Away From It All, But Not Quite

IMG_3923As of yesterday, we’re back to homeschooling, I’m 50 odd pages in on my new book translation, and my husband has gone back to working from home after two productive weeks of vacation spent taking care of his garden, and painting our kitchen, bless him. Corona seems very far away, out here in the country. Things are more quiet than usual, we’ve had no visitors, and we think twice about going grocery shopping, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

As I mentioned before, the book I’m translating is about people who’ve stripped their lives down to the bare necessities, living in Caravans, mobile homes, refurbished school buses or Tiny Houses. Of course, while I work, I can’t really help wondering how I’d do if I were to live like that, and questioning what it is I’d need to be happy. Thinking about it made me realize how little that actually is: A roof over my head, food on my table, my family safe around me, some sort of heating. I’d probably want a bit more creature comforts than the average mobile home provides (i.e. my own toilet and a source of hot water), but it seems that even these things are doable if you’re prepared to deal with emptying the black water and grey water tanks every week, which seems a small price to pay for being able to go pee at night in your own space if you need.

I admire these people for their dedication to doing their thing, and I can relate to their distrust of the rat race most of us participate in to pay our bills. Writing jobs can be done from the road, too, so I suppose I could do what I do for money from a mobile home, if it were required. Well. I have two school children, so maybe not any time soon. But maybe one day.

There are all sorts of scenarios for what the world after Corona will look like, and some of them paint a bright picture of humankind coming to their senses and changing their ways into a sustainable way of living. Personally, I don’t believe that will happen, as long as the world leaders are what they are, and don’t even get me started on the US government’s way to deal with the crisis, which seems abysmally ignorant of the most vulnerable people in their society – hopefully people will see that and vote accordingly.

Yesterday night, I watched our chancellor’s press conference in which she implored everybody to hang in there, and carry on the way we have been for the last few weeks. She said to not be fooled by the fact that small businesses have been allowed to open again yesterday, and correctly pointed out that we will only know in two weeks whether the infection rates will spike because of it or not, and that it’s entirely possible things will have to go back to being stricter again in case they do.

A valid reminder, and I’m glad I watched it. It’s easy to forget, out here. I feel privileged and thankful to be able to have my spot in the sun, and my healthy family to enjoy it with.

One thing I’ve noticed is that people seem to cook more, and it’s one of my friends‘ pet peeves at the moment, their running out of ideas of what to make for their brood. And since I _never_ have a shortage of ideas when it comes to food, I thought I’d jot down a few things I’ve made over the last couple weeks, quarantine cooking, if you will.

No. 1 – Wild Garlic Pesto

What you see is what you get – pick a handful or two of wild garlic, add a bunch of basil leaves, pine nuts, Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, salt & pepper to taste, and generously slosh over good olive oil. Puree with a stick blender or in a food processor, and have with: pasta, on a sandwich, with grilled or poached fish, or as a dip with crackers.

IMG_3955No. 2 – Home-made Pizza

As long as you can find yeast (there was none to be had before Easter, until I was pointed towards a bakery by a very helpful sales assistant at the supermarket, and may I say it was very good, fresh yeast they sold there under the counter!), make a fluffy dough with a good few TBSPs of olive oil added. Let rise. Make a decent tomato sauce, put veggies or meat on your pizza, top with mozzarella slices and a sprinkling of Oregano, and you’re done.

No. 3 – Meatballs and Potato Salad Mediterranean Style

My newest meatballs hack is making a paste of onions, mustard, herbs, paprika, salt and pepper, egg(s) and – wait for it – a generous spoonful of Ajvar, which is a smooth paste of roast peppers and garlic popular in the Balkans. THEN add the ground beef and mix well. Make the meatballs and fry in oil. For the potato salad, add chopped celery sticks, green onions and red peppers, as well as chopped parsley to the cubed boiled potatoes and vinaigrette. It’s an an unusual version of the classic potato salad, but very tasty, and good with hot and cold meatballs.

