Culinary Miscellany

I didn’t set out to blog about food; it’s almost certainly a sign of these extraordinary times. COVID-19 has both prompted me to minimize trips to the grocery store and impressed on me that not everything I want will be on the shelves when I want it. I’m not talking about seasonal produce here (my freezer is always well stocked with whole cranberries, which are only available in the fall); I’m talking about staples I take for granted because they’re always there — or used to be.

I haven’t been much affected by the fact that these days you can’t get a sit-down meal in a restaurant: I don’t have an eat-out income, though it does allow for the occasional breakfast with friends at the Black Dog Café and fairly frequent stops for a cookie on the way home (when Tam’s with me, he gets a Black Dog biscuit). Several places are open for takeout, however, and when I really need a break from my own cooking, I plan to indulge.

I just started preparing to make a quiche. The ball of dough that will become the crust is refrigerating. Eggs and cheese are working their way up to room temperature. No chorizo or linguiça in the fridge but there was half of a half pound of bacon, which I’ve just fried up crispy. If I don’t eat it all (with some help from Tam), there’ll be enough left to put in the quiche.

Late yesterday afternoon I made a Red Beans and Rice recipe I found in the Washington Post. Having never had or even seen the New Orleans original I have no idea how authentic it is. Judging by the comments on the recipe it isn’t, but it’s effing delicious. I was so hungry when it was done I didn’t even cook up the rice. It’s great.

Shopping the other day I realized I was buying two of things I usually just get one of. Not hoarding really; just trying to minimize my trips to the grocery store. Earlier this year I joined the MVY Co-op. Have already noticed that some things that seem hugely extravagant at the grocery — honey, cashews, pecans, dates — seem reasonable as part of my co-op orders, which are smaller and less frequent than my trips to Reliable or Cronig’s. I’m also getting better at figuring how much to order of what. Not everything I want is available in every order cycle, so — order more than usual. I just sprang for 10 pounds of oat groats and 10 pounds of long-grain brown rice: things I can’t stand to run out of.

My culinary repertoire includes mostly dishes that make enough for several meals and freeze well: chilis, soups, and stews. Several of these are bean-intensive, and I’ve been trying lately to start from dried beans instead of cans, so in a fill-in-the-gaps Cronig’s run, I was looking particularly for the kidney beans and black beans that go into my current favorite chili. To my surprise, the bean section was mostly bare, of both dried beans and canned. (The bulk bins have been banished for the duration.) Navy beans were plentiful, and there were garbanzos to be had, but I didn’t need them. I was lucky enough to find, lurking way back on a bottom shelf, a can of kidneys and a can of black beans — enough for my next round of chili.

There was no brown rice to be had either. White Uncle Ben’s, white Minute Rice, and some sort of white rice in transparent plastic containers, but that was it. Eventually my co-op order for long-grain brown will come in, and meanwhile I’ll make do with the boxes of Near East rice pilaf (various flavors) stashed in my cupboard.

On my most recent trip to Cronig’s, I noticed that lines had been drawn on the floor to mark six feet of social distance from the cashier, and signs urged us to keep six feet from each other. In the aisles this often isn’t possible, but where in the past I would have squeezed by someone who was studying the selection before her, now I’m more likely to wait — especially when the other person is wearing a mask. (Why? Not sure, but my hunch so far is that mask-wearers are more conscientious and/or more nervous than I, and I respect that.) Most of the staff were wearing masks, and more shoppers than on my previous trip, but mask wearers were definitely in the minority.

Quiche is a dish-intensive project, and lacking a dishwasher, I wash my dishes in the sink and stick them to dry in an ordinary dish drainer, but one quiche = six meals so I’m not complaining. The bowls, skillet, plate, egg beater, and measuring cup benefit from being washed once in a while, and Tam (like Travvy before him) thoroughly enjoys pre-washing the skillet and the egg bowl.

I’ve never frozen a quiche, by the way, but it keeps long enough in the fridge for me to finish it off.

And yes, I have washed my hands several times today . . .



About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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3 Responses to Culinary Miscellany

  1. Karen says:

    Thank you for sharing the recipe! I plan to give it a go – hopefully the ingredients I don’t have on hand will be on the shelves when I go on the hunt. Strange times we live in…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have a feeling that this recipe will survive a lot of mix-and-matching if you can’t find everything you need. White beans of various kinds seem to be easier to find than black beans or dark red kidneys, and I’ve got a generous jarful that have been sitting around for a while, so I may be substituting soon.


  2. Unfortunately a lot of big disasters in this country have taught the American public that we will need to rely on ourselves when it comes to basic survival… at least until the “help” can be mustered. But in these times of Covid, we have witnessed a government that does not even listen to the experts — let alone those in the thick of need. I therefore find it ironic that people are criticized and mocked for “hoarding”… those who can, will. The rest of us try to keep stocked on what we already know we need to get by. Until we can again count on our own governments to help or be trying to, dry goods and other basics will become increasingly important. Let’s hope those who have the privilege of being kept in luxury at the cost of the rest of us have a least read a little history… If not, might I suggest the French and American Revolutions to start…


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