November 20, 2020

Food and cooking in 2020...

What a wild ride the last 8 months and counting have been!  Like everyone else, we've been staying home as much as possible, taking things day by day.  There are far too many emotions boiling just beneath the surface to address properly here but for what it's worth, keeping busy, focusing on basics like food and our meals, has been a much-needed distraction, particularly during the early days of the lockdown.

That said, I have to admit that cooking/baking fatigue set in by around week 12 for me.  Cooking three meals a day, plus snacks and treats, for three straight months got a little exhausting.  Nevertheless, I can't express enough how grateful I am to be able to get groceries, and to have the luxury of cooking for my family and myself, during this time.

Luckily, businesses began to open up and the occasional takeout became part of life and provided a reprieve to the non-stop cooking.  I also learned to ease up and get back to basics more often.  Because in the early days of mid-March through April and May, meals were more elaborate than normal, as a way to both comfort and distract us.  I was doing things like making fresh crepes for afternoon snack (the recipe Dominique Ansel shared online was a hit at our house).  If it wasn't crepes, cake, or cookies, I was making things like chouquettes dipped in chocolate sauce...

...and craquelin-topped cream puffs - some of which were filled with chocolate cream and others made into profiteroles stuffed with ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce.
Like a lot of other people, I was concerned about my store of yeast (and flour) because I was baking bread and making English muffins...

I had a successful attempt at making soft, fluffy Japanese milk bread for the first time. 
There was even a session of pretzel-making in my kitchen. Back in April, I finally made my almond crunch pretzel daydreams come true.  They were an homage to ones my husband and I would often get at the mall back in the day.  I was happy with how well they turned out.

Beyond sweets and treats, there were all those daily main meals we all needed and craved.  I put most of my focus there and experimented with recipes to keep things interesting, and myself motivated.  At the beginning of the pandemic, I found myself posting each meal I made on my Instagram page as a kind of journaling (because actually keeping a written journal seemed - and still feels like - something of a scary prospect)...after a while, I relaxed it into the occasional summary via picture collages.  I've since dropped the regimen, as meals have fallen largely back into more of a norm and become more repetitive, but it's neat to look back at all the goings on happening in the kitchen and dining room table during the past few months. 

Some of the recipes I tackled included homemade noodles.  It's a bit of work rolling and cutting the dough by hand but, somehow, the process of working with dough always feels relaxing and therapeutic.

The noodles and the spicy peanut sauce they were tossed in were winners.  Incidentally, I learned to roast tofu with teriyaki or another asian-style sauce and was doing it often to top grain bowls, noodles, and whatnot for lunch. 
I heard about King Arthur Flour's 2020 Recipe of the Year in the form of their crispy cheesy pan pizza.  I have a major pizza lover in the house in the form of our 15 year old so I'm always interested in a good, easy pizza recipe.  This dough is truly a cinch to make and I called on this recipe multiple times during the lockdown.
When I had a hankering for sushi, I decided to try making it myself.  After ordering a few sushi-making tools, we had shrimp-avocado rolls one afternoon. Another fun, reward session in the kitchen!
Speaking of ordering things, I suspect I'm not the only one who ordered a lot of random things (beyond necessities like toilet paper!) online during this time.  For instance, I ordered a musubi mold so I could make spam musubi.  Those of us who can't help but like spam might understand my motivation.  We ate these pretending we were snacking in Hawaii.
Sometimes I'd reminisce about past vacations by doing things like making a Spanish omelet for lunch. 
And I enjoyed delving into cookbooks like Jubilee for ideas and to learn new things.  Red rice was one of the recipes I really enjoyed trying; it was at once familiar yet different from the rice dishes we normally eat.  Cooking different foods brings a lot of conversation to the dinner table - one of my favorite things.  
With all the meals we were cooking and eating every day, being creative and trying new recipes was a great motivator, particularly in those early days. 
And interspersed between new recipes were all the tried and true, no-recipe needed, family favorites and the familiar that we cooked and ate as we checked off meal after meal.  Thank goodness for both the familiar and the new!  I've definitely picked up a handful of recipes (both on the sweet as well as savory side) that I've made multiple times and will continue to make for a long time to come.  All of which again brings me back to being incredibly thankful for the ability to cook and eat with my family.  Essential workers, including grocery store workers and all those involved with the entire food supply chain, have made it possible for us to be able to secure the food and supplies we need, and I am eternally grateful.  

During this weird time, we've celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and milestones, with food being the backdrop for everything.

We're keeping busy and staying hopeful for the future even though we know these next few months will be difficult.  We sure look forward to the time when we can eat together with extended family and friends again.  Hopefully, that time won't be too far away.  In the meantime, here's to staying well and safe.  Here's to sharing meals at home with your immediate loved ones, whether cooked from scratch in your kitchen or thanks to takeout from a local restaurant.  

We're gearing up for a highly unusual holiday season but we're looking forward to enjoying it as much as possible.  The good news is all rules are out the window!  The new game plan is to do what you like - as much, or as little, as you want.  Focus on joy and positivity.

Be well!  

1 comment:

  1. Good to see you update the blog again, Monica, and with so many delicious and tempting treats. Love those cookies :-) Be well!



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