We’ve all had a lot of time to get to know ourselves a little better since March of this year. I’ve been alone more than I’ve been with anybody since I was sent to work from home and then later furloughed. My husband still has to go to his office to work (he is a radio news reporter), and so it’s just me, my cat, and my kitchen during the day. I’ve had a lot of time to think, to cook, and to write. It’s taken me almost three months, but I can safely say that during that time, I’ve come to know who I am a little better.
At first, it was just a matter of surviving. The world felt so dark and so terrible that bettering myself in any way, shape, or form felt like a lost cause. I wanted to drink a little more than I should, lazy around a little more than I should, and hope that the storm passed in the meantime. It obviously did not do that. Wisconsin is reopening, sure, but the disease is still a problem out there. Now, we’re not just at war with a disease. There is a war going on for the soul of our country.
The one thing I had to fall back on to give myself joy and comfort was food. Baking, cooking, fermenting. It didn’t matter what I was doing. If I could create anything that would give myself and my husband (and occasionally, his coworkers) a little bit of joy, then I was doing something important. It was all I could do when I felt powerless against the goings on in the world outside. The journey that I found myself on with sourdough and fermentation showed me something important.
This right here is what I was meant to do. I love food. I love writing about food. I love cooking and sharing what I’ve done with the people that I care about. I stumbled into a profession after college that sits me in a chair for eight hours a day and pays the bills, but it doesn’t give me any sense of accomplishment. It never has, and it probably never will. This right here, though. This does it.
My heart soars when an article does even remotely well. Every kind comment makes me smile. When my husband eats five sourdough english muffins in a day because they’re just so damn good, I know that I’m doing something right. This is what I should have been doing all along, and only this moment of quarantine has taught me to embrace it. It may never give me enough to quit a day job, but this moment in time showed me that cooking and writing about food is what I should have been doing with more frequency all along.
I’ve also discovered that I’m lactose intolerant, which brings a lot of things about my health in the last few years into question. I’ve suffered from IBS and acid reflux for almost four years now, and most of the time earned a shrug from my doctors. I’ve had so much time in quarantine to sit with my symptoms and begin editing out food that I’ve found milk products are causing me more distress when I include them in my diet. How long has this been a problem? Who knows, but I found it. I wouldn’t be shocked if I was lactose intolerant the whole time, but with the pace of my life outside of quarantine, I wasn’t able to pin it down.
I’ve started physical therapy with an actually competent therapist for pain that I've had for years. I feel heard where my therapist in Delaware just put me through the motions. We do something different to address my pain every day. I’ve felt better in the last three weeks than I did the entire time I lived on the East Coast. The Midwest is where I belong, and the people here are taking care of me where I need it. My doctors and bosses hear me.
The writer of this blog was always this person. A lactose intolerant, painful mess of a person that liked to cook more than anything else. That person was just buried under the world we all lived in before now. She had to have a real job, making real money, and her time had to go elsewhere. Not anymore. It won’t last forever.
But, god…. I’m so thankful for it.
This experience has been a mixture of pleasant and unpleasant for all of us that have had to endure it, regardless of our circumstances. I am blessed with a partner that’s working, who hasn’t asked me to put myself on the line to continue bringing money in until my real job calls me back. We don’t all have that luxury, but I’ve been able to use mine to get to know myself better. I’ve found the things that make me happy. While the financial situation isn’t the greatest, I’ve lived through much worse.
Some people have been able to go back to work, but many of us are still in limbo, waiting. I am hopeful that I will be able to return to work soon. If the worst comes to pass and I am laid off rather than furloughed, so be it. It might not actually be the worst thing in the world to start fresh again in this city that I’ve grown to love. I will survive. I always have.
I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I was when Farmer’s Market season came back around. I’ve been waiting for it as the weather got nicer out of my office window. I’ve been waiting for it since I moved to Green Bay. I had the expectation that the Farmer’s Markets would be miles above any that I went to in the smaller towns that I’ve lived in up until this point, and I was right to hold those expectations. The Saturday Morning Market that’s held on Washington street downtown is apparently smaller than the Wednesday market, but we’ll get to that one soon.
What matters is that this Saturday Market was the perfect way for me to get my feet wet in the local scene of growers, cheese producers, and meat purveyors. With around ninety vendors in attendance, I can say with relative certainty that I probably won’t have to use a big box grocery store for my shopping unless I need canned goods, sodas, or the like to renew our stockpile. I can support the local community for all of my regular cooking needs.
I meant when I said that i would give as much of my effort as possible over the next month to highlighting BIPOC (black indigenous persons of color, a term I only recently learned as I started research in this space) food creators over the entirety of June as my show of solidarity with what’s going on in America right now, and we begin that process by highlighting a James Beard Award nominated writer and cookbook author, Nicole A. Taylor.
Nicole is our first creator to be highlighted because up until the moment of this pandemic, she occupied an otherwise very white space at the publication Thrillist. Here, she wrote articles that made her a James Beard Award Nominated writer and navigated the space by bringing other black writers into the spotlight for regular publication. She fought the good fight before I realized there was a fight to be made in this space. Nicole is no longer an employee of Thrillist, having been laid off in April like many Americans, but that hasn’t stopped her from using her platform for good.
Her twitter feed, @foodculturist, is a buzzing place filled with writing about the current moment in the world. At the moment, much of it is from other writers, but that doesn’t matter. She’s a known voice helping to amplify other voices, and through that remains a catalyst for change in a turbulent era in American History.
Although she is no longer a member of Thrillist, her personal work before that spans many years and media outlets. She is most well known for a podcast called Hot Grease, which can be found archived on soundcloud. It does not appear that this podcast has seen recent updates, but the content remains relevant if you are, like me, beginning to research African-American cooking in earnest.
She is also the author of the Up South Cookbook: Chasing Dixie in a Brooklyn Kitchen, which is deeply on sale on Amazon at the moment. If you are able, you can also look for this book at bookstores owned by black businessmen within your own community. This cookbook is on its way to me as I write this short article.
I could hardly mourn the passing of ten dollars to support a black creator within what I consider to be my own space, food writing, even when my own circumstances are not so great. Many of us are hurting financially from job loss, unemployment problems, and the many other challenges of the pandemic. If you cannot part with the dollars to check out her cookbook, much of her writing is available for viewing for free online, and her twitter account is home to many of those links.
With this in mind, please know that I am learning. I’ve spent most of my life pretending I could be apolitical without causing harm, but that’s clearly not the case. I will speak through my learning and direct attention to the people that know much better than me about the things that I care about, and for me, that means highlighting what’s being done in food media by people of color in our country when the world is falling apart.
An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird. Pledge monthly to our patreon!