The Sourdough Project

Yesterday’s food journal entry was about starting to learn  how to make sourdough bread. It has always  been a secret dream of mine to learn how to bake bread. Not cakes or brownies or pies…bread. I’ve just always been so intimidated by the thought of it that I always found a reason to put it off. Reading Michael Pollan’s books encouraged me to dream again. It would be a shame to not learn something new just because I felt intimidated by the process. At the very least, it would be an educational experience. So yeah, that’s my birthday gift to myself, since September is my birth month. I made a list of things I would need to get started and bought them all.

I bought a nice 5qt dutch oven through a seller I met at a cast iron enthusiasts group on Facebook and it was delivered last Monday. Really heavy piece of cookware but I can already see that it’s a great investment. Besides, I got it for a great price. The kitchen scale I ordered was delivered yesterday. Everything else will be delivered in the next few days. I didn’t want to go out to  buy supplies so I bought everything from local sellers online.

I guess learning how to bake bread is part of my commitment to my household that I will be more circumspect about what we eat. Bread from grocery stores are cheap and readily available but they’re also hardly bread anymore. All the good stuff from the flour had been removed mechanically or chemically and some nutrients individually added  back chemically. They’re over-processed and already has a lot of ingredients that traditionally aren’t used to make bread. That’s the major reason why I want to learn how to make bread. The other reason is because I hope that I can learn to make something with my hands that connects me to real food culture. Not something we outsourced to large corporations but something actually done by hands, lovingly and with great effort.

Before I decided to try my hand at making bread, I’ve already stopped buying commercialized loaves. This whole quarantine period, the bread we’ve been eating at home came from friends who make them. Homemade bread may  be more expensive but they’re more delicious and a lot healthier than the factory-made ones.

I hope the whole wheat I ordered gets delivered today, I see that it’s already out for delivery. I’m eager to try and get my starter going.

Swabbity-Swab-Swab

My husband was sick earlier this week and I was already researching RT-PCR tests that can be administered at home when I read the announcement by our HOA that there will be free swab tests in our village. All we had to do was pre-register for it. So I signed us up, filled out the forms and submitted them that Monday and by Thursday, the people from our barangay and Red Cross were there in full hazmat, armed with test kits for residents who pre-registered for the test. The venue was in our village’s open court. Our HOA set everything up so that there were no walk-ins, the small crowd was easily managed. Everyone registered at the entrance, everyone was required to wear masks and face shields, and seats were spaced about a meter apart. It went pretty quickly. If anyone was worried about whether the swab would be painful, let me put your mind at ease…it wasn’t. My nose felt ticklish for a  bit and I had the urge to sneeze afterwards but it really wasn’t too big a deal. We were in and out in a few minutes. From encoding to specimen sample collection to transporting the specimen, until the results were released two days later, everything was easily tracked through Red Cross’ online tracking system. I’m happy to say that our household tested negative for COVID 19. It felt like a great weight lifted of my chest. I was worried because my husband and I had possible exposures a couple of weeks back and so when he got sick, that really made me lose a lot of sleep.

I must say that our household’s experience of this pandemic has been relatively easier because of many factors. My husband and I were already working from home for a little over a decade, so there was practically no transition for us in that area. The company that I work for was able to quickly transition to 100% remote work in a matter of days, which was no small feat. Since we’ve been working from home for a while, we already have our home set up for it (two fiber internet connections, backup internet, comfortable work spaces, etc). My brother-in-law was able to easily transition to a work from home setup too by using my study. We have enough rooms in the house so that we can spend these past days together without being in each other’s way. There had  been very little interruption to our daily routine.

Our HOA has been very good with listening to what residents need. They are quick to coordinate requests for support from our local government whether it’s for personnel or provisions. Our HOA organized community markets, and were quick to adjust and implement a working system when they saw that there were a lot of people who need to buy things from the market. They were quick to learn from mistakes and implemented changes on the fly. Efforts for contact tracing, managing crowds, disinfecting the area used for the market, all those were put in place as soon as they saw the need for it. When the residents complain about barangay policies that do not work, our HOA immediately advocate for us and are able to negotiate for safer, more practical policies. They went door-to-door to distribute quarantine passes. They made it easy to do contact tracing for workers who need to do home repairs during the quarantine. They requested frequent disinfections of our streets. They made sure we received regular food packs and announced distribution schedules in advance during ECQ. We didn’t need to be at the mercy of inflexible rules by the local government because our HOA actively worked on our behalf to make our village as safe for residents as possible.

