A good charcuterie plate is the centerpiece of the pre-meal Thanksgiving table as far as I’m concerned. If there is no wooden board with a variety of cheeses both high quality and low, nestled in with mystery sausages and meats, then it’s a bad sign for the actual meal to come. I want to snack on cheese, meat, and crackers while I’m waiting on the whole shabang to hit the table. Mingling with snacks and drinks before the feast is just as important as the actual food.
This year, there won’t be much mingling at my Thanksgiving, but a good charcuterie board is just as important as ever. My husband and I have made plans to play board games and maybe watch some TV while the more time intense food is cooking in the background. Balancing at the end of our game board absolutely should be a spread of delicious snacks to keep us fueled through the course of the long day.
2020 has thrown us all our fair share of curve balls. As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us are forced to make the choice of staying home or trying to find ways to continue family traditions safely. I will never judge anyone who decides to see their families during the holiday, but this is the first time in my entire life that I have stayed at home for the Thanksgiving Holiday. There will be no long drive home for an extended weekend, no packing a to go bag for my cat, or even a three hour dinner in my aunt’s garage ten minutes down the road. No part of any Thanksgiving I have ever had in my life will be present for 2020-- except for my husband. This is going to be a Thanksgiving for Two.
How do you cook Thanksgiving for just two people? The holiday is an ode to gluttony at it’s most basic level. Depending on your household, the beer starts to flow as early in the day as you want-- breakfast is ginormous, snacks are out for the entirety of the day, and then the real meal comes to the table so large you can barely see the turkey decorated tablecloth underneath it. Someone--or multiple someones-- are in the kitchen cooking from sun up to sun down. This year, that someone is me, and I am thrilled for the opportunity.
So, what’s my game plan? Am I ruining it for my husband by composing an entire article based around what I want to do for the greatest eating holiday in the American Pantheon? Naaaah. Let’s do it.
There is a lot to consider during shopping for the feast this year as a result of the suffering placed upon our local small businesses. Relief money has ran out, and they can only survive with our business. I have decided to shop for my Thanksgiving needs from as many local stores as possible, which is sometimes difficult to do when it comes to grocery shopping. Luckily, Green Bay is blessed with a number of small specialty vendors to consider during my planning.
If I didn’t make us a charcuterie board (AKA a cheese board, for the non-bougie readers out there), to snack on over countless board games and movies as the day progressed, I would be a horrible wife. Green Bay is home to Nala’s Cheese and Wine in Bellevue. They are currently donating to a local food pantry for every 50 dollars spent in the store. That sounds worth the splurge to me for some goodies.
Previous visits to our local Asian Markets has shown me that I can rely on them to have meats that I won’t regularly find in our major supermarkets, so I’ll be stopping on the east side of downtown in search of duck or pheasant. If I can find neither, I know that the East Side Festival currently has geese. That may be where I land if my fancy bird search goes poorly.
There is also The Original Austin’s Grocery Store on Webster that may need to be a stop. Their meat counter is 100% manned at all hours, and it’s all good quality. If the bird search can’t even land on a goose, then I may be able to find something there to fill the void in the form of a fancy prime rib roast or something.
Multiple food media outlets have written piece after piece about how ‘this Thanksgiving will be unlike any ever celebrated’, but let’s face it, America has suffered pandemics before. We’ve suffered through a lot as a nation that has directly impacted the way we celebrate this holiday. Share it with the people you care about however you can. You won’t get any judgement from me if you decide to find a way to share it with your family. We all need a little something to get us through things right now: celebrating with family may be that for you.
Stay tuned for more Thanksgiving writing!
Thanksgiving is coming! Several places will be closed, and some of them are cooking up whatever you need to make your day special regardless of how you celebrate. Here are some of the highlights across Green Bay:
Plae Bistro - Thanksgiving Dinner, Order by Monday Nov 23rd
Plae Bistro will be hard at work next week whipping up side dishes for anyone who orders from their Thanksgiving menu prior to Monday, November 23rd. The offerings can be found on their facebook page, and I am personally considering just a giant fuckin plate of their house rolls. It says its serves 8, but in this house… it will serve 2.
