I’ve been home now for 7 weeks. I feel so fortunate I am able to work from home, and that I still have a job. The work keeps me chained to my computer from 7:30 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon, and it gives me a sense of purpose.
I set my alarm Monday through Friday mornings, I get up, I do my hair (haha,) I put makeup on, I get dressed. Not dressed like I’m going to work, I’ve been pretty much living in tank tops, jeans, and flip flops (Florida!), and once or twice a week, I wear a comfy dress. One that I could wear to the beach, for instance.
I do this not because I don’t like hanging out in my pajamas. I like that as much as the next person. But early in this pandemic, I had read this article from a journalist, I think from the Wall Street Journal – sorry I can’t find that article now so it could have been the Washington Post or the New York Times, I read them all every day. Anyway, he had quarantined himself for a few weeks just to see how it would work. And what I took away from that article was that I need routine, and I need to get dressed. Saturday, I can hang out in PJs all day if I want.
I get groceries delivered once a week or so, or send my husband to the store every other week, so I am cooking with what I have. When I say “send my husband,” please know that is entirely his choice. He’s got this slightly protective macho thing where he doesn’t want me going shopping. Or my daughter. Even though we are less at risk than he is. But it is not worth fighting about, so I try and keep it to a bare minimum, which for me is twice a month. Costco has “senior hour,” which he qualifies for, so he goes then. Our supermarket, Publix, has senior hours for 65+, so we can’t go then. But if he goes right after that hour, the store is empty. Now I understand Costco is limiting the amount of meat to three packages per person. I have no room in my freezer, so when we run out, vegetarian it is, or maybe they’ll be restocked by then.
Speaking of vegetables, there is a farm a few miles away that has started selling boxes of fresh produce for $10. It’s awesome! They have a horseshoe-shaped driveway, and people waiting alongside it. Then they just put the box in your car. You don’t get out or anything.
I’ve gone through more than 15 pounds of flour in these weeks that I’ve been home. Mostly because I am doing the sourdough starter. I feed it twice a day, that’s pretty much 2 cups of flour a day. Plus lots more if I actually bake with it. So far, I’ve made pretzels, rustic sourdough bread, and sourdough sandwich bread. But the best thing I’ve made is Sourdough Banana Pancakes. I found the recipe on Instagram (thanks, Chef Johanna Hellrigl – for the photo, too!) and they were the easiest and best pancakes I ever made. We are doing breakfast for dinner every week or two, which my family thinks is great, so lucky me, it’s about the easiest dinner to make, so we are all happy.
I’ve also found myself making food that lasts for at least two meals or more. Turkey. Brisket. My family’s favorite meatloaf from Old-School Comfort Food by Alex Guarnaschelli. It’s Alex’s mom’s recipe and their family favorite, too! I turned pork butt into “Pressure Cooker Garlicky Cuban Pork,” which is so good! But my delivery didn’t include tortillas, the store was out. So I made flour tortillas for the first time. I never quite got the round aspect down, but they tasted good. I also made “Big Bellied Argentinian Empanadas” one night from the fantastic Gran Cocina Latina cookbook by Maricel Presilla. I’ve made them many times, but always with frozen empanada dough. For the first time, I made the dough (all local stores sold out of the frozen!) but I chickened out at attempting the traditional rope edge. I was down to my last egg, so I didn’t do the pretty egg wash either. I especially love this recipe because they are baked instead of fried (so much easier!) and are so good!
We’ve made pizza a couple of times. I made a Chicago style pizza, or as I think of it, pizza casserole, that was awesome!
Then I spent two (or was it three?) days making Anthony Falco’s “Sourdough Pizza Dough,” and it was so bad I could have cried. The dough looked beautiful every step of the way until it came time to make the pizza. The dough didn’t stretch, it tore. Adding a ton of flour made it somewhat more malleable, but it tasted like crap. Looks good in the pictures though!
Then my boss told me she made pizza and the crust came out like crap. She thought maybe old yeast or something. We are calling it the “Quarantine Pizza Curse.” We’ve also been eating lots of pasta – mac & cheese, homemade “beefaroni,” pasta with veggies, frozen ravioli when I really don’t feel like cooking. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. I’m trying to balance all those carbs with fish and chicken and salads, but to be honest, I don’t always achieve that balance I’m seeking.
Because I am home, I have the luxury of time. There is no more rushing to get dinner ready. I have time to make things from scratch. Time to try new recipes. On my “lunch break” from work, I can throw a cake in the oven or start marinating something delicious for dinner.
Reading has always brought me comfort and escape. But it is not enough right now. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I love to cook and to bake. That is my happy place and let’s face it, we all need something to bring us joy right now. I found mine, and I hope you have found yours!
As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!