Three weeks ago, it started to become clear that California was about to become a state of shut ins as a result of the coronavirus.
In an effort to be prepared to keep at least our household running, I took inventory of what we had on hand. Between the freezer and the pantry, I could identify about 3 weeks of perfectly normal meals and an additional month’s worth of subsistence living on dried goods (essentially beans, rice, farro, oatmeal, barley). As I went through my list, I was actually getting kind of psyched about trying some new things I’d been putting off (regular pasta making) and making use of some of the things that have been staring back at me from the freezer for a bit too long (I’m looking at you, chicken wings).
But that was to be the reserve in case we got actually locked down. Still had to go to the store on Sunday like always. First the farmers market, then on to Whole Foods for the stuff we couldn’t get like cereal, milk, etc. That plan went down the toilet when they shut down the farmers market. I got a text from the rancher who sells us our meat and eggs letting us know that she would be selling out of her warehouse about 15 minutes away so we had meat and eggs covered. We get the bulk of our vegetables delivered by Imperfect Foods so that largely wasn’t an issue (with the exception of raspberries and tomatoes. Those do not fare well in a box with apples and potatoes flying around).
So, we headed off to the warehouse and picked up our usual weeks worth of stuff. A chicken for roasting, some kind of beef, and a generous helping of eggs (3 dozen) in anticipation of having to make our own pasta. Then it was off to brave Whole Foods. With no idea when we’d be getting back to “normal”, people went a bit nuts. As expected based on news reports, toilet paper and pasta were distant memories, and all that was left in the bread aisle was one lonely packet of cinnamon raisin bagels. No worries, we had flour and yeast at home and with a little water and salt we could have bread/pizza dough. And with all these eggs, we could make our own damned fettuccini. Take THAT panic buyers. So, it was time to hunker down and start being more self reliant.
It also happened to be time to plant the tomatoes and the peas and beans. 4 plants each of two different kinds of tomatoes along with strawberries and basil went into the small planting bed, peas and beans went into starter pots, picked up a fig tree and a raspberry bush/tree/plant and that was done. I found out that one of our neighbors has planted an avocado tree so I have high hopes that they will cross pollinate and we will get some avocados which hasn’t happened since the other neighbors cut down their avocado tree.
The first week of social distancing (a phrase I fear will be with us well after this has passed), was mostly filled with getting the household routine established. No more getting up at 6:30 so that the wife could drive to work and I could walk my daughter to school. The start time on the coffee maker moved from 6:15 to 7:15. We rolled out of bed at 7:30, the wife took the dog for a run. Because our usual cereals weren’t available, we switched to having granola or muesli in yogurt with fresh fruit or plain oatmeal with honey and cinnamon. At 8:00, our daughter started school in her jammies instead of in her uniform. Our house had become a hub of video conferencing. Showers shifted from a rushed event first thing in the morning or last thing before bed to whenever there was a spare half hour at any random time of day.
I brought them lunch at 12:30 every day as that was when my daughter’s English class videoconference was done. We started throwing away less stuff because it was easier to serve dinner leftovers when we didn’t need to worry about helping things hot/cold between leaving the house and lunch time. When school was over, the dog was treated to a nice long walk with me and my daughter instead of the usual rushed pee on the lawn (for the dog) and then jump in the car to go pickup at school. Ballet class, violin, and piano all shifted to video lessons eliminating the drives to and from those activities. All told, removing driving to and from work, school, and activities we got back about 8 hours of our lives per week.
While they were schooling/working, I was trying to keep dinner interesting. I’d slacked off on my bread baking and pasta making for some time, but now there wasn’t really a choice. If we were going to have fettuccine, I was going to have to make noodles from scratch. If we wanted sandwiches, that meant baking because the bread fairies had stopped restocking the shelves. If we wanted yogurt, that meant making yogurt … . But, yogurt is blindingly easy to make (“recipe” to follow), and I’d been wanting to bake more because I wanted to start playing with using my spent brewing grains for baking.
Which brings me back to something I should really address: I am a terrible blogger. Since I last posted more than one thing within a month, I’ve started playing with a lot of slow cooked meals in a mini instant pot and gotten pretty good at making beer (so much so that I’ve enrolled in the Craft Brewery Management program at San Diego State University, an undertaking that is now on hold because of the coronavirus). The former has opened up a bunch of slow cook recipes that I probably wouldn’t have had the patience to try, and the latter leaves me with a bunch of spent grain I need to dispose of preferably doing something other than just waiting for it to cool and dumping it in the compost bin. I have plenty of material, I’m not lacking for time, … .
All that being said, the real spur to start blogging again was not so much the pandemic or suddenly being forced to do a bunch of cooking stuff. We have some neighbors who gather at our corner in the evening (now gathering a good distance apart) to watch the sun set (I know, California … freaks). Lately the topic has been what everyone is eating because there’s not a whole heck of a lot else to talk about. Yesterday, one of those neighbors mentioned that they have been following about two days behind me with their cooking. That is to say, three days ago I grilled a rib eye, made some farro, and sautéed some Brussels sprouts in bacon fat and yesterday they did something similar. The next day we had shepherds pie and tonight they are planning on having shepherds pie. And so on. We joked that we should set up a google doc so they don’t have to pester me and we had a good laugh.
But this morning I was sitting here in my man cave having made the yogurt, finished the latest batch of pizza dough, and fed the troops, trying to think of something to fill the time between now and when I go up and make lunch and bake banana bread, and I got the annual bill for my WordPress site.
So, here we go … keep your fingers crossed.