IMG_3883No. 4 – Asian Style Glass Noodles Salad

This was based on a recipe from one of Jamie Oliver’s older books. As far as I remember it contained two central ingredients I didn’t have (prawns and fish sauce), also I did my own version of five spices (probably only had three of them or so – cinnamon, ginger, cumin), but I did have a rest of fresh cilantro, and some roasted peanuts, and it turned out alright! Fried ground beef with spices, added soy sauce, chopped cilantro, 1 chilli pepper and a generous amount of chopped peanuts, squeezed one lemon, added a TSP of maple syrup and some extra olive oil, cooked the vermicelli and mixed it all together. Yum!

IMG_E3856No. 5 – Rhubarb Cake With Very Little Flour

This happened because rhubarb’s in season, yay! Also I wanted to try out a version of cake batter that used ground almonds rather than flour; I had seen Antoni the Cook make almond flour pancakes on Queer Eye, and I was going to try that out. It went well. I separated the eggs and creamed the butter, used light brown sugar and a bit of maple syrup, and put way more of the peeled & chopped rhubarb on top of the cake batter than seemed reasonable. Oh, and I dusted the batter with some cream o‘ wheat before putting the rhubarb on top, to prevent the cake from becoming too soggy, and I sprinkled a generous spoonful of sugar on the rhubarb before the cake went into the oven.

IMG_3897No. 6 – Easter Bun(ny)

Do everything as you would for a big, sweet cinnamon bun, then use a bit of the dough to make ears, and thinly slice a date or two to make the face. Easy! This happened on Easter Sunday, and it made our family and a few neighbors really happy.

No. 7 – Finnish Pannukakku, courtesy of Pen Pal B.

So, this was an experiment, okay? It’s not actually supposed to look like this – check out pics online and you will see it’s usually flat, and while it’s in the oven, the corners inflate and rise spectacularly, but most of the pannukakku (Finnish for pancake, in case that wasn’t obvious) actually stays kind of thin. Which is not what happened when I made it. But it was lovely anyway, warm and sweet and very indulgent – a breakfast for weekends. Find a recipe online, and try it – not sure I’m allowed to share hers here. Basically a thick pancake batter with melted butter. Eat with fruit preserves, maple syrup, or sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.

img_0219No. 8 – Crisp Fried Lamb Cubes and Green Beans on Pilaw Rice

A recipe from my gorgeous Turkish cookbook. The thing that makes the meat so special is that you boil it down in soda water before frying it in butter or olive oil. An unconventional cooking method I had not heard of before, and tried out of curiosity, and that turned out to be absolutely delicious. And since lamb, in my opinion, calls for green beans, I always make it with a side of those, and serve it on a bed of pilaw-style white rice. (Add cubed onions, salt and butter while boiling the rice.)

So you can see that a lot of cooking for the brood occurred. On top of the recipes shown and described, there were also many salads: mixed, cucumber salad, Caprese salad; mac’n‘ cheese, several times; we grilled hamburgers and steaks; I made absolutely lovely kohlrabi in a white sauce with fresh dill; also a cauliflower and broccoli casserole, only enjoyed by my husband and myself; roast chicken thighs with vegetables, sweet potato and potato wedges; I tried my hand at home-made fries (which turned out a bit on the soft side, but were nice all the same); pasta and tomato sauce; loaded omelets; I don’t know how many slices of grilled cheese; apple pancakes; regular pancakes; banana pancakes… it’s surprising I got any work done, when I read through that list!

Crafts have taken a back seat, for now. I did start on a granny square blanket for my baby neighbor who is due any day now – I’m trying out a color sequence that dotted the baby blanket I made for my friend M’s little girl earlier this year. Not sure how it’s going to turn out yet:IMG_3982Also, I’ve continued on a pair of color block socks for myself, but that’s about it.

IMG_3981So, that’s what the last two slow weeks of Pandemic Easter Break were like. In between all the cooking and work, I spent every minute I could here:

with these two dudes:

Could have done a lot worse, I feel.

Thank you for checking in, friends, and: stay safe, stay sane, stay healthy!