By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
(May 7, 2020) As the pandemic trudges on, it becomes obvious that our lives simply will not be the same even after all of this blows over.
There could be a miracle cure in a matter of weeks, or as has been the case with other viruses and bugs, a cure may never be found. Who am I to pretend that I understand a thing about this mess?
All I know is that we have to take precautions, be responsible and try to survive what has become the greatest economic and public health disaster that we have ever seen.
But through the mud and muck, the name-calling and finger-pointing and through the smoke that has amassed on our viral battlefield, arise a great many positive changes in the way we live our lives.
Truth be told, I believe that these changes will be around for a great many years. I was raised to look at the silver lining in the clouds (not to wear rose-colored glasses as that may at least involve a small amount of naivety).
Imagine my surprise when I found out that victory gardens, an age-old practice with its roots in times of war when people grew their own produce to help take at least a little burden off the supply chain, would be a theme this week. But, we’ll get back to those in a second.
On top of victory gardens, we have seen a sharp spike in a few other self-sufficient practices: home-brewing and distilling companies have noted a sharp increase in kit and ingredient sales.
I have a fair number of friends and colleagues who have even gone so far as to build chicken coops and bring in chickens and guinea fowl. I love this notion, and my kids have asked about it.
Maybe after we build the treehouse, guys. Priorities.
Small farms are packed on the days they are open for retail sale. To me, this could be the greatest positive result of the quarantine in that small farms have always needed our help.
And now, many people feel obliged to spend as little time packed into the box and grocery stores and more time with the small producers in the open-air markets, buying locally.
And at last, we come to my kitchen garden. We purchased this house 4 years ago, but never fully moved in.
There is a raised bed in the side yard that measures 5 feet by 24 feet. That is a sizable garden and throughout our tenure on this property, I have never taken the time to weed, till, root, fluff, fill and primp the box for a proper garden. Now she is ready.
When we lived in Baltimore on a small, 1/4-acre lot, we grew a mountain of produce. In Ocean Pines, we had a hard time with all the pine trees. But here, we are in good shape.
The end result is a garden full of heirloom tomatoes from Chesterfield Heirlooms and other vegetable plants from East View Farms.
It will not be long before I am pulling round zucchini, 7 varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs and Swiss chard from my own yard.
Having gone through a binge cleaning with a very large dumpster last month, I did lose some great pots and containers, but I have plenty more where they came from.
So, fresh lettuces and spring mixes will abound, and I will be able to harvest as I like.
Yes, overall this is a nightmare. This is a terrible setback to us personally, financially, in health and in sanity. But, there are also beautiful things happening as a result. Build a garden.
Even patio container gardens can yield massive amounts of food. People do it all the time. So go. Grow, Eat and do what you can to stay safe.
Oil-roasted Heirloom Tomatoes
2# garden-fresh cherry and grape tomatoes
¼ c. EV Olive oil
Coarse sea salt, as needed
Fresh cracked black pepper, as needed
1/4 c. Roasted whole garlic cloves
3 Tbsp. Freshly grated good parmesan
Fresh basil for garnish
•Pick some ripe tomatoes and try to get them all around the same size.
•After washing and patting dry, place in a ceramic or glass bowl (easier to cleanup and to sop the juices and goo out with fresh bread).
•Top with oil, salt and pepper and place in a 425F oven until they start to wilt.
•Add the roasted garlic at this time, and top with the parmesan.
•Return to oven for an additional few minutes or until everything just looks done. There is no other way to put it.
•At this point the kitchen is going to smell amazing, and use this time to shred the basil into little ribbons, a technique we nerd-chefs call chiffonade.
•As you pull the tomatoes out of the oven, sprinkle with the basil. The herbal aromas will immediately fill the kitchen, and you will be glad that you did not cook the basil, as you would lose a lot of that.
•As the cook, it is your moral imperative to rip a piece of Italian bread that you are serving this with and sample the wares.
•Season accordingly, splashing some sherry vinegar on as a finishing touch, but this is entirely optional.
•Serve with aforementioned Italian bread (sans one chunk) and eat away. The perfect summer starter.
— Paul G. Suplee is an Associate Professor of Culinary Arts at Wor-Wic Community College.
Find his ePortfolio at www.heartofakitchen.com.