In My Kitchen, April, 2020

Some time after I drafted this month’s In My Kitchen post, it occurred to me that this monthly world diary of kitchen activities could form a valuable record, documenting how cooking and food availability changes during a pandemic. It will be interesting to see if some items continue to be hard to source, for example flour, and whether the pandemic is followed by higher prices due to manufacturing interruption and a decline in agricultural output. It would be good if those joining in this platform could note their country and region when writing and perhaps comment on some of these factors too. Thanks Sherry from Sherry’s Pickings for enabling this connection throughout the world. I urge others to join in and to consider taking up blogging during these difficult times. 

Francesca, St Andrews, Victoria, Australia.

So much for April fools day. No one expected the unexpected, a pandemic that may end up rivalling all previous plagues, changing the direction of our lives forever. In the meantime, I imagine that there is far more activity in everyone’s kitchen this month. No doubt you, dear reader, will be in lock-down like me or are semi- quarantined. This pandemic is, for many, a time to embrace older values, kindness, sharing, communicating more than usual but from a safe distance, cooking, baking, making music or going slightly mad. The handy phrase ‘cabin fever’ has never been more applicable. On the plus side, it is a reminder for many how much time we waste shopping: this break from consumerism is not such a bad thing. For those who have lost work and income, I hope that you get through this difficult time and are adequately supported by your government.  This will not be the case in many countries. 

So many quinces. 10 jars of quince jelly later, and still more quince to process..

My shopping list is now tiny: my granddaughter shops for us once a week. I exchange, at a safe distance, a container of home made soup and the money, left on a metaphorical pile of Celtic stones. I feel like a villager from the famous Eyam village, sometimes referred to as the plague village. I’m fortunate to have a productive vegetable garden which supplies most of our fresh vegetables. But it is a labour of love.

These lettuce are grown from seed all year round.

Apparently there’s a rush on vegetable gardening in Victoria: I’ve heard that seedlings are as rare as toilet paper and flour. Plant seeds. They might only take a few weeks longer. Some vegetables are better grown from seed as they don’t transplant well. These include all root vegetables such as radish, carrot, and turnip, while rocket and all lettuce varieties appear within a few days and can be transplanted easily. You don’t need a special garden bed. Sow seed among your flowers and in your regular gardens. Make a drill with a stick, add some fine white sand or very fine soil, add your seeds, cover them lightly with soil or sand and keep moist. Within one week, and voilà, you’ll have seedlings. Parsley seeds may take a little longer, as it’s said they go to hell and back before germinating.

Packets of seed. It’s time to sow.

Every time I make risotto, I think of my dear friends in Lombardy. Alberto grows beautiful rice in the countryside near Pavia. His mother and Zia and Zio will, no doubt, be safe in the countryside. To date, 10,000 Italians have died from this virus, with most occurring around Lombardy. Make a risotto and offer a thought for this region- all that lovely Carnaroli, Vialone Nano and Arborio is grown in the Po and Ticino river valleys, in the fields near the Lombardian villages that now feature daily in the news. We are all interconnected. 

Risotto con crema di zucchini. Lombardia, sempre nel mio cuore.

My pulses are getting a workout this month. This is not an unusual ingredient in my kitchen, nor has it much to do with the pandemic. I have to admit that while others were hoarding weirdo paper products from supermarkets, I went to BAS foods and bought an ungodly share of lentils, chickpeas and beans. Sono colpevole, I am guilty of hoarding too.

Marcella Hazan’s green pea and potato soup, made from dried split green peas.

The smell of chutney cooking in the kitchen is enormously comforting, reminding me of my matriarchal line and the old Irish-British aromas that would emanate from their kitchens in Autumn. This is a great way to use up less than perfect fruit, all those windfalls and spotted specimens. 

Apple and tomato chutney

The orchard keeps giving throughout the months of Autumn, thanks to some fortuitous planting of heritage varieties nine years ago. The Beurre Bosc pears are the best keepers and star when poached in wine, sugar and saffron. After the pears are cooked,  I remove them and cook down the syrup for a while, producing a pear flavoured sticky wine.

My son enjoys making craft beer and is still able to purchase a freshly made wort, though this may change in the coming weeks. It is a noble pastime which takes place on our back verandah and in our shed. We have our isolation environmental protocols well in place since our lockdown, so he wears gloves and doesn’t enter the house.  After the brew is ready, it is kept in a refrigerated keg. Yes, dear reader, we have cold craft beer permanently on tap, and though I feel this situation is a little unfair, I’m not complaining.  

Plague pale ale

The following is a thought provoking video link from Italy, subtitled in English.  Worth a peep. Meanwhile, if you’re short of interesting ways to cook pulses and beans, check my blog over the coming week as I plan to document my vegetarian adventures more frequently.

31 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, April, 2020”

  1. Hi Francesca, some green veg are now around $15 a kilo in my local iga. Half a small cabbage (or was it a quarter?) $4.
    Happy blogging, louise, cairns, fnq

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is so disturbing to hear Louise. I’m wondering if it’s due to the drought and bushfires as much as the virus. Are tropical fruits and FNQ produce cheaper? I keep thinking of those wonderful markets I have visited north of Cairns and the vibrant produce there, now most likely closed.

