Let us begin with gratitude. I spent Sunday cooking and pulling weeds. I was trying to think of a witty, funny, snarky, informative, grab-your-attention way to begin this column. And I swear to you that these words, this edict, popped into my head. Who am I to argue? So, let us begin with gratitude.
I am grateful that although I live on busy Route 114, for the last six weeks it has been no noisier than the country lane in Podunk, U.S.A. I am grateful that even though our air is already breezy sparkling clean, now it is even more crystal clear. I am a weather nut and have various cities’ weather reports on my phone. This way I can check on friends and family, wherever they are.
Every single city right now, including Los Angeles and New York City, has an air quality index of “good.” I am grateful that so many people are helping each other.
Brian Halweil brought me some sourdough bread starter begun by Chris Tracy at Channing Daughters Winery. Thank you! I took some pulled pork and ribs to our hard working Sag Harbor mayor, Kathleen Mulcahy. She reciprocated with a chicken pot pie and two homemade masks.
I am grateful that finally flour and yeast are making occasional appearances at our grocery stores. Which begs the question: What happened to all those gluten allergies?
I am grateful that I can find the occasional one-unit package of dubious toilet paper. I am used to using Scott tissue, purported to be the gentlest brand for our local septic systems, so I can’t be accused of being a fusspot when it comes to quality and comfort. I have divided these sketchy brands into two categories: First we have the toilet paper with the strength of the gossamer wings of butterflies, guaranteed to melt in your hand no matter how many yards of it you gather up. Let’s call this one Artisanal Angel Soft Moth Wings.
The other brand I have found comes in three styles: emery board, sandpaper, and river birch bark. These are called Rustic Rough and Ready Quilted Northern, Charmin Abrade, and Cottonelle Rasp. All of the above come in lovely, subtle colors such as carbon, ecru, and opaque couch, or Pantone 448c.
Let’s talk about food now, shall we?
I asked friends on Facebook recently how their shopping, cooking, and eating habits have been altered or changed. First of all, for many, the mere acquisition of food has become difficult. Many have come to rely on food delivery services such as Baldor and Chef’s Warehouse. These companies that usually only deliver bulk items wholesale to restaurants, schools, etc., have modified their systems and now deliver to individual households.
A lot of people get Amazon deliveries. Local farms have started community supported agriculture, or C.S.A., boxes earlier in the season. And many local restaurants are offering curbside pick up. Some charge their usual prices, some have discounted their offerings significantly, and for that we are grateful.
A lot of friends have their entire families home with them, because of school closings, furloughs, and firings. Everyone in my friend Ellen’s family takes turns cooking a different themed meal with a cocktail to go with it beforehand, such as a Sazerac before a gumbo or jambalaya. A lot of people have started baking sourdough bread and making fresh pasta. Most of all (again let us be grateful), many people have become hyper aware of food waste.
My friend Tom is hunkered down on Abaco in the Bahamas. Oh, boohoo, you may say sarcastically, but keep in mind this island was devastated by Hurricane Dorian last September.
He and his partner get most of their food from a local farm and they share a small bag of peanut M&Ms every evening.
Kathryn Menu of The Express News Group says “we are very aware of our food supply in a way we never were before,” and she is grateful she and her husband, Gavin, are still working full time. Journalists are essential personnel, too, folks!
A lot of people seem to be eating more meat. Lila Beudert Gluckman has made five pot roasts in the last few months. Chimene Visser MacNaughton shared a photo of glorious short ribs. Several people I know have made David Chang’s bossam, a slow-cooked pork butt that can be stretched every which way for future meals.
Every single person who replied has changed their shopping, cooking, and cleaning habits for the better. Many are growing vegetables for the first time, victory gardens as it were.
Some of the “highlights” of this current situation are the cooking classes and demonstrations offered by various chefs, such as Stephan Bogardus of the Halyard in Greenport, Guy Reuge of Mirabelle Restaurant in Stony Brook, and the chef and caterer Peter Ambrose of Sag Harbor. Mr. Ambrose’s classes begin ahead of time with a shopping list for participants. Viewers learn to make duck confit, paella, seared duck breast, sauces, clams and linguine, and more.
A friend in California wrote, “Last night we had dinner at 3, cocktails at 4, and had dessert at 6. And had appetizers at 7. We eat whatever, whenever we feel like it. Habits have departed.”
Chef Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, one of the most lauded and expensive restaurants in the world, has been feeding thousands of hospital workers and first responders lately. He posted the most eloquent message recently of what some chefs and restaurants are doing right now. “Food is so magical, it can be so many things, it creates memories, defines cultures, can be creative and artistic, but also it’s nurturing and we all need it to live. I’ve lived through the lens of food and it has taught me everything I know and I’m so happy that it’s showing me even in this difficult time the way forward once again. I’m so grateful to our community and mostly to my team, you guys are the best and this work is shaping our way forward.”
Let us begin with gratitude.
My son, Adrian, got this recipe from one of his bosses. It sounds hilarious and easy. This would be good for a slow cooker. Serves six.
1 4-lb. beef chuck roast
1/4 cup butter
5 pepperoncini peppers
1 1-oz. packet ranch dressing
1 1-oz. packet dry au jus mix (I think they mean gravy)
Place roast in a slow cooker (or Dutch oven). Form a pocket in the top of roast and place butter, pepperoncini peppers, ranch dressing mix, and au jus mix in the pocket. Cook on low for eight hours.
Here are two recipes from Peter Ambrose’s online cooking classes.
Honey Wasabi Aioli
1 oz. jar of wasabi powder
1 oz. water
1/2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 cups mayonnaise
Mix wasabi powder and water until it forms a paste. Add honey and vinegar and mix. Add two cups mayonnaise and whisk or blend together. Store in refrigerator.
2 roasted sweet red peppers, or about 8-10-oz. jar
2-1/2 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
5 cloves garlic
1 tsp. cumin
Approximately 3-4 oz. olive oil
In Vitamix or blender, combine roasted peppers, pepper flakes, garlic, and oil. Blend until smooth and all flakes are blended in.
Transfer to bowl and season with salt, vinegar, and cumin.
Harissa can be used as is as super-hot sauce, combined with mayo to make a great spicy mayo, or added to your favorite chicken wing recipe, soups, and anything else that needs a kick.