Moving Forward While Staying Put

Moving Forward While Staying Put

By Christy Wiseman

 cook vegetables

In this time of lockdown for most of the city, one gets desperate for a little fun.

I am sheltering in place with my 43-year-old-son, Tom, who, while a blessing and great companion, is in a situation neither of us would voluntarily choose. He does special effects for movies and usually lives in Pasadena, but while the California governor has said the studios could open, the unions have refused to do so until their workers, my son being one, could be insured. So he is with me for the duration and while we really do love one another, this lockdown would not have made our bucket list. Some of you may feel that way about your spouses or partners. We humans are social animals, but sometimes 24/7 is just a bit daunting.

I am fortunate to live on a golf course and to have a son who loves golf. The fees are high, so occasionally he treats himself, but ordinarily he goes out every day about twilight when other golfers have gone thru, and golfs. He counts on this daily venture and, frankly, so do I.

Every so often he hears of another friend who has tested positive, usually those in the medical field and sometimes their spouses. It keeps us in line. I’m in the “elderly, vulnerable” group, so he watches over me as I once did him. Having recently broken up with his fiancée made his coming home a good option. Truly for me it is the silver lining in all this since what 43-year-old wants to live with their mother?! A visit is nice, but 24/7? Not so much. Even so . . .

Fun takes on a whole different meaning now since almost anything outside the house sounds good. The bar for achieving “fun” has been lowered considerably for those of us trying to maintain safe distancing, wearing masks, and the like. I have begun to really understand why even a nice prison environment is still a prison and to empathize with criminals who must spend years in one. I can’t even imagine Anne Frank’s situation.

A class in “Vegetable Boot Camp” was offered at our local cooking school for $125 each. Expensive, yes, but something different. It offered to us stay-at-home cooks something to enhance and revive our food offerings to those sheltering with us. I do confess that even cooking good-tasting food has its limits and occasionally I have succumbed to the lure of take-out or curbside pickup with mixed results.

The Vegetable Boot Camp began by giving each participant (there were five of us, well separated and with masks) a packet of 27 pages the first 22 of which listed what should be in any well-equipped kitchen and definitions. This cooking school, after all, has a section devoted to sales of equipment for that “well-equipped kitchen.”

After four hours of learning about and practicing BBQing, braising, grilling, frying, steaming, roasting, and sautéing, plus going through and practicing the basic techniques of chopping, dicing, chiffonading, and mincing, we were ready to eat any vegetable dish we had prepared! The hoisin veggie wraps were my favorite dish, which we did with an asparagus mix or, really, whatever your creative mind wants to wrap inside the wrappers (we used flour tortillas.) The inexpensive quick trick is to buy your hoisin sauce in the store, smear it on a warm tortilla and wrap whatever you like inside, and it is delicious. As with many things, it is the freshness of the ingredients and the sauce that takes it from mundane to sublime. What did I like least? Deep fried radishes. They are supposed to take the place of potatoes, and deep frying, if done right, doesn’t cause them to be loaded with grease and can actually be a pretty healthy way of preparing food. But while you can have the radishes prepared any way you like, they won’t see any use in my kitchen except sliced into a taco. Some vegans might differ with my assessment and extol the virtues of the humble radish, but to carnivores like me, they are wasting their breaths. Deep-fried Brussels sprouts, on the other hand, were a new kind of delicious.

The really good news in all of this was that I had enough leftovers, as did the others, to take some home so I didn’t have to cook for my son. A true gourmet, he was delighted, enjoying these dishes for the first and no doubt the last time. I found both the class and the break from fixing dinner fitting perfectly into my new definition of “fun.” 

Hope you’ve found a way to put “fun” into your lives at this challenging time as well! Lower the bar and enjoy the rewards.

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