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(***Magazine***) Kitchen Work #7: Summer 2021 The Quarantine Issue

EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: THE QUARANTINE ISSUE It seems to me that the overriding realizations of the last eighteen months are the particular ways in which food and cooking remain such immutable signposts in our lives. Many people have experienced their share of loss in this time, and then some. And, of course, loss is a fixture of our experience on this planet; triumphs and joys and even friends recede, without fail, into the realm of memory. But how great is the power of food to remind us of where we have been, with something so simple as the fragrance of a fresh strawberry. And how available and ready it is to play such an integral role in the offer of a fresh start. –Matt Straus

A TABLE FOR SIX When the weather finally warmed in Montréal in May I started having lunches on my porch and relished the sense of eating ‘with’ the neighbors I could see ten meters away on their balcony. There was no shared, embodied ritual in these meals. I couldn’t make out their conversation, and only later in the summer did we hazard a few shouted greetings. But simply eating in the reciprocally seen presence of other humans felt rawly, primally necessary. –Leigh Biddlecome

LIFELINES I don’t remember what I first ate after the COVID-19 lockdown began in earnest last year, though I do recall clearly the last thing I ate before the enormity of the situation really hit. In some ways, it is food—the comforts and rituals associated with it—that serves most clearly in my memory as a kind of dividing line between the before-Corona time and the early period of the outbreak. And in important ways, shifting habits of eating have defined the entire arc of the pandemic for me. Indeed, I can chart my emotional journey through the experience according to the ways in which I was engaging with different foods and habits of eating. –Gabriel Boyers

BAR-B-Q IS ME The night was perfect: fog thick as pea soup, intermittent pools of light dotting the way, rife with images for a fecund imagination. I turned up the volume on the jazz station. Dexter Gordon’s serenading sax was wailing “‘Round Midnight” as the car cruised along. At a stop sign, I looked left out the window, imagining Sherlock Holmes or Sam Spade creeping out from between the buildings, pursuing a dastardly villain. The shroud of night fog induced a sense of time travel. –Tom Raher

DURING THE PANDEMIC WE EAT During the pandemic I pore over old cookbooks, clip and download recipes, take advantage of extra unfettered hours to try new dishes. Some we dismiss as once-is-enough experiments, others we declare keepers that I add to my repertoire: tortilla de patatas, tomato risotto, vegetarian chili, and a plethora of pasta dishes that fill me with awe, as I realize that the ways to prepare pasta are as innumerable as stars in the sky. –Alice Lowe

A WOMAN’S PLACE IN THE KITCHEN After an unbearable number of hours, days, and weeks alone, of not seeing anybody but my own reflection in the kitchen window, I started thinking about the fact that these gestures are not isolated, that they connect me to my mother and to the generational links of our womanhood. I thought about how every woman who steps into a kitchen to cook can’t help but reckon with an ancient history of nurture and care, and further, that the care we show for others can and should be directed toward ourselves. Thinking about all of this, in quarantine, made me feel less alone. It made me feel part of a tradition: me, a young, female home cook with nothing else on the line other than the goal to please myself and keep myself company. –Rafaela Bassili

SENSORY IMPRESSIONS OF THE PANDEMIC “I would say that my food habits have narrowed a bit. I’ve become very aware of what tastes good to me and where I want to spend my calories. If I’m ready for dinner, I want to eat something I know I’m going to enjoy and that’s going to taste good and come from a place that I feel comfortable with. I don’t have any extra room in my diet for stuff that in a sense isn’t familiar, which is kind of sad.”

CHECKING (MEAL) BOXES DURING THE PANDEMIC Not every meal was a huge success. There were burgers that were undercooked and had to be re-griddled, potatoes that were a little underdone, and vegetables that some, or all, did not appreciate (broccoli was the culprit most often). Then there were the meals that worked perfectly. A carbonara that would pull together in exactly the right way, or the pork chops that were delicious with the sauce that I had made from the recipe. –Jim Southard

RECIPE: INHERITANCE, REDISCOVERED Lockdown began just when my maternity leave with my second child would have ended. That spring, I found myself, like so many, furloughed from my job, managing remote pre-K, nursing my baby around the clock, and cooking three communal meals every day. With New York City at the epicenter of the first wave, we were unsure of when it would be safe to see my mother again. When my son asked for roti, I understood his longing. “I miss her, too,” I wanted to say. Instead, I put on an apron and tried to make up for lost time. –Sumitra Mattai

PANDEMIC POSTCARD: FORAGING IN THE BEAUCE When Juliette and I returned to her mother’s farmhouse in early November, during the second lockdown, I was surprised to find, crowding the refrigerator in tied-off plastic sacks, a wealth of enormous wild porcini mushrooms in varying states of mild decay. The freshest were the size of joysticks. Philippe the gardener, it seemed, collected them reflexively on his daily strolls through the forest. He gave the surplus to Marion, who had been stuffing the mushrooms in the fridge, awaiting our return. –Aaron Ayscough

POPCORN, PANDEMIC BE DAMNED More than anything, it seemed, the people missed the movie theater’s food. They missed the overwhelming smell of movie theater popcorn, of knobby chocolate-covered raisins and glistening ropes of licorice; and they were willing to risk a deadly viral infection, removing their masks in an enclosed public space, in order to get it all back. –Claire Pellegrino

A QUARANTINE TALE Ode to brunch outside / with bottomless mimosas / and a burrito. / $@*& outdoor dining / when it is thirty degrees. / I'll wait until spring. –Katy Klassman

THE INTERMINABLE BENTO I arrived in Taiwan on a Fulbright research grant in February 2021, after weathering the pandemic, first from Berkeley and then from Seattle, for the better part of a year. Taiwan had been sheltered from much of the pandemic up to that point due to its early intervention and austere quarantine measures for incoming travelers: two weeks confined to a hotel room. In my case, the room was the size of a galley kitchen. My window at the Green World Hotel in Taipei overlooked the backside of an apartment building. My legs dangled off the end of the single mattress. On my tiptoes, I could touch the ceiling. –Daniel Tam-Claiborne

WITH THE GRAIN Bread on the brain is more than preoccupation and diversion. It’s history and faith. Bread is a connection to something elemental and old in the human experience. It is a food that has sustained empires, fed the hungry across millennia, and been a dietary staple that transcends borders and class. In every act of breadmaking there is a tether to this past, a testament to what has been witnessed and to what will endure. At this moment, I need that tether as much as I want the focus making bread requires. We all need it. –Catherine McNulty




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