Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Food Glorious Food

“Food, glorious, food, hot sausage and mustard.” I believe those are lines from the play, Oliver, or at least a close approximation. Food has been top of mind since we’re been on coronavirus house arrest. Our quarantine started five days early, due to Eric’s upper respiratory illness. Lucky us. We went out to dinner for my birthday on Wednesday, March 11th. The next morning Eric woke up sick and we’ve been eating at home ever since.

Unlike many of our friends and neighbors, we normally eat home for most of our meals. We both can cook, and don’t usually have dinner out more than once a week or so. We also get burritos for takeout and have Sol Food in the neighborhood which has great Puerto Rican food. We don’t have food delivered with the frequency of city dwellers. A couple months ago my daughter (who had a new baby) and her three-year old were both sick. I went to San Francisco to help take care of them. For dinner, my son-in-law ordered Indian food, and had it delivered. The next afternoon Dad was at work and Mom was napping. My granddaughter and I were resting and watching a video when the doorbell rang. It was 4:40 pm. Lila picked up her head, looked around and asked, “Is dinner here?”

That made me laugh so hard and I have relayed the story numerous times. It’s so different from the way I grew up and from the way my children were raised, but it’s her life. She lives in a city with two working parents and that’s how it’s done. Dinner arrives at the front door. Lucy likes to cook, and tries to when she can, but it’s mostly weekends. She wants her kids to be aware that food is made in kitchens, but one must do what one must do.

Now what we must do is eat at home. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. What we are going to eat for dinner has become a sensitive topic in our house, of late. Honestly, I think we’ve been in a bit of a rut. I cooked a lot for a long time. With three growing girls and all their friends streaming in, I was good at cooking for a crowd. When I started in real estate it became a lot harder. All my plans, dinner and otherwise would go out the window when I had to show property or write an offer at the last minute. The girls were up and out or on the way. I became single and it was much easier for me to pick up something pre-made than to cook for one.

When I met Eric he led with how much he loves to cook. He claimed it was his only creative outlet. I disagree with that. He can write a damn good suspense novel when he puts his mind to it. I think he mostly wanted me for my kitchen which I designed myself.  With ten-foot ceilings and lots of light, it also has a six burner Viking, an island, a walk-in pantry and LOTS of counter space. He made himself right at home. Truthfully, sometimes it feels like he took it over. When the kids were little and I was trying to make dinner, I would request (beg, plead, demand – call it what you will) for them to stay outside of the “invisible lines”. Now that Eric has proprietary interest in the kitchen, I feel like I’m the one being asked to stay outside the lines.

My regular schedule isn’t very conducive to cooking. Two days a week I’m not home from San Francisco until 7:00 pm, and my weekends can still go sideways with work demands. It took me a while to realize that I missed cooking. Being in the kitchen grounds me. I like to make my old favorite recipes. Now that we’re sheltering in place there is plenty of cooking for everyone. Here is our food diary: Week One.

Wednesday 3/11 – Dinner out at Gravity Tavern, Mill Valley. Delicious.

Thursday, 3/12 – I made Lentil Soup made from The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison. I’ve never eaten there, but Greens is a legendary vegetarian restaurant in Fort Mason, San Francisco. I kind of defeat the purpose of the vegetarianism by adding ham hocks, but it really adds to the flavor. I also brighten it up with a bit of balsamic vinegar. Soup is great on its own or paired with a salad.

Friday, 3/13 – Eric was still sick, so I got to control the kitchen. He likes a lot more meat than I do, and I figured he’d want some meat after not quite vegetarian lentil soup. I got good ground round from Mill Valley Market and a bun for the man of the house. I eat mine bun-less, because it seems that carbs are not my friend these days. I also steamed some broccoli with garlic salt and sesame oil.

Saturday, 3/14 – We started thinking about our local restaurants and decided to order two small pizzas from Vasco in downtown Mill Valley, which is our go-to neighborhood place. We got one Margarita and one sausage and mushroom which totaled $34. Eric made a salad. To be honest, the togetherness wasn’t wearing well, and we ended up eating in different parts of the house, which was fine with me.  

Sunday, 3/15 – I was busy watching the Democratic debate and Eric had full reign in the kitchen. He made amazing short ribs with polenta. Since our salad wasn’t eaten Saturday night, we ate it on Sunday.

Monday, 3/16 – Shelter in Place until April 7th was announced. We made shopping lists, and both went out to stock up. Eric went to his favorite, Safeway, and I went to my favorite, Mill Valley Market. Normally, I’ll do a big shop at Trader Joes and fill in produce and meat at MV Market. Under these circumstances I didn’t want to bother with Trader Joes. My only complaint with MV Market is that they don’t make it easy to sanitize the handles on the shopping carts. The other markets have the anti-bacterial wipes out front so you can wipe off the cart handles before you touch them. I made a request for this, but it wasn’t done. Instead, the employees began wearing latex gloves. I brought my own wipes, but this really is a fail, especially since the place was crawling with the elderly, frantically loading up on supplies.  

I made spinach, cheese and bacon quiche for dinner which really hit the spot. The recipe is one I’ve been using since I began cooking forty-two years ago. It’s from “Joy of Cooking” and the book is literally falling apart and broken open to the quiche recipe. We had some cheese that was going to get too old and I wanted to use it. I also didn’t want to use two cups of our fresh milk, so I used one and a half cups evaporated milk and the remainder was fresh. We both really liked the way it tasted. My childhood experiences of large family, little money really kicks in when it’s required. I know how to “make do”. This hunkering down may be my time to shine.

Tuesday, 3/17 – St. Patrick’s Day. No celebrations, obviously. I’d bought a cooked chicken on Monday. Eric used it and other items we had on hand and made a wonderful Chicken Taco Salad.

There you have it. One week of eating at home. My stomach’s growling. I think I’ll head down to the kitchen for some avocado toast with a fried egg on top. Stay safe, everyone!

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