Drinking Quarantinis and Making Word Salads

This time of self-isolation has given me plenty of time to do what I do best, muse about all things culinary. I went back and read each and every blog post I’ve written since 2014 (an activity I highly recommend for everyone!). I’m stunned by how easy it was to decipher where my mind set was throughout my highly lucrative (not!) blogging career. Early on, my posts were short, maybe a tad witty and certainly an attempt to highlight my carefree and loving relationship with food and drink. As I got more long winded with every post, it becomes clear that my blog had become my own soapbox to advocate for people like me, those who consider cooking an art form and an expression of love.

When I’m gardening, I might as well be painting. My small but plentiful beds are the same as canvasses. Likewise, I write like I cook and cook like I write……original, eclectic and always a lot of “me” put in it. Ingredients in a pot at the quantity and variety I choose, stirred and constantly adjusted or a story put to the words that come to me, rewritten and sometimes never shared with another soul, both are integral to my being. To be able to share though is what makes me complete. YOU complete me (That would be a great line in a movie don’t you think Jerry?). I have no music ability except a deep appreciation, but I imagine a musician can relate.

There’s no doubt that the last year and a couple of months has been the most challenging period in my life. The death of my love in February 2019 left a huge hole in my heart that will never be fully healed but at least had begun to be patched up a bit due primarily to sharing with those I love (that includes friends too, don’t get weird). Telling stories, out for dinner, cooking at my house, drinking, singing and laughing together, it’s the very best way to heal. Then frickin’ COVID-19 comes along….

Now I’m isolated. I’m probably not the worst to be in this position. I’m creative, whimsical and extremely smart. What I’m not is a loner, a tee toddler or a recluse. That being said, I’ve had to improvise. My kids who are isolating elsewhere and I have always shared photos of our culinary adventures whether homemade or at a restaurant (that is when we’re not at the establishment together which used to happen quite often). We’ve taken this practice to new heights during this dreadful time by documenting almost every meal. Yesterday I sent my daughter a photo of my breakfast: a Cottage Cheese Sundae.

Behold, a Cottage Cheese Breakfast Sundae

And of course there’s been numerous Facebook postings as if it were important to my friend’s well being to see what I’ve been up to in the kitchen. Truth be told, I’m the one who needs the feedback in order to keep some sense of sanity during this period of solo bread breaking. Fortunately I have several local friends who are more than willing to pick up stuff I cooked and I even provided a limited delivery option. Thank goodness for friends who don’t like to cook! Oh and there’s the cookbook. I’m writing a pandemic cookbook. It’s an accounting, if you will, of my survival tips that may be useful for some, interesting (more like humorous) to others and of no consequence to most. Since my work will never hit the book shelves at your local bookstore anytime soon or ever, I’m gonna give you a few little snippets here:

I think for everyone, getting groceries has become a life altering experience. I still go once a week, now in my very best camouflage mask, to get my staples if available but also to purchase my favorites each time just in case they’re not there the next time. At the risk of causing a “run” on some of the best products around, I’m sharing a few.

Utz Cheese Puff’n Corn– You may think you’re a bright orange cheese flavored powdered corn snack food aficionado, but you’re not. That is unless you’ve gone all in on this trumpian-in-color perfection. I, too, thought I knew best in the past, preferring the Cheese Ball to the Cheese Doodle, but now I’m not only older but wiser. Once you start puffin’ you’ll never go back.

Mini Avocados (any brand)- I’ve advocated for these perfectly sized fruits in the past. Avocados show up on every single “Super Foods” list yet we all know that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. One of these little tykes can easily be consumed in one sitting and should be. No slicing, dicing or scooping required- just cut in half, get rid of the itsy pit, spritz with citrus, highly pepper , lightly salt , a drip or two of EVOO and hot sauce and Voila!

AHA Strawberry + Cucumber Sparkling Water– Trust me, I’ve tried more flavors of AHA waters than most and this one is truly the best. I like the Black Cherry and Coffee Sparkling Water too, but as the name suggests it has caffeine (and electrolytes) in it so I don’t drink it with reckless abandon.

I could go on and on but I’ll save it for another post as I’m pretty sure this isolation thing is going to drag on for several more weeks/months. As such, I’ll give you just one simple, fairly lite-ish, original breakfast recipe that is bound to have you asking for more.

Sweet and Sassy Bagel – Plain mini bagel slathered with 1/3 less-fat cream cheese doused with cinnamon-sugar and a hearty sprinkling of Aleppo pepper. https://www.bonappetit.com/story/what-is-aleppo-pepper

Don’t always cook at home. Support your local restaurants. Small businesses only please! I’ve been amazed at all the innovative food and drink offerings my area restaurants have come up with. It’s been inspiring. And by all means, keep your home filled with flowers and start getting your garden plants from local greenhouses and an amazing flower shop!

Now to our front-line workers- I’ve been overwhelmed by your heroics displayed during this health crisis. I personally know a few and have friends who have relatives right in the epicenter in NYC. Bette Midler is credited with saying “People are not the best because they work hard. They work hard because they are the best.” YOU ARE THE BEST! When this is over I want to cook for each and everyone of you. Sadly, for now I’ll leave you with some food porn which is about the only thing I have to offer in this troubling time.

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him – the people who give you their food give you their heart.” – Cesar Chavez

A Fond Farewell

The The “Southern Picnic” themed table at my retirement celebration

A co-worker asked if the Retirement Reception that was organized in my honor was blog worthy. At the time, I didn’t know how to respond because I knew she was speaking about the quality of the food that had been prepared. Since my foodie tendencies are well known throughout my department at a very  service oriented Navy facility that day in and day out does an outstanding job of supporting our war fighters at sea, the” party planners” for this event had paid particular attention to food quality and décor. As I came home after experiencing such a truly lovely outpouring of affection I knew I indeed needed to include this extraordinary event in my blog. The food was outstanding but that is not the point of this blog post. The fact that a wonderful group of co workers went out of their way to give me a retirement sendoff  with every nuance of my personality considered is what makes the occasion “blog worthy” (for you, Andrea).

Just part of the tablescape at my retirement reception Just part of the tablescape at my retirement reception
The Glorious Cupcakes served at my retirement reception at work The Glorious Cupcakes served at my retirement reception at work

Not to be out done, my sweet daughter with help from the rest of the family had planned a big retirement bash at Vintage (read my post “Thanksgiving at Vintage” to learn more about this magical place) where long time friends and close co-workers were invited to celebrate MY “Independence Day”.  As the guest of honor, I contributed very little to the affair only making the family Shrimp Spread and a couple of other bites to pass. The rest of the menu was squarely the responsibility of my incredibly talented girl. The Party should’ve been covered by our favorite magazine, Southern Living! From Ham Biscuits and Chicken Tenders with Alabama White Sauce to Market Potato Salad and Gazebo Room Pasta Salad, from Pimento Cheese and Mommy and Mamie’s Cheese Ball, from Spiked Blackberry Basil Lemonade to Troeg’s Sunshine Pils and everything in between……….this get together was fantastic!

The cake , fruit and candy bar at my Independence Day celebration The cake , fruit and candy bar at my Independence Day celebration

Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate- Alan D. Wolfelt

Thanks ever so Jen, Jill, Nikki, Andrea, Jason, Amy and Kay.

I love you all- Mamie, Austin, Pat, Jamie, Mom and Dad, Rick, Laura, Cloey (Nick of course too) and Hailey.