Cooking with coronavirus!

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I imagine it as a tell-a-vision show, with a celebrity host like Julia Child or Emeril Lagasse. How to dig in your freezer and your pantry and come up with healthy gourmet recipes for the whole family —and easy to prepare meals for when everyone is sick as a dog.

We normally keep dried beans and canned beans, as well as tins of tuna, water chestnuts, olive oil, soy sauce, teriyaki, and a couple types of vinegar. We have a 20-year old bread machine, so flours, yeast, flaxseed, salt are always stocked up. I am low on baking powder but use that only for cornbread (got plenty of cornmeal). Lately we’ve experimented with fancy cornbreads, with cheeses, and/or tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, herbs added to the batter. Good stuff!

Winter vegetables are great to have on hand — butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash store well, as do sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips. We have been roasting vegetables lately. Some are trendy side dishes we came across in restaurants before they were shut down — roast Brussels sprouts, cauliflower. One recipe calls for sweet potato crescents with slices of onion and apple, tossed in olive oyl, salted and peppered, with a dusting of ground nutmeg. Sublime.

I usually keep vegetable scraps in the freezer — stalks of broccoli and kale, onion skins, carrot ends, unused parsley, etc. Boil them down with bay leaf and you have instant vegetable stock. If I roast a chicken, I bone the carcass and boil it for chicken stock. Last week I bought a turkey. We will not have company for Easter, but there is a ton of meat on a turkey and the carcass yields a vat of stock when boiled. If we get sick, homemade chicken or turkey soup, preferably with organic veggies, is far superior to Campbell’s.

As the chief cook and bottle washer chez-nous, (wouldn’t Julia love my correct use of the francais?) I enjoy planning menus, researching cookbooks or online, cooking something delicious. We wife is in serious spring cleaning mode. She vacuums behind pictures for brown recluses, wipes peppermint oil on baseboards, polishes furniture, washes our clothes when we return from trips to the library, grocery, drugstore, etc.

If you’ve got to be stuck at home, you might as well make the most of it. Before the caution flag went up, our friend Roscoe was coming over every week to pick some tunes; by mutual agreement we put that on hold.

If it ever stops raining, we have lots of garden chores awaiting. Our house is on a hillside and has a wooden walkway for entry. For years we planned to extend that boardwalk up to the driveway, and we finally got a contractor to execute that project. Lucky for him that he can do outdoor work, stay six feet away, enjoy the fresh air, and earn his income.

The people living in our house (me, my wife, and her mom) are all three on social security, so we don’t have to report to a job and further risk our health to keep a cash flow. When I go to town, I know bars and cafés are closed to sit-down customers. I do wonder who is “essential:” auto parts, repairs, tires, oil change all seem open. Outdoor laborers work between rainstorms. Radio? Newspapers? Hardware stores? Churches? Post offices? Government officials? Farmers’ markets?

After the medical personnel, it seems the most endangered people are clerks and cashiers in grocery stores and pharmacies, and man, do I feel for them. They need their paychecks, and they may need childcare. Incredibly, childcare centers are staying open for that purpose, and those workers are among the poorest paid in the country.

It’s easy for us to stay home as much as possible. We had a video chat with our daughter in Australia, and of course they are in the same scenario — everyone with half a brain is staying home and avoiding crowds; the rest are under government mandates. Use your brain — it won’t help you from the graveyard.

Kirk Ashworth

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