The other night, my husband and I were alone and simultaneously not consumed by work taking up our attention 24/7 for the first time in weeks. Spring is exploding all around us, even as the worldwide deaths climb to nearly 250,000, 65,000 in the United States alone. Massachusetts is a hot spot, and we remain in lockdown until at least May 18, but perhaps longer. As we hear the news around us, and continue to isolate from the people we love, we are trying to focus on the things we can control – working hard, taking care of the kids and the house and yard, tending our animals, each other.
And like so many others, our focus is often in the kitchen.
Since we were alone and wanted time together more than anything, I made Beef Burgundy in the instant pot, and we settled in to start watching Julie & Julia, a movie I hadn’t seen in nearly a decade and he hadn’t ever, and we realized something – Julia Child’s obsession with food was much like my own, and Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci’s portrayal of Julia and Paul Childs reminded us of ourselves to an almost silly degree, only I’m not as tall or permed or talented as the amazing Julia was.
But the love of food, on that matter, there’s no question. No matter what is going on, if I settle down to fresh eggs from our chickens or a delicious home-cooked meal, it invariably makes it better.
I love food, the process of making it, the magic of turning flour, water and yeast into the most delicious bread imaginable, the delight of mastering a new recipe, the joy of when someone says “More please!”.
Almost everything I do is surrounded by food. Hence the regularity with which I exercise. And also, while so many people around me focus their charitable dollars on medical research and other important things, for me, it’s making sure children and families eat. All the places we can put our dollars matter, but for me, it’s the basics.
Without food, we cannot thrive. Without food, our brains don’t develop or function correctly. Food is a basic requirement of our survival, and so many lack it. Food is literally right there with shelter, water and bathing. It’s a basic building block for all of us.
Yesterday while talking to a neighbor I may never agree with politically, we both worried about famine as a result of our new reality. Here. Food is something we can all agree on – we all need it. In a polarized world, food may be a common ground we all can share.
It’s also why I’m endlessly driven to the garden, to find yet another local food source, to source from another local farm. Because as much as I love the grocery store, and oh, I do, I also know our food chain is fragile, dependent on shipping, low-paid workers, and the continuation of farms that we need but seem, as a society, not to value nearly enough. For those of us who can, diverting our food dollars – even a few more than we usually spend, to local food makes a huge difference. It ensures a safer food supply – Tyson doesn’t need your dollars, but these guys do. Find someone near you at LocalHarvest.org. So does Onemightymill.com, who grinds wheat in Lynn, MA, right down the road from me. And WaldenLocalMeat.comhas been supplying our meet for 6 months now. It’s honestly some of the best meat we’ve ever had. That Beef Burgundy? Made from there, with the produce mostly from our Misfits Market box. I love my MisfitsMarket.com box – they rescue organic produce that the grocery stores think looks too imperfect to sell. We use them in the winter now, while our CSA and garden aren’t producing. While it isn’t as local as I would like, it’s preventing food waste, and they are trying to add SNAP to their list of ways to pay. I like a company with morals like that.
We are about to enter the season where food is plentiful in the northern states. Snap peas and lettuce are peeking out in the garden, and either today or tomorrow we’ll harvest the first asparagus. We’ve been relentlessly planting fruit trees. I’ve begun hardening off our seedlings on the porch, and dropping extras to friends. We have several friends and acquaintances on our regular egg consumption list. I cannot feed the world, but I can provide a dozen fresh eggs to a short list of people every couple weeks. And help out our local food pantry. And start extra seedlings. For me, feeding people gives back.
I can cook for my family – a physical demonstration of love for them.
Tonight, I stir fried ground beef with rice noodles, onions, broccoli and fresh chives from the garden, which are always amongst the first things to come up.
I added to that Connor’s fresh bread, and if anyone gets hungry later, we have leftover chocolate pistachio cake, dropped off as part of the Mom’s weekly baking program, and sliced strawberries. Sometime this week I’ll take my parsnips, sweet potatoes and turnips and turn them into latkes. I have several mangoes lying around, so I’ll make a simple mango salsa. What are we going to put it on? Who knows, maybe the latkes.
I haven’t thought that far ahead, but maybe we’ll grill some scallops in brushed with Chimichurri sauce. As soon as there’s enough up, I’ll make Half Baked Harvest’s Sesame Roasted Asparagus with Whipped Feta. I drool just thinking about it.
The love of good food and cooking is one of the best ways I can think of to cope with the loss of normal life. Getting lost in the growing of it, and the creating of it is, to me, a reminder of the infinite blessings we have.
And if you want to feed those in need around you, here’s some ways.