Posts Tagged ‘Quarantine Cooking’

Pantry Staple Comfort

Sunday, April 5th, 2020

In the months following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, I went through a career crisis.

With the world experiencing so much grief and anxiety, I asked myself, what on earth was I doing writing about food: making up recipes, blathering on and on about my delights and failures in the kitchen? Shouldn’t I be saving the world instead?

Then I attended the Fancy Food Show in New York. This giant exposition shows off popular and emerging specialty foods in the United States and abroad, from salsas to cheeses to chocolates.

I nibbled my way through the thousands of booths at the Jacob Javits Convention Center and soon identified a trend. In an effort to counteract the prevalent cultural malaise, most of the food purveyors that year were displaying wares that embodied tradition and comfort.

They reminded me reminded that food can nourish our spirits as well as our bodies.

I came to a realization, one that still guides my work. I may not be saving the world literally in my kitchen. In difficult times, however, reaching out to other people with nourishing foods and stories reminds me and others that the world is worth saving.

Now that Americans are practicing a regime of social distancing, I am grateful for my well stocked pantry and the opportunity it gives me to share foods with neighbors. Even if we can’t get together to eat, I can deliver carefully prepared dishes.

And we have plenty of time to talk on the telephone, about food and also about other things that matter: family, love, books, music, films, television programs, and the increasing daylight that reminds us that the earth keeps moving through its cycle of growth and renewal.

We may not be making a lot of money these days, thanks to COVID-19. We can still make simple, inexpensive foods, however, and nourish our families, neighbors, and community with them.

Food can comfort us both physically and emotionally. I imagine I’m not the only person who has felt a bit overwhelmed by the cascade of events in the last couple of weeks as the closing down of public life has accelerated.

Preparing something that cooks for hours and hours and takes shape little by little, like my red beans and rice, can slow down our lives and our heartrates.

I made this dish recently with that good old standby, cornbread. Non-employees are not allowed in the studio at my TV home away from home, Mass Appeal, so I phoned in the cornbread recipe to share with the co-hosts. Even without seeing each other, we had fun.

I hope to see many of you soon. Meanwhile, stay well, take care of each other, and cook your hearts out.

Yankee Cornbread

Ingredients:

3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (or 1/2 teaspoon salt)
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter or bacon fat

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Generously grease a 9-inch cast-iron skillet (or an 8-inch square baking dish) with butter or bacon fat.

In a bowl combine the flour, the cornmeal, the sugar, the baking powder, and the seasoning. Mix together the remaining ingredients and blend them into the dry mixture. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for about 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Cut into wedges or slices. Serves 6 to 8.