Monday, March 30, 2020

The Pandemic Pantry: Cooking Covid-19 Style, Days 1-16

Dear Nancylanders,

I hope your are feeling safe and nourished.  We're half a month into the physical distancing measures in Vancouver.  Here, restaurant dining rooms have been closed for a while, and you know this is one of my favourite pastimes, along with photographing the beautiful professionally-presented food.  So I decided that I would photograph my humble homemade meals to satiate the food photography lust in some way.  I figure that documenting the progression might also be fun because I imagined my meals getting more haphazard and weird as I run out of supplies.  I do eat three meals a day generally, but I've usually chosen the one meal that is most noteable from each day, as I don't want this post all filled up with shots of cereal and toast.  Having ramblings about sustenance here will also serve as another way to remember this historic time when we look back on it in the future.

I was also still sick for Day 1-3 and staying home anyway, so my Day 1 happened the day before our federal messaging switched from just staying 2m away from people to urging us to stay home as much as possible.  I recognize that I started a bit earlier than most.  I have also been a little more careful than the average Vancouverite, judging from the highschool teacher flashback moment from our usually diplomatic (some say to a fault) Prime Minister ("Enough is enough! Go home and stay home!" People were still gathering in crowded places, so I loved that clarity as I was getting tired of the yahoos who would be dragging this out longer for the rest of us.

I was prepped (as in mentally taking stock of my pantry, but not panic buying), but not completely mentally ready.  At least, I was not aware that I wouldn't be going back into work and not be out and about when I was leaving the office my last time.  I had Sun - Tuesday off as a long weekend, and I had been getting some extra groceries before I went home for my weekend in preparation, but still thought I'd be back at work on Wednesday.  I stopped by spontaneously to a Mexican restaurant that Saturday night and did think that it might be one of the last in-restaurant meals that I might have for a while. I had been thinking for a couple of weeks beforehand that I wouldn't ever starve with even just the supply of rice I have on hand.  Also, as my very last resort, I have a tonne of very tasty instant dehydrated meals that I bought for camping.  They are shelf-stable for a long time, so I will be saving those until I really need them.

I'll be updating in future posts.  Stay safe and in good spirits, everyone.  There's already a small possible indication that our efforts are starting to pay off here in BC, so keep up the good work, if you are doing the right thing.

Day 1: Sunday, Mar 15th, 2020
Unphotographed fresh guacamole and tortilla chips  (Photo from a previous dinner party)
Heavy on the avocado and cilantro, with onion, fresh lime juice, green onion, salt and pepper.

Day 2 and 3: Mon Mar 16th and Tue Mar 17th
Caesar salad with mixed beans, croutons, and Parmesano Reggiano shavings. Paired with The Nancy mocktail.
I heard that I would be working from home on Monday.  I remember thinking that eventually I would run out of the Reggiano. Also, this is my favourite home "mocktail" - half and half of orange pop and guava nectar over a glassful of ice.  An "accidental" discovery.

Day 4: Wed Mar 18th
Kickass Bean Salad
I don't usually like bean salad that much, but this mixed bean and macaroni salad with a red wine vinaigrette was fantastic.  I also finally opened a jar of green olives in my fridge that has been there for many years and they were great and a few are in there!  Aside from the last of my romaine lettuce, this is filled with pantry items, including my ever present bag of frozen corn.

I also prepared a quick Vietnamese style carrot and daikon pickle (do chua) so that it would ready the next day.  They are a bit thin for bahn mi, and I would prefer if my mandolin had an intermediate size, as the next size up seemed too big for me.  Will probably go with the big one next time.

Day 4:  Thu Mar 19th
Bahn mi inspired sandwich.
Super tasty, and with less than 24 hours of pickling.  Things seem a little more isolated when you start pickling.

Day 5: Fri Mar 20
Steamed dim sum
I was appreciating by this third day of working from home that I could use that time that I saved from commuting to really take my time with breakfast like I do on the weekends.  Here, I took the time to steam some items for breakfast.  These dim sum and other items were already in my freezer.  The animal bun is a pig egg yolk custard bun that lost his snout from a box that I purchased from a new Korean grocery store.  There's a slice of a bun filled with sticky rice and that was a frozen dumpling/dim sum items place in Richmond.  There's a purchased pork dumpling. The pork and mushroom patty and slices of duck meat were from my dad.

Dinner:  Corn egg drop soup, jacked up.
This is a childhood favourite that I haven't had for years.  Comfort food from mainly pantry supplies (besides the green onion garnish, which I try to always keep some growing in a pot. I wouldn't have had it as spicy and flavoured as a kid (Worcestershire, Tabasco, soy, fish sauce...).  There's canned corn, frozen corn, peas, daikon, carrots, and celery in there.

Day 6: Fri Mar 21
Miso soup and Japanese short-grained rice with tsukemono (Japanese pickles), furikake seasoning, and shredded nori.
The miso has wakame, carrots, daikon, and Chinese mushroom slices. Another comfort meal.

Day 7: Sat Mar 22
Onigiri with canned salmon filling. Sesame oil and furikake in the rice.
I finally got to try the onigiri holders that I bought at Oomomo in Richmond.  I've made onigiri before    with a piece of plastic wrap and shaping it with my hands.  That allowed me to get it more packed and stay together than what happened with these containers.  They will be great for packing them for work though.  I ran out of nori sheets, but I have ordered some from the supermarket delivery service that is coming.  I received a small LD delivery of pantry items on day 15, and will receive a large Save-On delivery with fresh items on Day 24.  

Days 8-12: Mon Mar 23 - Thu Mar 26
Unphotographed giant delivery from Spicy6 through Foodora bike delivery.  (Photo from Spicy 6's weekday lunch buffet from years ago).
I hadn't stocked up any fresh meat, so I figured I'd get a big order and live on it for several days as well as stashing some of the curries in the freezer (which later taste just as good as it does going in).  I had lamb rarra gosht, aloo gobi, butter chicken, chicken curry, naan (which I slathered with butter in the mornings), raita, rice, and daal makhni.

Day 13: Fri, Mar 27
Another dim sum morning, and I paired it untraditionally with milky orange pekoe tea (since I was making a btach of ice tea for the fridge).   Pig snouts are intact, and I found the previously missing snout on the side of the left piggy in the photo.  I was surprised at the quality of these packaged buns.  The egg yolk custard inside is beautifully golden and surprisingly runny.

Day 14: Sat Mar 28
Spaghetti with tomato sauce, mushrooms, and too much garlic. I made a huge batch of this and froze some too.

Day 15: Sun Mar 29
Congee with non-traditional toppings.
I put on top anything that I thought would taste good.  I didn't have any peanuts so I threw in a dollop of peanut butter to at least get the flavour (even if I was missing the texture.  Corn chips work beautifully instead of Chinese donut or other crispy things.  I don't keep pork fluff in the house, but the smokey taste of bonito flakes was great, along with some tsukemono.  I like my congee nice and thick.  I finally recovered from my flu and then sinus infection, but this is a great comfort food (but I would have been too tired to make this while sick anyway).  I actually think that there is a chance that I had Covid-19 starting on Mar 5, which would make me now immune and unable to transmit to anyone now, but without knowing for sure, I still need to comply with physical distancing.

Day 16: Mon Mar 30
Raclette cheese and tortillas, some with cilantro, green onion, and jalapeño.
I bought some raclette from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks when I visited in February. I really enjoyed their fresh cream cheese with cranberry and black pepper as well.