Copper State Brewing Co. - Bottle Release
Copper State has released their Sugar Plum Elderberry Tart bottles starting today, which sound like they’d be a perfect match for the Thanksgiving table and the beer lover in your family. Will I pick one up while I’m scouring the town for Thanksgiving goodies? Probably.
Uncle Mike’s Bake Shoppe - Frozen Soup Sale, and Yummy Pie
Uncle Mike’s Bake Shoppe is selling their frozen soups as buy one get one free until further notice to keep you warm. While you’re there, consider getting a pie for the Thanksgiving table and supporting local bakers if you’re not in the biz of making the pie yourself.
Monzu Bakery and Custom Cakes - Virtual Holiday Market Appearance
Monzu will be making an appearance during the American Club’s virtual Holiday market starting today and running through Sunday. More than 70 local vendors will be represented. You can check out those 70 local vendors at this link.
The Original Austin’s Grocery Store - Open Thanksgiving Day
In the interest of supporting local, we’re highlighting the Thanksgiving hours of local market Austin’s from 8 am to 1 pm Thanksgiving Day. Their meat counter can’t be beat if you wake up Thanksgiving morning and want something other than turkey.
Voyageurs Sourdough - Holiday Menu is Live
Voyageurs has their holiday menu live for preorders on their website. A lot of goodies are sold out for pickup or delivery this wednesday, but you can still source some rolls for the table from a local favorite!
Heartland Pizza Co - Reopened
Heartland Pizza Co has reopened after their cautionary COVID-19 closure. The pizza and homemade ice cream must flow, and flow it does. They’re also doing homemade special ice creams for thanksgiving that need to be ordered TONIGHT if you want them at your table. Details on their facebook page.
Stillmank Beer Company - Wassail Holiday Cider is BACK
Stillmank’s Wassail Holiday Cider is back on the menu at their brewery. They have more releases coming for Black Friday next week. We’ll keep you up to date, as their one of our favorites in town.
Are you, like me, a PSL fanatic that looks forward to this time of year as if nothing else in the world matters come the end of August? Is it a Starbucks Siren Call that you have trouble resisting? I’ve been screaming for the last few weeks to eat and drink local, and I mean it. I’ve decided to patch together a list of some local places doing great things with coffee so that you can skip the lines at Dunkin and Starbucks to support your neighbors with me.
This list includes some, but surely not all, of our local coffee shops and roasters in the Green Bay area. These are among those that I drive by every day and frequent as often as I can.
Luna Coffee Roasters
Their base of operations is in De Pere, but that location is keeping its doors closed to protect their employees. They have a Bellevue cafe on Monroe road that is still open for carryout through their front window. You can get whatever specialty drink you want as well as lovingly handcrafted breakfasts. If you’re more of a brew at home person, their beans are available at the Bellevue location as well as through home delivery.
The folks at Luna are wonderful, and so is the coffee. If you’re an East Side resident like myself, this place is the easy choice. It’s literally a block from the nearest Starbucks, AND it’s better quality.
Daily Buzz Espresso Bar
Located on the corner of Washington and Walnut downtown in the Bellin building, Daily Buzz Espresso Bar is a highlight of my trips out to the Saturday Farmer’s market. Their Autumn specials blew my husband and I away on our last visit, including a Harvest Chai Tea with fuckin’ Maple in it that we both loved. Everything is prepared with love, and it’s an easy stop to make when you’re downtown.
It’s a scary world out there, folks. COVID-19 is shuttering small businesses and sickening thousands every day. It feels like there’s nothing we can do but hunker down again and hope for the best, but every time we do that, we’re putting a greater strain on local businesses that have been suffering the most through the course of this pandemic. So, what do we do?
Well, for starters, order delivery. Don’t get Mcdonalds or Hardees or Burger King…
September, 2020. The NFL is back, and we miss the Packers. We want to sit among the bleachers of Lambeau, we want to cheer. But September of 2020 has brought more than football back to Green Bay, Wisconsin. The fate of the city’s businesses without the tourism brought by a normal Packers season has been in debate for as long as the NFL had decided to play without fans, but we’re seeing COVID-19 give us the answer in real time.
