SoCS: an excuse to eat butter

There was a long period in the US where the dietary advice was to avoid fat, especially animal fat, in our diets. During that time, I didn’t each much butter.

This was sad!

More recently, the recommendations have changed somewhat, so I do use more butter now.

I especially like homemade bread with butter. The usual butter that I use for spreading is a spread made of grass-fed cow-milk butter and a bit of oil to keep it from being too hard.

We also keep both salted and unsalted butter for cooking and baking. B has recently discovered that his family’s shortbread recipe comes out much better using unsalted butter. I ran across an article that explained why; it has to do with the moisture content difference between salted and unsalted butter. The recipe is so old that it didn’t specify the type of butter, but may have gone back to the day when people made their own butter, which likely would have been unsalted. The recipe does call for a bit of salt. Other than that, the only ingredients are flour and a small amount of sugar.

Shortbreads are basically an excuse to eat butter, and a very delicious excuse at that!

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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “butter.” Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2021/03/05/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-march-6-2021/

in the pandemic kitchen

Many people are discovering cooking and baking from scratch during these past weeks of sheltering at home and less frequent trips to the store. The demand for basic ingredients has been so high that is still difficult to reliably find flour, yeast, sugar, milk, and eggs. There are lots of stories of people learning to make sourdough bread and to concoct meals with what they have on hand. Some people, who had always bought already-prepared meals or restaurant food, are finding out that they enjoy making their own dishes and baked goods and even find it relaxing.

At our house, we were accustomed to doing our own cooking and baking, although some things have changed. I’m definitely being more intentional with meal planning, both to make sure I have the ingredients on hand and to accommodate everyone’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Before B began working at home, he often ate lunch with friends; now, I try to have leftovers or some other options available for him.

Another thing that is different is that B is doing more cooking and baking. He actually enjoys kitchen work more than I do and finds it fun to make recipes that are more involved. I make bread in the bread machine; he recently made an apricot-raisin bread that took three days to make. He tends to wake up early and frequently makes breakfast treats – muffins, scones, even Chelsea buns. He does all the family grilling and has several special dishes that he prepares, including chicken marsala and Nana’s lasagna. I tend to make more old-style recipes, like meatloaf, pot roast, and soups.

Some people are also discovering things like pickling and making stock, things that I learned from my mom when I was growing up in rural New England. Of course, if you had a turkey, you would make stock from the carcass. Back then, it was considered frugal; now, it’s about better utilization of resources. I will admit, though, that now I will make a small batch of refrigerator bread-and-better pickles, rather than the dozens of jars we used to make and process in Ball jars and hot-water bath when cucumbers were in season. The pickles are still very tasty!

In some ways, my freezer and pantry resemble the ones from my childhood much more now than they used to. Because our house growing up was twenty miles from the nearest grocery store and there was a big chunk of the year when you had to worry about snow and ice on the road, we always had a stock of shelf-stable and frozen foods on hand. Now, in case we need to quarantine, I have followed the recommendation to have at least two weeks of food on hand, plus what we need to eat for at least a week or more so that grocery shopping would only happen every one to two weeks. Fortunately, I did this before the panic buying set in. A hundred days into the pandemic restrictions here in our part of upstate New York, our food distribution system has still not stabilized. Supply of some staples is spotty and a few things have been impossible to find for weeks. For example, I finally had to order a pound of yeast online in April; two months later, I still have not seen any in stores. My latest shopping triumph was finding quick-cooking tapioca, important this time of year for thickening strawberry-rhubarb and peach pies.

I’m not sure how long our current pattern of cooking, baking, and eating will persist. We have been ordering carryout from some of our favorite local restaurants, hoping to keep them going. Now that our area is in stage two of re-opening, outdoor dining is allowed, but not many restaurants here are set up for that. In a later phase, restaurants will be allowed to re-open indoor space, but probably only at 25-50% capacity. I’m guessing that we may still order carry-out rather than trying to dine-in.

The other wild card in all this is not knowing how long B will be working from home. If/when he needs to go back to the office, his return home in the evening will be too unpredictable for him to make weeknight dinners, so I will be back to more solo cooking. I had done that for years, so, of course, I can do it again, but I’ll miss having B here. Maybe it is a preview of his eventual retirement…

time slips by

I know some people who are under shelter in place or stay home orders are struggling with finding ways to fill time, but I am having the opposite problem. There always seems to be more to do than time/energy/brainpower permits.

Part of this is the continuation of dealing with grief. A year ago at this time, we were in the last few weeks of my mother’s life, so there is sadness with the coming of spring. My heart goes out to all those who are currently in nursing homes and hospitals who are not allowed to have visitors. While those last weeks with Nana were difficult, it would have been even more difficult not being there to bring her ice water and chat between naps.

This personal grief is enveloped by the global grief of dealing with the pandemic, its toll on people, and its laying bare all the inequities of society. The pandemic is bringing out the selfishness and greed of some, the suffering of most, and the generosity and community spirit of many. While some just want to “get back to normal” and are willing to risk public health to do it, more and more are talking about “building back better.”

The #BuildBackBetter movement is encouraging. It calls on us to examine the past and present so that we can build a better future. Here in the United States, the problem of lack of access to quality, affordable health care has been made even more apparent, especially for black and brown folks, immigrants, people living in poverty, those without homes, and elders. So many losing their jobs and their health insurance along with it also illustrates the inherent weakness in our current healthcare system.

Many of our essential workers, including caregivers and transit, food service, janitorial, grocery, and agricultural workers, are also our lowest-paid. These people are risking their lives to keep basic services going for less money than they would make if they were collecting enhanced unemployment and too many have contracted, or even succumbed to, COVID-19. My hope is that the new-found appreciation many feel for these essential workers will lead to living wages for all jobs, benefits for those who are without paid work that reflect human dignity and care, and a realization that wealth is created by the society, not just the business owners.

