In all circumstances, no matter how difficult or tragic, there is always a silver lining. And as we move towards the eventual conclusion of the pandemic- yes, two steps forward and one step back – it’s interesting to look back on how things have changed for the better.
The pandemic prepared me for living in a rural, more isolated environment. It would have been much more of a shock to the system if we had moved to the farm in 2019. There are less creature comforts easily accessed in Palas de Rei. But we understand it post-Covid. Like we never could have before. And we cope just fine, even in the food department.
America doesn’t have it’s own native cuisine. I’ll wait here for the blow back from this bold statement. But it’s true. Sure, Native Americans have traditional dishes they make and eat today. But I’m talking about the general population of the US. Our cuisine might seem unique but it likely originated somewhere else. The country is a melting pot of other cultures. Perhaps you might say tuna casserole or Hamburger Helper are uniquely American. But I would argue they are barely food. I grew up eating them. So I know.
When I was a kid, we only ate what my Dad liked. That meant no spices. He hated curry and cumin. Blasphemy! After leaving home, and escaping the Campbells soup casserole diet, I embraced the foods of the world. Indian food (which varies greatly by region), Middle Eastern food, Greek, Moroccan, Cuban, Thai, Chinese (again, varies by region), Korean bbq, and on and on. And when Jeff and I got together, he got on the Kelli food train, no matter now reluctantly.
Could I cook most of that stuff? Uh, no. But I could order it and eat it. During my career, I worked a lot with a very long commute. I became an Olympian at ordering. Moving to Valencia meant we immediately located where we could find our favorites and we frequented these various establishments, in person or via Glovo, Uber Eats or Deliveroo. Yum!
Then the pandemic hit. Everything was shut down. Restaurants were initially closed, even for para llevar (take away). So cooking was the only option. And even when restaurants were allowed to open for take out (home delivery) only, many of them had not survived the lockdown. What to do? We were hungry for spicy Thai. For a yellow curry. For Chicken Tikka. Jeff survived on cup of noodle soup (ramen), potato chips and stress while I was in the hospital. I dreamed of Chicken Byriani and Shish Tawook. We became cranky without our favorites.
There was nothing for it, once I was on my feet. It was time to start learning to make this stuff. Thai Yellow Curry with vegetables over rice noodles. Chicken Tikka Masala. Cuban black bean soup. I dug out the recipes my ex-mother-in-law bestowed upon me. Garlic lemon chicken with almond rice. Then I cooked. And cooked. A task that had limited appeal to me before became a window to memories of meals past. And we both learned to appreciate the results.
Even after the restaurants reopened in Valencia, we stayed in. And I started planning meals and menus in advance. Rarely, unless I didn’t feel up to it, did we order in.
Today, living in rural Lugo, we don’t enjoy the luxury of having any of these restaurants within reasonable driving distance. But the pandemic made sure I was ready to meet the moment. My spice collection is so big now it’s stored in boxes in the kitchen awaiting a new home after the kitchen remodel. But, still, each day I make our favorites, sometimes with a twist. And I throw in new recipes here and there to mix it up and surprise Jeff. Much of it, like any good cuisine, is by feel now. But it allows me to control the salt, fat, and nutritional content of what we eat. Our neighbor, Carmen makes her organically grown contributions, too.
Here is yellow curry with vegetables from her garden. I think she would be surprised where her veggies ended up this week. It’s pretty spicy 🌶. Spanish food isn’t a fan of the hot pepper.
But, Necessity is the mother of invention – they say. Living in the country now, we have been well prepared. Because even with Covid, this particular silver lining is delicious.