A second, powerful wave of COVID-19 has sent school districts home, filled our hospitals, and now it’s causing business owners to shutter their doors for the safety of their employees. Among the first to shut their doors this week was the Redwood Inn, home of my favorite fish fry in the city. They announced their closure this morning, September 26th, on facebook. Aunt Ethel’s of De Pere has also announced a closure this weekend amidst the rising cases. The caution exhibited by these regional favorites during this trying time is good to see.
It does, however, remind us how fragile the ecosystem of our restaurants is right now. The lengthy forced closures at the beginning of the pandemic have shuttered some businesses permanently, and those weren’t struggling ones before the pandemic. Here is an incomplete list of businesses that have closed their doors for cautionary purposes during the strong resurgence of COVID-19 in Green Bay-- and how you can support them.
About a month and a half into my furlough after COVID-19 sent us all into our homes, I started a garden on my porch. For the first time ever, I wanted to grow food. The easiest thing I could think of on my little wooden second story porch was a pepper plant, so during my trip to start my second annual herb pot, I bought a sweet pepper plant and a pot with no holes in the bottom to give it a go. Little did I know that this was a trend starting all across not just the city of Green Bay, but the whole country.
Every day I drive to work now, I drive past homes where I saw exactly zero evidence of any kind of garden in the previous growing season now full of plants. Front yards, once a barren wasteland of suburban grass, have been turned into growing patches for peppers and tomatoes and onions. I look out my window and see every other porch has become home to a similar menagerie of little potted plants, giving it their all in the summer sun to grow food for an insecure and afraid people.
Originally Posted March 13,2020 in the Archive
A lot has been said about how we have all seen this before. I’m a child of the nineties. I saw swine flu and ebola and SARS and West Nile Virus. I remember the general concern in the air, but I lived in a place where all of these things felt so far away. I don’t think I knew anyone who ever got swine flu at the time. Ebola never exploded like we were all terrified of. There is conflicting information out there about the current pandemic that has us all frightened, and I want to believe the people that tell me not to be afraid.
But I am afraid.
I’m afraid for my older relatives and my friends with chronic health conditions. I’m scared of all of the cancellations pouring in every single day from the NBA to the Overwatch League to Disneyworld. My every day life has already been disrupted in some small way by the abrupt ending of sporting events nationwide. Every time my boss calls us together in the office, I feel my heart leap in a mini panic attack.
The world is suddenly very dark, and I had come into 2020 hoping for a brighter tomorrow. I’m 27 and in decent health. I’ve got very little to be afraid of when it comes to my personal health, but the lights are going out everywhere we look. The things that bring us joy-- sports and amusement parks and parties-- they are the sacrifices we have to make to TRY and control a worldwide pandemic. What do we do when the lights go out? We light a candle.
It’s a small thing to turn to food when everything else gets hard to handle, but it’s what I’ve done since I was a little girl. I can control what I’m cooking, and it tastes good when I’m done. That’s satisfying to a person with chronic anxiety on a number of levels. What we all need right now is a little bit of comfort. We’re finding it in our own ways. Some people find it by telling themselves and others that it's not as bad as we all think. I find it in a cold beer and a long cook.
Friday night, I started peeling shrimp fully prepared to tackle a recipe from our cookbook of the month. Halfway through peeling the shrimp I decided to abandon it and turn to the comfort of a bastardized shrimp scampi instead because I know the power that that dish has in my kitchen. It’s a favorite of my husband. It’s quick, and it’s Lent friendly. I don’t have to worry about if he’ll like the carrot in the tempura fritter. I can show him I’m thinking about him when the world is getting scary.
I can’t even imagine what I’d do if we had kids right now. Schools all over Wisconsin are closing next week, and that trend is crossing the entire country literally as I type this article. I joke when I say that I want to go home for quarantine time, but I don’t want quarantine time. I want things to go back to the way they were, as imperfect as they were. Literally the only thing I can do right now to pretend that everything is alright is cook.