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  2. Fran – each and every one of your and your cohorts’ writings will be part of an era in history we shall never forget! Living where I do and how I am awaiting to be approved for that first eighty dollar box of Woolies ‘goodies’ ! Meanwhile an insufficiently funded :ite n’ Easy’ programme will have to do . . . I learned to stay alive a long, long time ago ! . . . best . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As NSW Police has just released advice that our lockdown will continue for 30 days until June 30, we have the opportunity to live within the means of our homes, practice doing it well and appreciating what we have… for which you are a constant source of information and inspiration. You make “older values, kindness, sharing, communicating more than usual but from a safe distance, cooking, baking, making music or going slightly mad” wonderful.
    Media reports from other parts of the world detail horrific conditions. We are privileged to be “limited” to being safe and well in our homes, at this stage able to go out for essentials of which there are enough if you know or are prepared learn what to do with them.
    Dale, Taylors Arm, NSW

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there’s a lot more interest in learning about making food, bread and growing things. It would be a real plus if this changed the world’s approach to shopping and waste. Yes, dale, we are privileged, That escape day to get out is now so exciting, I’m over the moon with joy, just to see another hill around another corner.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Yes, it’s fascinating to see the same needs and challenges throughout many countries and the expression of what it means to many writers around the globe. That said, I fear that similarities may become less evident when the much poorer countries are affected, countries where people don’t have stores of food or places to put it, or even substantial cooking facilities. I fear for the less fortunate more than for myself in this crazy dystopia.

    be well… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    Liked by 2 people

    1. so ture mae, My Indonesian friends in Bali now have no work at all. After contacting them, they bravely said they have rice, which is literally all they have, and feel fortunate as their parents still have a farm. There will be very little monetary assistance in Indonesia, a country of 256 million people with very poor access to medical assistance. Most cannot afford to visit a doctor. Even in developed countries like the USA, I imagine the poor will struggle. we can help in the best way that we can. Being aware of inequality translates into action, privately, and without fanfare.

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  5. A powerful video, Francesca. Thanks for showing me. Wouldn’t if be good if one of the things to come out of this hardship is more respect and care for our Earth and each other?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Wow-April already! I seem to have lost track of time, and feel like I am trapped in a sci fi movie-specifically World War Z, only the bad guy is a virus instead of zombies. So many things I should be doing, but I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen. I will have to try to contribute a post this month-it will be a nice change from my recent ‘heavy’ topics. Stay safe and I hope you don’t run out of flour! Ciao, Cristina
    PS your fig photo is drool-worthy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you get to do a post this month Cristina, I always like to read your Canadian-Italiana perspective. I have a stash of flour in the spare fridge- well, around 17 kilo and a few kilos in the kitchen. Suddenly everyone in Australia is making bread.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. We are locked down in South Africa – only allowed out to get essential items. Yesterday was the first time in 6 days I had been out of my house – I went to buy fresh produce. I am sticking to a routine and hoping that life gets back to a new normal very soon. Stay safe and enjoy the abundance of your garden, and beer on tap 🙂

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    1. Lockdown is a testing time. we’ve decided to go for a drive nearby once a week, with our thermos and picnic and sit in the car and look at a view. On the one day we escaped last week, I was amazed at the beauty of the morning. Routines are important Tandy, but I’m struggling to stick to one.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Lovely sentiments again. I’m motivated a wee bit more to get the veggies back on track but yet to see if they perform better. Prices have sky rocketed, $7.00 today for a cauli. I bought it as it can be converted into many different dishes and keeps well. Don’t mind the distancing at all apart from the kids. I’m struggling with not being able to lend support to our daughter with her 3 week old baby and her two very devilish boys. Too young to understand so doing pretend visits like talking through the door is almost cruel, actually less heartbreaking just keeping clear. What can one do though, just have to weather the storm. Love the words that go with the video.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It must be so hard for you with the new bub on the scene and not being able to get those cuddles and nana bonding. It would drive me nuts. My six grandchildren are much older- the youngest is 10. I do miss them all the time. Time passes really slowly when waiting to see our loved ones close up.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. we are very lucky here in australia i think, but it is still really hard to get my head around it all. i have an older friend who lives alone and loves to drive, and travel and visit friends, so this is very hard on him. looks like we are all cooking and baking like crazy. funny how there is much loo paper, but not a skerrick of flour to be had. take care and see you on the other side cheers sherry

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    1. I do feel sorry for those alone. It would be quite hard. My mother is in a nursing home which has been locked down for 3 weeks. It is so hard for the elderly residents whose days are brightened by family visits. I also have Balinese friends now who having nothing but rice- no job, no money, no assistance.

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  10. Hi Francesca, lots of baking here too as you’d expect, and like you I haven’t had to stock up much, I’m generally equipped for a few weeks at least (though I also bought a few extra kgs of lentils and split peas!). Vegetables here have been ridiculous the last couple of weeks though apparently prices are now coming down – red capsicum $16/kg, green beans $19/kg, eggplant $10/kg, bananas $5/kg, apples $7/kg – particularly hard for people who’ve lost jobs as well… We’ve been buying our few groceries from our local friendly grocer, who’ve been doing an amazing job of buying catering size bags of flour, pasta, tomatoes etc as well as toilet paper, tissues etc for those who can’t get basics from the supermarket…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those prices are obscene Beck. I hope things get back into balance in the shops. I’m still eating my way through the garden but I know the time is coming up when there’ll be a gap in the produce between seasons.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hello Miss … I happen to have a super pear recipe! Let me know if you would like it .. 😀 Your figs look amazing .. I’m eagerly waiting for ours to ripen. And it won’t be long now and I’ll be making quince jelly. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for your images and video and spirit. ❤ I also learned what pulses are. First time I hear this word, and I love them so much, especially ceci. And your family makes your own beer too, of course you do! Cin cin with that! And all well to you.

    Liked by 1 person

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