in the fridge to get to the right place. You stretch it out large, cover it in shredded cheese, and then roll it up so you can make the pinwheel pattern later on.
Sometimes the dough resists coming together into a single flat entity because of the wheel of cheese in between the layers, but a few extra rolls of the rolling pin helped me get them to come together before sticking them into a layer of oil.
I think that the first time I made them, I made the mistake of adding too much oil to the pan. My husband loved them, but he later expressed that they felt heavy and oily. I agreed. Because of this, I have resolved to make them again. That may be a project for this weekend, given that I’m currently obsessed with some different yogurt flatbreads from the Bon Appetit team. I will make those every day until I run out of greek yogurt, I swear on my life.
There isn’t a lot to these yummy fried bread treats, but it's yet another feather in the cap of Carpathia as I continue to learn more about a cuisine rarely focused on in the United States.
An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird.
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