Cooking is love. Cooking is comfort. When I can’t face the outside world, no matter the reason why, it’s there to remind me that things aren’t so bad. Doesn’t matter if I made the food or if someone else did. This craft makes us all feel a little better. Food carries so much in every bite, and when I bite into that spaghetti tonight, I feel a little bit closer to normal.
Originally Posted March 24,2020 in the Archive
We’ve all seen what’s going on in the world around us right now. We have all panic bought two weeks worth of groceries and made fun of people getting too much toilet paper. We’ve watched restaurants close entirely or switch to delivery and carry out only. The world is a little darker than usual right now. There is no end in sight, but we all have to eat. What we do know right now is that businesses and people are suffering as a result of the great measures we have to take to slow the spread of COVID-19, but we can help.
Keep in mind that some of these tips will mostly apply to people like me who are at lower risk. Social distancing is important for everyone, but we are safer while trying to support people who are struggling right now.
1. Order Carryout and Delivery from your Favorite Locals
Several states have forced restaurants to close their doors and do business through delivery or take out only. This change is going to put the hurt on a lot of people for however long this pandemic continues. Servers will not be making tips. Less cooks will be needed on the line. People will lose their jobs, but we can mitigate some of that by ordering delivery from local restaurants every once and awhile until that option is no longer available to us, if and when that time comes.
If you have the means (IE work a secure job in the current climate with reliable income), do yourself a favor by ordering a spot of sunshine in a to go container and do your neighbor a favor by helping them continue to receive their own paycheck. A lot of restaurants in Green Bay are already signed up to the myriad of delivery services, and there are some even setting up their servers as delivery drivers so that they may continue to make tips. These people need us, and we need them.
2. Donate to food banks
Food shortages aren’t likely to occur for those of us that have money, but economic distress has already struck a lot of families. Food banks are sometimes the only source of a meal for these communities, and many of those food banks are still open and accepting donations. Paul’s Pantry in Green Bay, Wi for example will remain open for COVID-19 until they are told otherwise. They are also still accepting donations.
3. Learn to Bake Breads
The most valuable skill I have gathered from working on this food blog is oddly enough making bread right now. This first week of panic in Wisconsin has left the big box stores downright cleared out, so if the bread apocalypse continues at my local Pick N Save, I can make my own. There are a lot of online recipes for making easy flatbreads with minimal ingredients from your pantry. AP flour is one of the most valuable ingredients right now if you find yourself in a bind.
4. Shop as Normal
The entire country isn’t going into lockdown any time soon, so you can do your grocery shopping as normal, save for additional health precautions. Wash your cart handle when you grab it, etc. If you want to pick up a little extra, no one can blame you, but the time for panic buying is over. We all need to eat, and the more of us that try to go about business as usual in regards to our grocery shopping, the better.
5. Be Kind
Over the course of this, there will be frustrations. Your grocery store will be out of something. You will be in a long line. There will be someone working in public every single day of their lives when some of us get to go home and self-isolate the vast majority of the time. Those people are putting themselves on the line for all of us just by going in to work to make sure we get our essentials. The Teenager at Target that you harassed once for accidently scanning an item twice or the Grocery Store clerk who couldn’t get your toilet paper deserves as much praise as anyone right now.
They get paid like ass, and they’re the ones taking the biggest risk for us. For all of us. Most places don’t let them accept tips, so at the very least, let them know they’re appreciated. Let them know they’re seen.
Help who you can help. Do you have a neighbor that is struggling to feed her kids? Make them a meal. Get an extra loaf of bread at the store and give it to them. This is the time to remember the good things about humanity. We’ve seen a lot of bad things for a very long time, but we can’t focus on it anymore. We’ve got to take care of each other.
We can’t go out to eat, and ordering delivery isn’t always viable. Teach yourself something new. Cooking is a good stress reliever and a fun group activity if you and the family are stuck in the house for awhile. I find a lot of relief from my anxiety in making bread or stock to store for the future, and every meal is an opportunity for some serotonin. Enjoy the things you have always enjoyed, even if you’re the one who has to make them instead of someone else.
