In this stressful time, there may not be that many things that most of us can do to feel in control of our lives. Preparing food is one of them.
Over the last ten years, the economy of food shifted dramatically towards “outsourcing”: eating food prepared by others, whether at a restaurant or brought to your home. Coronavirus has changed that.
Almost everyone is eating all of their meals at home now. Cooking and eating at home has become a hobby, a source of entertainment, and a way to create a social space in a home that is now a workplace and/or school the rest of the day.
In an effort to make fewer trips to the grocery store, I decided recently to learn to make two food items that I eat almost every day but have always purchased: granola and bread. I’ve never been much of a baker.
My initial efforts were not a complete failure, but clearly inferior to the products I purchase. It was tempting to throw in the towel, but I read more recipes and tried again. By the third try, I had a batch of granola that was just as good as my preferred brand from the store. But my bread, enabled by sourdough starter from a friend when my own efforts to create a starter had failed, was actually better than the bread that is available locally. Inspired, I made a batch of English muffins too — amazing!
One of the problems with the glamorization of the restaurant business over the last ten years and deification of the chef is that many of us have become convinced that we cannot possibly prepare food as good as what we get in a restaurant. And sure, you may not have a wood-fired pizza oven, or a deep fryer. Your bread might never be as good as Tartine’s.
But there are also all those meals you eat out because it’s easier, or you’re too busy to cook. The food itself is not any better than what you could have made at home. As you spend more time at home cooking, you will find your skills as a chef improving. You may even find yourself thinking, when you do order takeout, that you could have made the food better yourself.
I am aware that many of Terra Firma’s new or recently returned subscribers may not be used to spending so much time in your kitchen. I would encourage you to see this crisis as an opportunity to enjoy it as much as possible. We will do our best to make sure you get a nice variety of healthy and fresh vegetables and fruit to work with.
On a related note, if you live in the Bay Area and are considering gardening, I would suggest that you plant a few things that will complement your TFF CSA boxes in the months to come. As we approach and enter into summer, you will see most of the leafy greens in your boxes disappear. That’s because it’s too hot here to grow them — but not where you live. Chard, kale, and fresh herbs will grow beautifully in a small planter box and can be picked again and again. If you have a little more space, you can grow enough spinach, arugula, and lettuce to make salads every week or even every day. Just cut the leaves off above the ground, and they will grow back over and over. Right now is the perfect time to plant all of these things in order to have them all summer long. You can grow any of them from seeds, or support your local hardware store or nursery by buying transplants