But we’re not waiting for the boats to make it through the ice in April to replenish our dwindling supplies, we’re waiting for friends and family to be allowed to walk through our front doors again. For a cup of tea and a piece of cake, for a meal and a laugh. For a hug on a bad day. The normal things we used to do just two weeks ago. What a sad, strange thing to have to be a part of. Something the likes of which our parents haven’t even experienced.
Maybe our grandparents have. Lots of people in other parts of the world have, which might be the most humbling thing of all.
A few days ago I went to the grocery store, gloved hands, pocketful of wipes in a ziplock baggie ready to prep the shopping cart, but there was an employee there, disinfecting all the carts. He passed me one and said, “There you go, all clean for you.” I thanked him and asked him how he was, how everyone who worked at the store was handling it all, and he said it was hard, that they all wanted to be home. I thanked him again, told him it was people like him that were keeping us going, and we both started to cry. That might have been the first time I’ve ever cried in a grocery store. Except that one time I was pregnant and couldn’t find any cilantro.
I can’t stop thinking about grandmothers. All the nonnas in Italy who are gone now, who may have had ten, fifteen, twenty years left with their families. All those stories, lost, all those skills and traditions and recipes that would have been passed on to kids and grandkids, gone. The nan I was closest with passed away five years ago and I still can’t believe she’s not here, but the idea of not having those last ten years with her takes my breath away.
Sometimes I get tired of only being motivated to make food and write about it when something bad happens. When a storm shuts down a city, when our neighbours to the south elect a lunatic, when the world feels so fraught all I want to do is drown myself in dessert. It’s a pattern I’ve only noticed with this latest round of bad news. But then I remembered this great thing that Sam Sifton wrote in his New York Times Cooking newsletter on the last anniversary of 9/11. I looked up it up today because I can’t quite put into words how I’m feeling these days, when it feels frivolous to want to make food and enjoy it when there’s so much fear and pain in the world right now. Sam says the day the attacks happened, he simply cooked for his family. “That act sustained me and sustains me still – this vain hope that if only we make food for one another and share it with open hearts we can push forward together in understanding, and together maybe make the world a better place. I don’t know if it works. I believe it does. So I’ll continue to do it, seeking grace in the meals, in the work of making them.”
That’s all we can do right now, I guess. Feed yourself, feed your family. Pick up groceries for people who can’t so they can feed themselves. And do it with love and joy and hope. Knowing that summer picnics in a few months will be sweeter than they’ve ever been. They will! I can’t wait.
Here’s my little offering of something that brought me joy this week, and I can proudly state that even my picky almost-four-year-old loved it…a moose adobo. Which felt weird at first. I mean, adobo is like jerk chicken, or kimchi, or homemade bread. Everybody has their own recipe that’s the best. And who am I to write about Filipino food? But I love it, and I used what was in my pantry and freezer instead of making an unnecessary trip to the grocery store. So let’s call it Filipino-Newfoundland-inspired-isolation-motivated-fusion-cooking. If you want to know more about adobo, just give it a random Google (like, what else do you have to do right now) because I’m not getting into it and please don’t yell at me. I do know that this (technically?) is an adobo sa gata, which means with coconut milk. How to cook an adobo is in itself a debate, but I used a slow cooker for my moose roast. You can do this same recipe in the oven low and slow and covered, about four hours; just keep an eye on how much liquid is evaporating and add more coconut milk when needed.
(Coincidentally, this was adapted from a Sam Sifton New York Times Cooking recipe for Chicken adobo. If you’re stuck at home and you can afford it, their app is fantastic. They’re doing some great stuff right now about what to cook and bake when you’re barred indoors with kids, or nice meals to make with basic or dwindling pantry staples.)
Slow Cooker Moose Adobo
One small moose roast (that’s the best I can do, I know nothing about moose butchery)
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup soya sauce
1 1/2 cups seasoned rice vinegar
12 cloves of garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
3 whole chilies, stems cut off (I used Fresnos, go hotter like bird’s eye if you prefer)
3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
In a medium-sized saucepan, gently heat the coconut milk, soya sauce, vinegar, garlic and chilies. Heat a slightly oiled medium-sized frying pan, generously salt and pepper the moose roast, and sear it on all sides until a dark golden brown. Place the seared roast in the slow cooker. Deglaze the still-hot pan with a little of the coconut milk mixture from the saucepan, making sure to scrape up all the good crispy bits, and pour over the roast in the slow cooker. Pour the remaining sauce with chilies and garlic over the moose, put in the bay leaves, cover and set on low for 8 hours. Carefully remove the moose when done, and pour the sauce into a saucepan to reduce and thicken the liquid if you like. Put the moose back in the sauce, and serve alongside, or over rice.
I used a small round slow cooker, not a giant oval one, so double the recipe if you’re feeding a crowd. Which you’re not right now, so don’t worry about it. You might want to add more coconut milk when reducing depending on your pucker preference…adobo is a vinegary flavour bomb, so it might take a few tries to nail it. Internet says Filipino palm vinegar is best, but white or cider can be used, too. Different brands of seasoned rice vinegar vary in sweetness…I sometimes add a tablespoon of Mirin to sweeten it a little, which is probably blasphemous, but I’m already adoboing moose. So.
Chickens. Please stay safe. Stay inside. Wash your hands. Cook with love. Do it for the nonnas, and everyone you hold dear. And do it now, so we can all sit on picnic blankets and drink wine in the summer sun. Together.
The brighter days are coming. xo