The New Norm?

As I sit in my kitchen while dinner cooks in the oven, I first want to wish all reading this, good health and if you are sick from Covid 19/Coronavirus, a speedy recovery. To our first responders, doctors, newscasters, folks keeping supermarkets open and stocked, truckers, wine/liquor shops, restaurants, (sorry if I have missed anyone) thank you for your commitment and sacrifice. Thank you to the military for helping my city – New York and for helping all of us in the trying time. For those of you in any industry who have lost your job, or business, but especially for my industry — Food and Wine, my heart goes out to you. I was grappling with the title of this blog, as I don’t really want to think that what we are experiencing is the new norm. I keep hearing this phrase over and over again each time I tune into the nightly news. But I don’t think anything about this situation is normal. Stay Home Stop the Spread, Social Distancing, Self Isolating, Flatten the Curve, shortages of food, no human contact, shortages of toilet paper, pandemic, and so many other descriptors; how is any of this normal? New Yes, Normal No.

In times like this I am grateful for what does make my life feel almost normal; my friends, my work, wine, cooking and the occasional Bourbon. I can’t believe that a month has past since I came home from an amazing trip to Argentina. Forgive me if I have mentioned this before but I really can’t believe it was a month ago. Now today I sit in my kitchen, or my office at home as so many of us are doing. I find that a good part of the day revolves around meal planning. In general I love meal planning for friends, entertaining is second nature to me, passed down from my paternal grandmother (about whom I’ve written in so many past blogs) and my mom and dad who were the ultimate entertainers. But now I plan lunch and dinner every day for me with the occasional delivery or curbside pick up — support your local restaurants folks! Previously I might have gone grocery shopping 3 or 4 times a week — leftover habits from city life and a small kitchen! But now I go once and load up so I don’t have to be out more than necessary. Some days I feel like a contestant in an episode of Chopped! I look in the fridge survey what’s in there and whip up a meal. Dad you’d be proud that I’m actually using my culinary education. Remember this is the man who said to me — “You Want to Do What; You Want to Go to the CIA and become a Chef?” Well glad I did because now that I live in the burbs, there are not that many delivery choices so cooking is the best option.

Now that I live in the burbs with lots of space I have a stocked pantry — this is something mom insisted on and I am so glad she did. I have a full freezer filled with soups and sauces — a carry over from dad. And I’ve inherited from both an obsession for keeping as many cans of tuna fish and beans in the pantry as possible because you never know! Cooking for me is soothing and has become a great distraction right now. I love the cadence, the rhythm the pace in the kitchen. When you find the perfect ingredients and marry them together and get the timing right, it’s like composing a symphony.

I love looking at my social media feed and seeing others making fantastic meals and thoroughly enjoying the process. We may have physically shared meals with our friend only a month ago, now we are doing it virtually. So here are a few of my favorite meals that I’ve recently made. I’m sharing them virtually with you all in this new norm that’s not really a new norm as I’ve been posting these recipes and images for the past year hoping to inspire people to cook, and enjoy food and wine.

The Curried Chicken Pot Pie was made with poached chicken, carrots and peas, onions sauteed in curry powder, thickened with flour and chicken broth and made richer with a splash of heavy cream. Brush with egg wash, put a vent in the center and bake at 350 until golden brown. This was my favorite! As for the Mexican Peppers, I sauteed some beef and onion, add a tablespoon each of cumin, chili powder and oregano, cook until done. Add in some chopped green olives, shredded pepper jack and about a half cup of black beans. Moisten with tomato puree then stuff the peppers. Add some more tomato puree to the pan and bake at 350 until the peppers are soft and easy to cut through. These are my “Chopped Kitchen” recipes. The Chocolate Olive Oil Cake I must confess comes from Nigella Lawson, the Raspberry White Chocolate Scone is from a book of Scones I got from England and the Banana Bread is from the NY Times.

Is this the New Normal, that’s up to you, but for me I hope not. I don’t want to think that I will get used to being isolated and that this is something normal. New Yes, Normal No. I long for the day when we can all be well and un-afraid. I long for the day when I don’t have to converse with my friends via FaceTime or Zoom. I long for the day when we don’t have to have virtual cocktail hours. New Yes, Normal No. Keep cooking, drinking wine and, keep doing things that make you happy, but most of all stay safe and healthy. And again thank you to all the heroes out there working to make our lives safe and well. I virtually toast you all, you are the true heroes out there and I say Thank You.

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