The worst thing we can do for ourselves right now is eat poorly. A good diet is good for your health.
Orignally Posted on March 27, 2020 in the Archive
This article was written before the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread aggressively within the United States. Please keep that in mind while reading. The small grocery stores like the ones described in this article need our support the most right now.
Northeast Wisconsin is blessed with a large Asian immigrant community. Within a six block radius, there are a TON of Asian markets to explore. Chief of these is Asian Taste Supermarket, where my husband took me on March 1st to go hunting for ingredients we need for the Cookbook of the Month, Japanese Home Cooking. He has been on walkabout in the neighborhood more than once, taking stock of a few of these markets by my request when I’ve stayed home to clean or something. This one, he told me, was probably his favorite.
Despite the very cramped front aisles, I could see why he would feel that way about Asian Taste. You’re welcomed by an aisle of sweets, and from there on, you can find a variety of spices, noodles, canned goods, and even fresh ingredients. I saw a durian with my own eyes for the first time in their produce section. I smelled it too. Even before it’s opened, I can’t say I recommend the smell
I’ve always had a fascination with exploring new grocery stores, but ethnic markets are a rare treat for me. Where I grew up, we had a small hispanic market that I went to maybe once. An Asian market was in the next town over during my time in Iowa, but I never made the trip. The large hispanic population in Milford, Delaware led to my exploration of an honest to god giant grocery store, El Gigante. I had yet to experience something like Asian taste.
I have a passing knowledge of Spanish to get me by in a market, but I definitely cannot read Thai or Hmong. I also cannot read Japanese, Chinese, or Korean despite my best duolingo efforts. Most of the labels did have english somewhere on them to help me out, but very rarely was the english in a prominent location. I have no doubt I passed up some golden items during my shopping trip.
What I did manage to find has set me up relatively well for our foray into Japanese cooking this month. Furikake seasoning, for example, was available within Asian Taste, and it was one of the first things I snagged off the shelves. Sonoko Sakai offers to substitute in Thai red chilis or Korean Chili flakes in a few recipes, both of which were also available. I found a little jar of Sambal that has fascinated me since our time with the Lucky Peach Cookbook.
Botan rice caught my eye from across the crowded space, and by adding a bag of that to my basket, I had to pass it over to my husband to carry. We left with such a variety of offerings that I can’t remember them all as I sit down to write about my experience. Meats, vegetables, and soybean products were among the few areas of the store that I neglected since I am able to find most of these things at the regular grocery store.
The experience fills me with some hope for the current home cook that might be considering a challenging cookbook like Sonoko Sakai’s Japanese Home Cooking. Not everything has to come down from Amazon if a person has access to a place like this, even if the Japanese population in their area is minimal. If you are in a region like the one I grew up in, however, Amazon remains your only bet at sourcing a vast majority of the requested ingredients. It’s a point in favor of the opposition toward this cookbook.
It's staggeringly obvious that moving into ethnic cuisine is a daunting task for a home cook, especially one like Japanese cuisine where the ingredients are not widespread. Learning Hispanic cuisines has become much easier as the immigrant population grows so large that even towns as small as my hometown can sustain a Hispanic foods store when the growing aisle in the supermarket isn't enough. The best I can do at my regular grocer for Japanese cooking is soy sauce, Nori, and instant soups.
If the task of sourcing these ingredients is enough to convince you not to buy a cookbook, I can tell you now that Japanese Home Cooking won't be for you. If I were not in a good place financially at my new job, I might have already given up. You don't want to know how much I spent at Asian Taste much less on ordering shit from Amazon. Or maybe, you do?
The adventure of finding these different ingredients has given the whole thing more value for me. I've struggled to get myself into Green Bay proper beyond my apartment and my office since my health has been rough, and doing this for the blog was enough to give me the courage to go out and just do it. We talk a lot about doing it for the gram, but I'm doing it for the blog.
An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird. Pledge monthly to our patreon!