It’s been months now of living and working at home, working unmentionably long shifts as essential workers out in the world or living at home and not working at all. We may be surrounded by family or on our own. We nervously wait in lines to get into the market, the post office, the bank and the gas station. We wear masks. (We do wear them, right?) We have learned to fear other people being in close proximity. We protest injustice, risking close proximity to others in the quest for equality and peace. We search in vain for a way to make sense of this crisis within which we live. We want desperately for some sense of normalcy.
We also want something lovely to take out minds off the world; this world of 2020, with no school, no work, no sports, no birthday or anniversary parties, no travel, no money and very little fun in our day to day existence.
So how do we take control and feel better about life as these days meld into each other in one long nightmare of disease, lost business and lost life?
I don’t know about you, but I cook. Even when I have lost my inspiration; grown bored with my cooking; don’t have the ingredients I want for a recipe, I cook. Sometimes, it’s the only pleasure in my day (besides outdoor workouts at my gym).
I cook to nourish; I cook for strength and I cook to take my mind off our collective reality. I have grown weary of holding my breath when the news begins. Is this the day when numbers of deaths goes down? Is this the day when we begin to see the virus recede? So instead I cook. I stay as informed as I need to be in order to function, but I am no longer glued to news reports and politics.
I would rather cook and keep my loved ones strong and metabolically fit to fight disease. So I try to differentiate the days with what we cook. During the week, when outdoor gym sessions take place in the evening, we eat a very light dinner, usually around 8:30 after our workouts and showers. But on the weekend, I might cook a bit fancier, like in the old days, before the pandemic rolled each day into the next one.
I never batch cook anymore; each meal is cooked fresh, from scratch and I am loving every second of that. Pre-pandemic, I cooked from scratch most of the time, but if a week looked like it would be pretty hectic (remember those?) I would do some batch cooking since ordering out isn’t an option for us (it’s so hard to find decent, truly healthy vegan food outside your home…sorry, but it’s true, with the exception of the exquisite food from Vedge on occasion).
We rekindled our love of sourdough starter and have loved making all our breads, pizza and focaccia with only sourdough, no yeast. We have rediscovered the exquisitely complex flavors of sourdough and have fallen in love (again) with the hearty, dense texture that this type of dough yields.
I have always loved to bake and found the time to do it, but now, as time at home continues, I look for new inspiration to create healthy treats for my loved ones. From a new vegan pound cake made with sparkling rose’ wine to double chocolate almond cookies filled with a decadent chocolate ganache. I have been working to replace vegan butter with olive oil and have been experimenting with various cookie recipes for my online bakery so I can introduce new varieties this fall.
We cook simply day to day, with an eye on lots of veggies to ensure we get the nutrients we need to sustain our lives. Whole grains are served mostly at breakfast in the form of a soft porridge to start our day on the right foot. Soups constitute most of our dinner meal with a salad or a side of home baked bread to create a light, but satisfying meal after a tough workout. With beans, tofu and tempeh as our protein sources, our simple diet allows us the indulgence of a small dessert and some sourdough bread to keep us feeling happy.
Life is hard right now, so at least let me keep dessert, right? You too. Healthy, homemade desserts using whole grain flours and unrefined sweeteners can add a little pleasure to our strange existence.
Facing an unknown fall, we must build the foundation of our wellness in the kitchen, cooking simple, fresh foods that aren’t exotic or expensive (ok, maybe the sparkling rose’ was a splurge). Our foods should be deeply delicious, super fresh (as much as we can) and be nutritional powerhouses.
We must also exercise, walk, get fresh air and stay fit and strong. There’s not one excuse to gain the quarantine 15. Save take-out and delivery for a ‘once in a while’ treat and cook food in your home that satisfies and nourishes.
As I have said before, now more than ever, we must cook as though our lives depend on it, because now, more than ever, it does.