Cooking in the Time of Pandemic

My sister and I were talking a few days ago. She said, “I’m tired of having to provide meals day in and day out.”

Yeah, me too. In normal times, we like going to restaurants. And, of course, we can still get carryout. But it’s not the same experience. I do feel guilty about not ordering from local eateries more often. But we had a couple of bad experiences with UberEats where they just decided to cancel our order and not deliver it. DoorDash has not failed us, but the problem with that delivery service is that it doesn’t use the full restaurant menu–leaving us with a much more limited selection.

Frustration with buying prepared food leaves me doing most of the cooking. My sister says she’s tired of making the same stuff over and over. I have that problem to a certain extent as well. But as a sometime cookbook author, I make an effort to be creative. Partly, that’s out of necessity because having to stock up on various ingredients leaves me with lots of “this and that” meals.

For example, we’re having an early dinner tonight because we have a Zoom meeting with a bunch of friends we haven’t seen in months. In order to be finished with the cooking chores early, I started dinner preparations in the morning using a wide variety of leftovers–beginning with a couple of hamburger patties I bought a few days ago. I decided to use them in spaghetti sauce. And because I had bought a jar of very hot chipotle peppers to use in a brown rice and black bean bake, I chopped up one of those and threw it in too. (Yes, they were much too hot to use the whole jar in one casserole.) Also on hand were two Italian sausage links I’d cooked the night before. They went into the pot, along with tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, a leftover half onion, chopped garlic, chopped mushrooms, and a little shredded cabbage. Not my usual pasta sauce, but it worked.

But no matter the unconventionality of my cooking today, I’m continually struck by how much easier it is than in previous eras.

I’m finishing up a story for the Dear Santa boxed set, called Christmas Miracle 1935, My heroine lives on a farm with a stove that looks almost normal until you get to the part where you open a door under the burners and put in pieces of wood for the fuel. And yeah, I actually cooked on a stove like that at a cabin where my Girl Scout troop went camping. There’s no fridge in the farm kitchen, only an icebox–where a man has to deliver ice to keep the contents cold. And the sink is one of those old-fashioned drainboard models like the one my grandma had.

When I’m standing in the front of the pantry, thinking about what to fix, at least I can use cans or jars of tomatoes, beans, applesauce, and jelly I buy at the store. The people in my novella must can their own produce. And they’re not buying sausage links in nice neat packages. They are grinding and seasoning the sausages themselves. Writing the story makes me think about how much things have changed and why I shouldn’t complain about my kitchen duties now.

What cooking challenges are you facing these days, and how are you meeting them?

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About Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.  She also writes the Unbound series for Changeling Press.  View website

4 Replies to “Cooking in the Time of Pandemic”

  1. I’m planning to make a cheesecake w/ a cherry topping. The recipe wants you to pit cherries for the topping. I think a can of cherry pie filling will work just fine. It’s a Better Homes and Gardens recipe. Not going much further than that.

  2. I try to make dinner in 10 minutes most nights. It could be something I cooked in a big batch (chili, soup, instant pot pork or chicken I shred) or just a piece of salmon or pork chop or burger plus a microwaved potato or ear of corn, salad with lettuce, tomato and avocado. And fresh fruit. I keep it simple. And sometimes buy things in a grocery online order that’s deli made, like a pot pie or a salad. The only time I really enjoy cooking is for the holidays or a get together or possibly to try a new recipe. And sometimes I just like to buy a spicy chicken sandwich from Popeyes — the easiest meal of all. And maybe once a week I go out to eat with my cousin or friend. I’ve found a few really good places that are “safe” to eat. Today my friend, cousin and I celebrated my cousin’s birthday (yesterday) and mine (today) at Aba on their rooftop outdoor wonderful restaurant. I love things like Whipped Feta and Charred Eggplant and Short Rib Hummus, but I’m never going to make them.

    • Yes, there are some things I buy. Went to Harris Teeter today and got a quiche loraine. Also bought some egg salad and potato salad. I also make stuff in big batches. I rarely cook anything that’s not for more than one meal. Spaghetti sauce always gets turned into what I call fake lasagna the next day. That was dinner last night. We went through drive through line at Starbucks this afternoon and got drinks and a lemon cake slice to split, so dinner tonight will be a big salad.

  3. We eat more simply now than in years past. I do enjoy cooking when I’m in the mood, but sometimes, it’s just drudgery. I’d just as soon have a bowl of Cheerios and call it done.

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