(Pandemic) Comfort Cooking

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In the last several weeks, I’ve had some virtual happy hours with different groups of women. We can all collectively agree that life has been turned on its head, there’s no doubt about that.
One frienSkillet Veggiesd owns her own veterinary practice in the Midwest and they are doing drive-up appointments. She has seen a decline in income and she’s working hard to keep her small business afloat. 

One friend who lives 25 minutes from her closest grocery store is homeschooling her three children. She’s not working because all of her shifts were cut by her employer.

One friend is working from home, and because of medical issues, is hunkered down for the long haul of this. Her goal is to come out on the other end of the pandemic alive. This means making difficult choices to ensure she stays healthy in her own home, including investing in a trailer so she won’t be inadvertently exposed to the virus when her husband comes home from work.

One friend, also in the Midwest, spent three weeks trying to find chicken or beef, only to repeatedly come up empty-handed. “I hope the kids won’t give me too hard of a time about eating shrimp.”

More than one friend has been put on full-time furlough from work.

I feel like most days I’m stuck between all the worlds. 

We are all navigating this pandemic in our own ways, with our unique set of circumstances. We’re all impacted in various personal ways.

My membership group with women learning how to meal plan, lose weight and live their best life was impacted. I had a reduction in memberships and slashed monthly dues just to keep things afloat.

I’m trying to (unsuccessfully, most days) homeschool my three- and six- year-olds. Mostly,  I’m just trying to keep them alive, and I hope the time my son invests into Minecraft will pay off with an interest in architecture in 13 years.

I have my own medical issues and I, too, am mentally prepared to be hunkered down for the long haul. We take extra precautions when my husband goes out for any reason. 
Dehydrated Lemons
I have had some difficulty getting some food items — nothing dire — and we are so fortunate to have the means to still put food on our table. Thankfully, we are able to get our groceries delivered. I feel like I spend a fair amount of time managing my pantry to ensure we use as much of what we have on hand and reduce how often we have to venture out to get groceries or place an order. 

I’m on part-time furlough now.

I feel so grateful for still having work, even on a part-time basis, because it not only gives me a sense of purpose each day, but I am able to connect with people outside my own home. The quantity of projects we work on has been impacted. There is still plenty to be done and it feels like I’m trying to cram 30 hours of work into 20. This can be stressful because we have time limitations, and I have a job that requires a high degree of concentration. Work becomes a challenge when one child is screeching for fish crackers and the other wants to talk to me about Minecraft. I’m used to being able to work extra to get something done, so the regulations around reduced hours feels limiting. 

However, it’s not hard to remind myself daily that I’m beyond fortunate.

My kids are healthy. We have food on our table. We have a safe home to live in. These feel like the most important things I can hold onto each day. 

While I had become someone that was known for healthy cooking and meal prep before, I have been spending even more time in the kitchen the last several weeks. With everyone home and ingredients not being as easily attainable, I’ve been experimenting quite a bit more. 

Homemade ApplesauceOne of my hobbies lately is to use up everything I possibly can. I’ve made banana bread with leftover bananas, chimichurri with fresh parsley and pesto with the tops of carrots. I’ve made apple butter, applesauce, fresh bread and vegetable soups. We’ve saved bread crusts from the kids sandwiches and made various bread pudding and breakfast casseroles.

Every weekend I spend time in the kitchen and find creative ways to use up my scraps. Necessity is the mother of invention has certainly made me an inventor in my own kitchen. 

Cooking and exploring new recipes and making homemade healthy dishes is giving me a sense of security and purpose. It feels like the one thing I can control. Everything from work, school, society, and health feels unknown and uncertain. I can’t even control what we’ll be able to find at the grocery store.

But once I have my groceries home, I can control what becomes of it. That gives me peace.

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