Cooking in Quarantine Vol 3, Sec. 34


Welcome to Cooking in Quarantine! We’re happy to have you here. How is your sourdough starter? Do you need sourdough starter? Because I have sourdough starter if you need it.

I also have chili peppers and several different herbs in my garden, including several that I don’t like but which grow like weeds! Do you need epazote? I thought epazote was an herb but it turns out epazote is a tree that smells like gasoline!

I can get you beans, too. I think they are a variety of lima, but I’m not sure. What I can tell you is that they grow very fast and produce a lot of beans. The best part is that you must shell the beans from their pods, then take the beans and blanch them to loosen the inedible skin that covers the edible bit, all of which occupies time that you now have in abundance! And the very small edible beans are delicious.

It is as though I am one with nature.

I’ve been doing a lot of creative cooking recently, in part because I love to cook but also because I have a lot of things in my freezer and I have been trying to avoid the grocery. Did you know you can make a hell of a lasagna with deli-sliced ham and frozen spinach? That assumes you can find lasagna noodles. Which you almost certainly can’t.

I am fortunate in that I have a hoarder’s mentality where it comes to pantry staples, but even I have been left adrift by the lack of options at local groceries. It’s not all bad though; I’ve been cooking some of the neglected grains I’ve been storing in plastic bins for the last year. We’ve been eating quinoa, millet and several varieties of “forbidden” rice. It’s gotten so dire that just this week I went looking for pearl cous cous and could find none. Not a single pearl!

This week I cooked a pumpkin that grew in my front yard. It grew spontaneously from seeds tossed from our last Halloween pumpkin. It was not actually ripe when I harvested it, but the plant was dying because it apparently it was a very popular pee-target for the local canine population.

I am starting to consider how to cook crow.

I have also been going through a number of ingredients that I purchased during one or another of my “phases.” By that I mean that sometimes I decide I’m going to take a deep dive into cooking Thai or Sichuan or some regional Mexican cuisine and as a result I buy things like crab paste with chiles or fermented bean curd or epazote.

Now I am using crab paste with chiles and fermented bean curd when I cook. I have broken out the won ton wrappers and the coconut chutney. I am considering how best to utilize the frozen tindora gourd and the whole dried limes I’ve had socked away in the pantry for a year or two. Most of these things had not passed their “best by” dates, though to be honest some of them didn’t have expiration dates and I’m not really sure how I’d know if the fermented bean curd had gone bad. I think it’s supposed to smell like that.

I’ve tried to use everything I’ve kept in my freezer, but to be honest it’s hard to find stuff in my freezer and when I did an inventory last week I found a few things that I believe were in my freezer several years ago before we moved. I know it is a thing to dry age meat these days, but I don’t know how to do it and I’m pretty sure it’s not “leave it in your freezer for 4 years.”

So I’ve thrown a few things out, and I’ve cooked a few things that didn’t seem quite right but which I figured would smell better once cooked. I’ve had the occasional GI problem.

I thought, when we first started down this quarantine road, that I would be in fat city, cooking what I wanted all the time. As it turns out my daughters are not big fans of fermented tofu or tindora gourd or epazote. We’ve been eating a lot of pasta. I’m curious as to whether the time you’ve spent at home has made you more or less enthusiastic about cooking?

Are you cooking the sort of things you did pre-Corona? Are you taking on more ambitious cooking projects? Do you need any epazote?

These are the questions of our time, folks. Ponder them.




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