During the first wave of lockdown during the pandemic, it was interesting to see how many of us found some degree of solace in the kitchen. Baking bread was a crazy fad for a little while, with banana bread and sourdough particularly enjoying a rush of popularity.
I am hopeful that we’re turning the corner of the pandemic here in the United States and I’m also hopeful that we remember some of the lessons we learned the hard way, especially involving the possibility of working meaningfully from home for many jobs (being micromanaged is the WORST!) and a heightened respect for jobs that have to be done in person, such as certified nursing assistants and grocery clerks. (My very first job, at the tender age of 14, was as a restaurant dishwasher and I’ve long said that everyone should have to work in both food service and retail before they complain about either.)
Cooking and baking have always been outlets for creativity as well as being necessary to keep the human race nourished physically. Beginning in the post WW2 era with the advent of convenience foods, people have both learned how to cook and forgotten the importance of that skill. Maybe it’s due to that first job as a dishwasher, but I’ve always rather enjoyed cooking. I’m no Top Chef contestant, but I’ve got a solid dozen recipes that allow me to whip together a reasonably healthy dinner in 40 minutes, including salad, main course with vegetables, and a passable dessert. (A good thing, too. I married into a family who keeps Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking on a Bible stand.) In no way am I totally against ingredients in boxes, cans, and/or jars finding their way into dinner. Spices are your friend and most things just aren’t all that hard to do. (Yes, “folding in the cheese” isn’t as mysterious as Moira Rose would lead you to think.) Sure, you’ll want to learn some techniques as you go, but the basics are — well — basic. (Click here for some easy go-to dinners. Or here for some dessert ideas.)
The Great Depression, two World Wars, and the flood of convenience foods gave rise to some truly weird, occasionally charming, menus back in the day – this delightful TikTokker tries some of these vintage recipes out for you and I bet you’ll find yourself wasting an entire evening watching him! (“It’s incredible – and I’m mad about it!”)
So this week, I challenge you to try something new. For some, that might be toasting an English muffin and topping it with pizza sauce and mozzarella to create English muffin pizzas. For some, it might be MAKING mozzarella! Try roasting Brussels sprouts (the secret is bacon!). Make a rainbow cake from a mix! Or a non-dairy unicorn yum-yum. And try your new dishes with your family, if you want to.
Just try something new – and be willing to get it wrong. You can always have sandwiches for supper, if need be.
Seek joy, Divas!