April 21, 2020 by Jean
For as long as I can remember, I have loved food. I was a child who didn’t have to be called to the dinner table twice (although I wasn’t always enthusiastic about everything on the menu). At some point during my adult years, I realized that people liked to feed me because I was always so appreciative. In my more than four decades of living alone, I have enjoyed cooking for one and eating the meals I prepare for myself. (In my home, a peanut butter sandwich is typically made from home-made peanut butter on home-baked bread.)
In recent decades, I’ve become a “locavore” – someone whose cooking and eating is based mostly on locally grown foods. During ordinary times, shopping for and preparing food is important in my life; I love buying in-season food from local farmers and either using it to prepare seasonal meals or preserving and storing it for later use. But during this time when so many other activities have been cancelled or postponed, I’m finding that food has become my central preoccupation.
I feel a bit like someone living in the kind of retirement home where people start lining up outside the communal dining room at 4 p.m. because dinner is the high point of the day. My trip to a farm 20 miles from home each Thursday morning to buy fresh produce (and maybe even have a conversation with the farmer) is the big event of my week. I begin checking their website two or three days beforehand to see what they are harvesting this week, and I start to imagine the meals I could make from those products. Even so, there are usually surprises when I get there (like the fresh mushrooms that were available last week) that open up additional possibilities.
When I get my haul of fresh produce home, I actually enjoy the ritual of unpacking it all, sanitizing each package, and putting it away. As I do this, I spend more time planning meals to come, deciding what to cook earlier in the week and what can keep until later. Since each recipe makes two or three servings, I often find I have two weeks of meals in the pipeline.
I don’t want to give the impression that I’m doing a lot of fancy cooking. My preference is for fairly simple meals, and I have a number of standard items with endless variations that I cook frequently. For example, on a day I bake bread, I will often make enough extra dough for a pizza crust – and there are so many foods that make great pizza toppings. I also make many different types of quesadillas, with whole wheat tortillas that I keep on hand in the refrigerator, an ounce of shredded pepper-jack cheese, and whatever vegetables are currently available (this week, spinach and mushrooms). Or I might make a stir fry with rice or noodles and a mix of vegetables and greens. Frittatas are another adaptable entrée, and there are many, many ways to fix pasta.
And then there are the desserts. I’m still making apple cobbler from last winter’s storage apples, and I have several quarts of wild Maine blueberries from last August’s harvest in the freezer if I wanted to splurge on a blueberry pie. When I want a really decadent dessert, I’ll make a chocolate soufflé. (There’s nothing local about this dessert except the eggs.) Eaten after it cools, it is simultaneously dense and light, with a texture somewhere between flourless chocolate torte and chocolate mousse.
My current obsession with food is bringing me both comfort and pleasure, but I’m also looking forward to a time when I’ll have more interests and pastimes to compete with food for my attention.