While grief and fear can be mind-numbing, it is a comfort to hear about all those who are serving others, dispensing accurate information, and planning for a responsible path forward. I admit that I watch or listen to a lot of coronavirus coverage. I want to stay up to date with the science and the demographics, which is especially important here in New York State, which has the largest number of cases in the country. I listen to our governor, Andrew Cuomo, give his daily briefings because he is very truthful, forthright, and compassionate. It is comforting to know where we are, even when the statistics are unnerving, because there are plans unfolding that are modified as the circumstances change. As our caseload in the state starts to come down, Governor Cuomo is talking more about how we will move into the next phase. He is a big proponent of building back better, socially, economically, justly, and in accord with the best science available for human, environmental, and climate health. This gives me hope that some good will come out of a horrifying situation. Most of the time, I see the Governor through Facebook Live, so there are comments coming in; it’s amazing how many in other states and countries tune in to his briefings for the facts and for a practical, compassionate response to our current challenges. Sadly, the same cannot be said for White House briefings, which I avoid.

I am fortunate that things in my household are on an even keel. I am sad, though, to have family and friends who are suffering because of the lockdown or the virus itself. It’s hard not to be able to go to them and help, though I try to do what I can by phone or online.

I am not struggling with staying at home, though. I am pretty high on the introversion scale, so I am content to be at home with my family. I don’t know how I would react, though, if I lived alone, which is something I have never done.

I do spend more time on shopping and meal planning/preparation than I used to. We are still having significant shortages in our area, so weekly shopping has turned into several hours in several stores to find basic items. There are more meals to plan for because we can’t go out to dinner and because everyone is here for all their meals every day. We do sometimes get takeout from a local restaurant, but there is definitely more cooking going on at home.

I’ve been trying to keep up with my social and environmental justice activities online and have taken the opportunity to attend some webinars. The Binghamton Poetry Project and my local poetry-workshop group have been meeting via Zoom. I’ve also finished revisions of my chapbook and have been slogging through the time-consuming and anxiety-producing process of finding contests to enter. Seven and counting…

I do write blog posts now and then…

I wish I could say that I was reading more. I admit that, most days, I don’t even get through my email. By evening, I find that my brain can only handle watching television while playing not-too-taxing computer games. As I’ve been saying for years now, it’s often not so much about time as brainpower.

How are you all doing wherever you find yourselves during this pandemic?

 

Household reorganization

One of the promised catch-up posts…

Over these last months of spending additional time dealing with Nana and Paco’s needs, I have been spending less and less time taking care of things at home.

Happily, spouse B and daughters E and T have stepped up to deal with the bulk of the shopping, planning, cooking, and cleaning so I don’t have to worry about it.

A bonus has been that E and T have been trying new recipes and expanding their kitchen expertise, which will be good preparation for the time when they each will have to manage their own house or apartment again.

It was also nice that when E’s spouse L was able to be here for three weeks in August, E, L, and one-year-old ABC were able to get a taste of what it will be like when they are able to have a household of their own.

Just before L returned to London, he and E prepared tea for us, featuring finger sandwiches, homemade scones, Coronation chicken, and a Victoria sponge for dessert. Of course, there was also tea!

Maybe late next year, they will be together in London and B and I can visit them together and have tea there.
tea

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Join us for Just Jot It January. Today’s pingback link is here: https://lindaghill.com/2019/01/04/jusjojan-2019-daily-prompt-jan-4th/
More information and prompts here: https://lindaghill.com/2018/12/31/what-is-just-jot-it-january-2019-rules/

Thanksgiving

Today, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving. We are celebrating with a traditional turkey dinner with two kinds of stuffing, mashed potatoes, rutabaga, baked squash and apples, spiced cranberry-orange relish, and apple and pumpkin pies.

We are doing most of the cooking at our house and bringing everything up to Nana and Paco’s apartment for dinner. In past years, we either hosted them here at our house or joined them for dinner in the dining room at their senior living community, but Nana doesn’t have the energy to be out of the apartment, so we are bringing Thanksgiving to her.

We are very grateful to have Nana and Paco with us for another year of celebration and, for the first time, to have baby ABC with us! She is too young to eat any of the Thanksgiving dishes, but she will certainly bring many smiles to our day.

B and I are also very thankful to have both of our daughters with us. Given that E and ABC will be moving to the UK, possibly in the spring, we are unlikely to have them here at Thanksgiving time again for a long time, if ever. We are hoping that T will find a job in her field that is within driving distance, so we may be able to have her join us for the holiday on a regular basis, but, like everything in the future, it is a bit of a mystery.

But this Thanksgiving, six for dinner – with a baby being bounced on knees and cradled in our arms and playing on her floor quilt – is the perfect number, for which we are all filled with gratitude.

Poem: Making Aunt Gert’s Indian Pudding

I have not (yet) fallen off the face of the earth.

Life is increasingly complicated, so I haven’t been able to post much lately.

It’s so complicated that I forgot to post for National Indian Pudding Day yesterday! Here I am belated sharing an Indian Pudding blog post from last year. Enjoy!

Top of JC's Mind

I am very pleased to announce that I have another poem published today!  The blog of Silver Birch Press has published “Making Aunt Gert’s Indian Pudding” as part of their “My Sweet Word” series. You can find it here: https://silverbirchpress.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/making-aunt-gerts-indian-pudding-poem-by-joanne-corey-my-sweet-word-series/

Enjoy!

Update:  The recipe is now available here:  https://topofjcsmind.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/indian-pudding-recipe/

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