Monday, May 18, 2020

Interesting Quarantine Take-Out Food

I belong to a writing group that meets once a week, now via ZOOM, and part of our group routine is to do ten-minute timed writings on common topics suggested by the group organizer.  Then, if the individual wants to share and read her writing to the group, she does.  This practice is part of a writing technique taught by author Natalie Goldberg.

Recently, the topic was “Interesting Quarantine Take-Out Food.”  Most people wrote about what kinds of take-out food they’ve ordered during the pandemic shelter-at-home directive.  Ricky and I haven’t eaten any take-out food during our quarantine.  We used to eat out 3-5 times a week, but for two months, from March 15 to May 15, all our meals were prepared in our kitchen.  

I notice that it’s healthier for me to cook my own food.  I limit the sodium, I never fry foods, and I control the portion sizes.  We aren’t vegetarians, and I made different kinds of cookies on several occasions, but even so, I've managed to lose a few pounds during our time at home.  

My sister said she read that by the end of the quarantine, people would emerge a monk, a chunk, a hunk, or a drunk.  Ricky suggested a chunky, drunk monkey, but I’m not sure whom he was describing.

The only take-out food we’ve experienced is the food I’ve “taken out” of my kitchen to share with friends and neighbors.  I doubt anyone would describe it as interesting, but the recipients thank me and seem to appreciate it.  So far, my food hasn’t poisoned anyone.  

We even made a path on both sides of our wrought iron fence to make food sharing with our next-door neighbor easier.  It lessens the chance of stepping in cat poop.

Food sharing path way 
For the most part, my menus are reminiscent of the fifties and sixties.  For example, I’ve taken a variety of jello treats to an older neighbor, walking to her house with quivering and quaking jello and our hyper-excited dog Treble, a terrier mutt, in tow.  I’ve also shared old-fashioned potato soup, Brunswick stew, deviled eggs, baked chicken, rice and gravy, baked egg custard, green beans, tuna noodle casserole, and different variations of chicken salad. 

Deviled eggs
Baked egg custard (we had a surplus of eggs)
From Ricky’s kitchen repertoire, we’ve shared his ham and spinach frittata, red beans and rice, mushroom pasta, and shrimp pesto pasta.  Ricky has mastered the few dishes he makes, so only lucky people who live close by get to sample them. They don’t last long in our kitchen. 

Ham and spinach frittata 
Chocolate chip cookies
I like to bake but my products need to find other homes quickly.  Outgoing cookies include oatmeal cookies, lemon sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies and a variation on this theme—Bailey’s Irish Cream chocolate chip cookies.  

My friend Sydni gave us some homemade salsa and Ricky made huevos rancheros for brunch one Sunday.  Everything was delicious, and here's the proof:

Huevos rancheros and fresh carrot juice
Some friends have reciprocated with their own homemade creations, e.g., tabbouleh, salsa, banana nut bread, chocolate-covered strawberries, and vegetarian chili.  A neighbor who received a windfall 50 pounds of flour gave us a loaf of his homemade bread!

Homemade bread
I keep coming back to the assigned topic of  interesting take-out foods.  What interesting take-out have we experienced?  It had to be my attempt to make potato cabbage chowder, which I’ve made in the past.

This time, I decided to use my food processor to chop up the potatoes.  Clearly I did something wrong, because the potato pieces immediately started to turn a reddish color.  I decided I needed to get the potatoes on the stove right away.  I quickly chopped the cabbage and added it to the potatoes.  I cooked the potatoes and cabbage in broth, then added some seasoning, milk and cheese just as I’ve done before.  The soup turned gray, it looked horribly unappetizing.  My brave husband ate a cup of it and said it didn’t taste bad.  I ladled the rest of the soup into a container and put it in the refrigerator to re-evaluate later.  When I looked at the soup the next day, it was a congealed gray mass.  I was going to dump it out when a friend stopped by.  I told her the sad saga of my soup and showed the results to her.  She hates to see food to go to waste so she said she’d take it home to her son—and for some strange reason, he even ate it!

I like the writing of MFK Fisher who often wrote about food.  She said, Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.  Maybe our take-out food was interesting after all.