Comfort zones

My home life revolves around food two days a week. I love cooking and for a year I’ve had almost no-one to cook for.

I discovered some months ago that when I don’t cook, I get more stressed. I’ve been nodding sympathetically at people’s stories of the joy of baking and their discovery of sourdough.

I have a very large repertoire of dishes and I love cooking and… I’m on a bit of a restricted diet. Also, I have deadlines on top of deadlines.

This is why I liberate myself twice a week. To be honest, it’s sometimes more than twice a week and sometimes less. This week it’s been fewer long sessions but more sessions, because someone gave me many tomatoes and I made a tomato base for almost any food. It was one that took four days, on and off, because it’s winter here and tomatoes are watery. Six kilograms of tomatoes gave me 1 ½ litres of my sauce. I instantly gave a half litre to a friend who is helping me get out of the internet nightmare this month has been (I haven’t lost my internet at any stage, but my landline has been missing in action for twenty days so far), so I have just enough for seven days of interesting food.

When that was done, I looked in my fridge. I have trouble putting out rubbish (the bins are tall and heavy and 100 metres away, and I’m working on my lifting muscles so that I can regain that truly exciting fragment of my life) so when friends come by, they often take a bag of rubbish out with them.

Since I know this friend will be drilling in my wall tomorrow to help solve one of the problems that has been bugging things around here, I spent an hour tonight chopping up everything that looked old or in need of finishing. I threw out the bruised mushrooms and cut the rest. I found so many shallots, getting sad and in need of love. That was really all I did tonight. I have several containers of vegetables, and I have all that passata, and I have 3 meals’ worth of salads made, so I don’t have to cook until Friday. I will probably do another bout on Wednesday, for cooking helps me think, then I’ll leave it to the weekend. All the scraps are ready to go out and my fridge looks much less crowded.

What am I going to cook with the tomatoes and vegetables? I’m so glad you asked.

One container is earmarked for shakshuka, because I have everything I need for that except cayenne and I can wing cayenne given I have seven other types of chili. The other is for a pasta sauce with those mushrooms, some of the shallots (or maybe an onion), kalamata olives, feta cheese and maybe, just maybe, some green capsicum. These are both easy and quick dishes once one has a good tomato base, and this week is furiously busy.

I’m not cooking any bread. I can cook bread. I’ve cooked bread since I was a pre-teen. It’s not good for me and I love it and everyone else is talking about it all the time, so I’m not even going to make a flatbread to eat with the shakshuka. Yes, I’m sulking. Bread is fun to make and kneading gives me time to think and my writing is the better for it… but it’s not good for me. I have a right to sulk.

When I’m past this deadline I get to explore some of the more interesting ingredients in my cupboard. Some of my friends (who know me all too well) send me little parcels of local food from their country or they send me chocolate and tea. Food. I get occasional hampers of food from wise friends. I love these hampers and I eat most of them fairly quickly, then stash some parts away for when I need to be cheered up. I have herbes de Provence from France and chocolate from Ireland and grits from Germany and more, hidden so that on bad days when I open the larder and stare in misery, memories of those hampers stare back and I’m forced to smile and totally and entirely forced to cook.

Some of my ingredients are a little old now. I’m still saving them. I predicted the disruption to international post and knew my presents from friends would be rare for a time and I refused to not have my friends make me smile, so I checked all the use by dates and put the must-eat at the friend of the larder, the must-eat within a few months within eyesight (but not at the front) and the will-;last-forever under everything.

What’s very odd is despite the fact that I’m not supposed to mix with people (iso is iso – so many of us have health issues) I make sure I have enough food to feed several friend sin case they drop round. Which they won’t. Which, in fact, they can’t. But it makes me happy to know I can feed people.

This post was brought to you by my favourite (Korean) instant noodles. They are one of my cheer-up foods and they are currently unobtainable. I ate my last packet tonight. Don’t worry – I still have chocolate.

5 thoughts on “Comfort zones

  1. Much of my life is food-oriented as well. I am surprised by social media posts reminding people to eat. Of course I’m going to eat.
    Our farmer’s market has set up an ordering system with curbside pickup and we’ve started using it. Among other things, we get a box of vegetables selected by the farm instead of selecting our own. A few weeks back we got fennel. I would never have bought fennel, but since we had it, I looked it up and discovered you can roast it. And it is delicious.
    This week we got tomatillos and jalapeños and cilantro. Together with the onions we’ve been accumulating, this could be great salsa. But my stomach is not as young as it used to be and my sweetheart is leery of hot peppers. So I am not sure this will come together. We may have to put the jalapeños in the lobby for the neighbors. Meanwhile, though, I am playing with the tomatillos and, of course, I’ll put cilantro in as many things as I can.

    1. I love fennel. I love crunching it as snack food, or eating it in salads, or cooking it…

      I can still eat all the hot food and every time I get a jalapaneo, my heart sings. I suddenly want to cook with one! And I’m totally with you on the coriander leaf, even though we use different names. I had some in rice last night.

      1. I wish I could send you these lovely organic jalapeños.

        I tend to call things I associate with Mexican and Central American cooking by their Spanish names, mostly because that’s where I first discovered them. I may turn this cilantro into a pesto if I don’t use it all up soon. Jalapeños would be good in that, too, but I’m not sure I dare.

  2. Mmmmm. Stress-cooking. And shakshuka. Double mmmm.

    I’m fortunate that our local market has really good produce, so that I can go in, pick of produce-staples, and then improvise the menu. Often, since it’s summer here, the improvisation involves grilling vegetables to put on pasta or quinoa, or grilling corn on the cob, or putting basil and/or cilantro in All The Things.

    And the sourdough starter, which has to be fed weekly (at least) produces a vast amount of discarded starter… and so there have been sourdough pretzels and pasta and English muffins. And sourdough pie crust, which I have been using for savory pies (although I’ve got some peaches that would probably not object to becoming a pie. Perhaps I’ll ask them). Prior to the shut-down I had lost, and kept off, some weight. That trend is reversing somewhat. Ask me if I care.

    1. Markets are the best things. Coriander leaf is food of the gods. And I am not going to ask you if you care, for I know sour dough. I would like to try those pretzels!

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