Why do we cook? Seems like an easy one, right? We cook because we eat, to stay alive. But if that was all there is to it, we’d eat whatever is lying around, whatever is nutritious, whatever is available. But we’re humans…that’s not how we do it.
For many of us food plays a significant part of our lives. When we celebrate a birthday, we have a special dinner. When we get a promotion at work, we splurge on going out to a nice restaurant. Even a win at a soccer game for 5 year olds results in going out for pizza. To take it one step the other direction, when someone we know has a tragedy in their life, we rally the troops and we provide meals, casseroles that say we care. What does this have to do with where we are now: that is, home during the Covid-19 crisis? Everything.
Along with the celebrations and tragedies mentioned above, we have our everyday meals. You know the meals I’m talking about. I mean the piece of cold pizza grabbed on the way out the door to work, that’s washed down with coffee from a travel mug. I mean the countless bags of fast food that are handed to the back seat because there just isn’t time for school, sports practice, homework and a family dinner, all in the same afternoon. I’m talking about the boxed food that shouts “just add water”, the veggies that scream “boil in bag” and the frozen entrees with instructions that tell us not to forget to “remove the plastic before cooking”. I’m talking about the protein bar that we trick ourselves into believing is the same thing as a nourishing meal. We exchange fast for good. We trade the family dining room table for the back seat of an SUV. We tell ourselves that we’d cook real food, if only we had the time.
Here’s the good news: we have the time now!!!!
Many of us are home now. We don’t have commutes to deal with. We don’t have 10 hour work days to contend with. We have that most precious of commodities: time. Based on the pictures I’m seeing on social media, it seems as though many of us are using that time to cook.
We’re baking bread from scratch. Our shop facilitator, Abbey is making sourdough!
We’re making cookies. Our store owner Brenda made what she calls “Quarantine cookies” using all the bits of ingredients she had left in the pantry: oatmeal, dried cranberries, raisins and dark chocolate chips. (Brenda’s pics).
Lisa, our CFO is enjoying baking with a glass of wine close to hand. (Lisa pic) And at the Seitzinger house, where we are fortunate that my husband works from home most of the time and cooks real food for us daily, we have required our teenagers, Sami 16 and Jake 19, to choose and prepare a family meal themselves.
As for me? I love to look through cookbooks. I’ve spent early mornings and leisurely afternoons, looking through the cookbooks that live on our shelves. And, I’ll admit, I do go to the internet for inspiration too. I hit it out of the park with Bierocks, a glorious pillow of bread filled with cabbage and beef. (Abbey introduced me to this little piece of heaven, so I made it for my own family) Allrecipes.com/recipe/23658/pams-bierocks/
As someone who loves to eat…seriously, it’s almost a hobby for me, I have paid attention to food for a long time. I remember discovering this concept of fitting our food to our lives when I was in college. I was in a Women’s Studies class and we were learning about the evolution of popular culture recipes. I could go on for pages about this, but in the interest of keeping your attention, I’ll narrow it down a bit. Before World War II, if one was to read the ladies’ magazines of the day, one would find recipes and menus for the average American housewife. These menus and recipes were long, drawn out affairs with lots of steps and long cooking times. After all, how best to show your family you loved them, than by preparing a meal that took all day? Fast forward to the middle of war time. As men were gone overseas and women were home doing…everything, it became necessary to change the recipes. It was no longer reasonable to spend all day in the kitchen if you were working outside the home, doing all of the jobs that women found themselves doing to keep the economy going. So meals became simpler to prepare and the women got it all done. Funny thing, though…when the men returned home and the women returned their jobs to the previous owners: the returning GI’s, the recipes got longer again. The magazines returned to the idea of spending your days in the kitchen, turning out beautiful meals. I can only imagine that there must have been quite a few women longing for the days when they got to leave home and go to work, to return to their 30-minute meals.
That brings us back to our current situation. As a self-proclaimed “Foodie”, I can’t help but hope that we learn something from our time at home. Perhaps we’ll find a recipe that we can integrate into our daily lives. Maybe we’ll get a chance to really try out that Insta Pot and get comfortable enough to use it on a weekday. Perhaps we’ll develop such a fondness for home baked bread that we will eschew the tasteless cardboard loaves that come pre-sliced, in favor of baking once a week like the old days. At the very least, I hope that we take the time with our families, to sit down at the dining room table, to share a meal together. It really doesn’t matter what the meal is, even if it’s take out, a bowl of cereal, or the leftovers from yesterday. The important part is taking the time to sit together, to turn the tv off and to share our day with our loved ones. When we started this discussion I suggested that we use meals as celebrations. Let’s take it a step further and celebrate everyday. Use the good dishes, set a nice table and really listen to the people you’re dining with, if for no other reason, than because we can.