I'm not sure how the stores are stocked where you live but I noticed a significant increase in empty places on shelves when I was at the grocery store last week. I'm wondering if the spike in COVID-19 cases in various parts of the country has people stocking up again? It certainly sent the Stock Market plunging yesterday.
I honestly doubt there will be a return to normal for a very long time. I mentioned in a Pantry Post that I had been considering ending these posts because there was nothing new to say but I felt a nudge by God in such a powerful way that I could not deny it... do not stop the Pantry Posts! I knew they would become even more important but a worldwide pandemic was not on my radar.
While I could top off most of my pantry during the midst of the lock down, some items became unavailable. Whether because the manufacturing became impossible, the shelves emptied because people were hoarding, or transportation was difficult... I don't think it matters. We saw with our own eyes how quickly store shelves could empty and not be restocked.
Having gone through that experience, I learned a couple important lessons that I'll ponder at another time. Perhaps next week? I learned there were food and supply items I found to be most important. I also learned were items I thought would be important but they weren't. I admit there were far less of those since I've cooked out of the pantry before during two long term job losses.
However, what I was reminded of more than anything during this time was the importance of cooking skills and the ability to put food on the table during a time of limitations. I cook most of my meals at home already and mostly "from scratch" and even I had to scramble for new ideas.
I came to realize that knowledge and experience are even more essential during a time of crisis.
Knowledge such as in a cookbook tells us how to put together a main dish. Experience reminds us of substitutions we can make should we not be able to purchase an ingredient for a recipe. Knowledge may give us skills to cut up a whole chicken into separate parts. Experience reminds us how to stretch a whole chicken to feed a large crowd.
I loved the chapter in Edith Schaeffer's The Hidden Art of Homemaking when she wrote about what she did to stretch dinner ingredients when more people than were expected were at L'Abri to be fed. I think it was in that same chapter where she talked about learning to take cooking/baking mistakes and turn them into something people would enjoy eating. There was no throwing away anything in the L'Abri kitchen.
I've thought of her often during this lock down as I had to be creative when I had run out of an ingredient or it was not available. For instance, I had seen on a cooking blog (show?) where the person had made pizza using naan bread as the crust. Really? Naan? I love it but as a dip for hummus.
But the next time I was at Aldi, I bought a package of naan bread and used two of the pieces as the base for pizza that week. Yum! Because of the need to switch from my normal crust, I found a quick and easy way of making pizza we like even better. Easy is good.
My mother worked full time so she didn't actually teach me to cook but I picked up a lot from watching her. She did show me from time to time how to make a specific dish that was a favorite. Very few of her "recipes" were written down. I'm especially thankful now that I took the time to watch her make her Kentucky friend chicken and vegetable beef soup.
As my interest in cooking grew after I was married, I came to enjoy cooking shows and back then, they were more instructional than entertainment. Even if I did find the original PBS French Chef shows with Julia Child very amusing, she had a natural wit that continued through the years.
Now there is so much information available about how to cook from magazines to food bloggers to PBS cooking shows to entire television networks to YouTube videos. The best television cooking shows are with cooks that are natural born teachers as well as comfortable in front of the camera.
Through the years, I learned simple tips that I didn't know as a younger cook. Such things as always make certain you brown the meat you are cooking (brown... not burn!) because that is how you develop flavor. If you make gravy after frying a chicken that is not brown enough, that is why there is not enough flavor.
I learned to never add cold milk to hot mashed potatoes (so that is what I was doing wrong), to use kosher salt instead of table salt, to grind peppercorns, to add spices early and herbs late in a recipe, and that many of the vegetables I used to steam are even better roasted (although my husband disagrees on that one).
Do you remember The Frugal Gourmet? I learned from him the phrase "hot wok, cold oil"... which means you always want your pan to be warm before adding any oil to it. I think he said it on every show.
I learned from a nutritionist that al dente pasta, that is pasta boiled just until it is firm, is far better for all people (but especially diabetics) than pasta allowed to cook until it is soggy. No wonder Italians, who cook their pasta al dente, can eat so many carbs and stay thin.
I have learned that comfort food from other cultures and various places even in the U.S. is often inexpensive and highly nutritious because generations past did not have the option of supermarkets and debit cards. Since then, I've looked more closely at "poor people's food" than fancy restaurant recipes.
Since each person learns differently, it is hard to recommend specific shows but I find more instruction on PBS shows than The Food Network. Although the latter now has an app you can subscribe to that is suppose to have good instruction. I'm too
I often take one of my cookbooks off the shelf to read for you never stop learning when it comes to cooking. I use most Amazon credit for things like birthday gifts for family, my insulin needles, etc. but as a treat for myself... once in awhile I get a new cookbook.
Most recently, I purchased a cookbook that I fell in love with immediately. It has large, colorful photos of each dish and I like that in a cookbook. It is called Hope's Table: Everyday Recipes from a Mennonite Kitchen by Hope Helmuth.
She is a fairly young Mennonite wife and mother and her recipes are simple enough for new cooks but interesting for ummm...
I will also add a reminder of how much I love the cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat for both beginner and more experienced cooks. It is like having a cooking teacher in the book. If you have access to Netflix, definitely watch the four part documentary by the same title!
As for old favorites, I think it is about time I took The Hidden Art of Homemaking off the shelf, dusted it off, and reread it again for perhaps the hundredth time. Especially the chapter about cooking.
So what do I plan to do this week for the pantry? I've been keeping an eye on what is beginning to disappear from shelves again so I plan to make a list of items that I need to make certain get restocked on my own shelves. Now that I know how quickly everything can change.
Mentioned in this Blog Post
The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer... here.
Hope's Table: Everyday Recipes from a Mennonite Kitchen by Hope Helmuth... here.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat cookbook... here.
Disclaimer: Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.