Home Cooking Makes Big
Comeback During Coronavirus Crisis!
Social distancing, stay-home, shelter-in-place, and self-quarantine are the new normal in many areas right now. We have had to change our daily lifestyles in dramatic ways in what seems a very short period of time. Our eating habits have been affected dramatically. Earlier in March we were going out to our favorite restaurants and pubs at leisure, mingling with the crowds, and taking in a favorite cocktail and meal.
Suddenly, this all changed. Restaurants, taverns and bars have been mandated by Gov. Cuomo to only remain open for take-out and delivery service if they choose to, until 8 p.m. Wine and liquor included, thanks to a temporary reprieve from the New York State Liquor Authority. While you still may be able to get that favorite dish to take home, many eateries have also had to limit their menus, staff, and hours to save money, inventory, and waste.
The good news is that people are getting back into their home kitchens again in big numbers, sizing up their pantries, and firing up the home stove. The coronavirus crisis has moved us to become better cooks.
Essential food markets and shops have been working hard to live up to the new health guidelines, and are open within designated hours. Some markets have even instituted special senior shopping times, usually in the early morning, for those of us who are deemed most vulnerable. Markets include: Stop & Shop, CTown, Key Food, Aldi, DeCicco & Sons, Walmart, Costco, Whole Foods, Stew Leonard’s, Acme, Trader Joe’s, BJ’s Warehouse, Fairway and Shop Rite.
In general, it is best to shop during off-peak hours. Some markets maintain in-house delivery service for those who do not wish to venture out. There are also the larger market delivery services like: Peapod, Instacart, and Fresh Direct. Be prepared to wait for a slot, as they are backed up due to increased demand.
(Things are changing quickly right now, so check ahead during these fluid times.)
Dusting off some of the old cookbooks you have sitting on the shelf is a good idea. A refresher, of sorts. While you may have retained some recipes to memory, you might want to take this opportunity to move your culinary knowledge forward. Perhaps get a little more creative. It helps pass the time during isolation. The palatal rewards can be credible. For example, inspired by the recent Julia Child Celebration airing on PBS, we took to preparing her famous French Onion Soup. It was a delight!
There are other resources as well in this age of technology. You can stream thru many culinary/cooking websites offering recipes and cooking tips. Bestselling cookbook authors like Ina Garten, Lidia Bastianich, Martha Stewart, Jacques Pepin, Bobby Flay, Giada DeLaurentis, Pioneer Woman, and Smitten Kitchen, have their own websites filled with tips and videos. There is live streaming on some of these sites so you can watch how a dish is prepared. Food magazines and newspapers have websites devoted to home cooking. One of the best is the New York Times Cooking website. It is behind a paywall, but if you subscribe there is a whole world of culinary inside. The King Arthur Flour website is great for cooking and baking tips. Chowhound.com maintains a large cooking section. You can weigh in with questions and thoughts on their forums. There are sites for novice cooks as well as the more advanced.
Cooking shows are also found on the Food Network, PBS, Create TV, The Cooking Channel, and Z Living. Two favorites: The Kitchen on the Food Network, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street and America’s Test Kitchen on PBS. YouTube offers a great variety of cooking video classes, from home-grown to professional. Look them up according to subject and cuisine. In fact, with just a little extra research online, you can access cooking tips for almost every cuisine.
Most importantly, maintain good hygiene in the kitchen, while at the market and elsewhere. When shopping, do your best to practice social distancing. When you get home, be sure to wash up.
Addendum: If you are an obsessed foodie like I am, use some of your free time to entertain yourself. Watch or re-watch food-themed film classics: Big Night, Chocolat, Babette’s Feast, Tampopo, John Favreau’s Chef, Julie & Julia, Sideways, The Hundred Foot Journey, Burnt, and one of my favorites, the animated Ratatouille. Throw in Crazy Rich Asians for those dumpling making scenes.
(Morris Gut is a restaurant marketing consultant and former restaurant trade magazine editor. He has been tracking and writing about the food and dining scene in greater Westchester for 30 years. He may be reached at: 914-235-6591. Email: email@example.com)