I recognize that these things are layer upon layer of privilege and that other people are experiencing a drastically different kind of quarantine right now. All we can really do is continue advocating for each other and to look at whatever opportunity we have to really help one another, and there’s always somebody who could use our help. We just need to be sensitive to their needs instead of completely retreating into our bubble of safety. This is the time to go beyond “positive thoughts and prayers” and to truly open our hands and help our neighbors. There are people struggling to put food on their table, who are at a loss about mounting medical  bills, or are trying their best to scrape together some money to buy phones/tablets/laptops so that their children can attend online classes. No, we can’t help everyone, but we can at least help someone.

Plantita

My recent journal entries are about little choices that help us eat healthier at home. Because of the pandemic, my family and I haven’t eaten out since late February, which translates to more home cooked meals. It’s definitely more labor intensive and takes a lot of planning, plus buying more groceries or having them delivered. I’ve never cooked so much in my entire life. I think that’s great, though. We do still support our favorite restaurants, but it’s easier to avoid eating outside when you’re rarely outside. People have a lot of time to cook these days and learn new things. The effort we give with thinking about what to cook inevitably results to giving our food more careful thought.

I bought several plants a few weeks ago because I’ve always wanted to have my own herb garden. Not all of them are flourishing, though. The curly parsley’s so hard to raise, the leaves are so delicate. As usual, the basil plants are the easiest to raise. I’ve propagated new plants a couple of times already. I’ll have a lot of them soon enough. I have a new plant that came in the mail today, a pot of chives. Yum. I already trimmed the leaves to prevent transplant shock. My favorite is my dill plant, though. It’s so lush and it’s getting quite big. Also, wow that plant is delicious. I put it in omelette and pasta sauce, etc., it’s so yummy. Having more herbs to use in cooking just makes everything more flavorful. I’m enjoying it a lot.

The Magic of Fermentation

I finished reading Michael Pollan’s book, Cooked several days ago. This journal entry was written over a week ago. It’s about the section of the book devoted to fermentation and how this little magic of nature does wonders to our body. I particularly enjoyed the section about cheese. Of course I had to order kimchi right away (good thing one of my friends is selling it an had some in stock) and I thought I’d start with something basic…kimchi fried rice. Now my husband doesn’t want to eat spam any other way. The kimchi was delicious, and knowing that it introduced friendly bacteria in my stomach’s ecosystem is a lovely bonus.

Maiale al Latte

Today’s journal entry is about a dish I cooked yesterday called Maiale al Latte, pork  braised in milk. I read about this in Michael Pollan’s book, “Cooked”, in the chapter that talks about braising and what actually happens during this cooking process. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical at first because the traditional  bolognese style of this dish only has three ingredients, and pork isn’t exactly my favorite meat. I followed Marcella Hazan’s recipe because I wanted to see what the least amount of ingredients would taste like. I like how Michael Pollan broke down the different steps of  braising meat in his book and described how this affects the taste. Browning the meat in a bit of butter starts the Maillard reaction or caramelizing the proteins and fats. Gently braising the meat, with only the bottom part submerged in milk coaxes out the flavors from the pork and infuses it into the slowly forming curds while the top part continues to caramelize slowly. The fats are rendered further and incorporated into the meat and broth and the meat becomes very tender over the next few hours. So tender that they’re falling off the bone.

It was so easy to make, but it takes a long time to cook. In fact, time is the fourth ingredient that one can’t afford to scrimp on. The resulting dish was really amazing. I’d love to cook this again soon.

Beer Batter

I recently started a journal that’s all about cooking and food. It’s not a compilation of recipes but more on my thoughts about the process of cooking and learning about it. Anything I find interesting about food and our relationship with it. This particular entry is about using beer in fish fillet batter and why it tastes so much better. I’ve never liked drinking alcohol. Back when I was younger, I used to drink but strictly just to go along with work friends. I hated how alcohol tastes, especially beer. I hated how I felt while drinking and especially after drinking. I think I can count with one hand the number of times I tried drinking alcohol. So I was hesitant at first about using it in the batter for fish fillet. Surprisingly, the resulting dish doesn’t taste like beer at all. The batter is crunchy and remains crunchy longer, and the fish inside is moist and tender. Beer and its components help the cooking process along. It’s pretty interesting, these transformations that are invisible to the eyes that happen while food cooks.

Pain Perdu

I’m trying to revive my all-food journal again. I keep trying to compile food journal entries in one place but my mind keeps wandering and I keep writing about different things. I’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s book “Cooked”, and I finished reading his other book “In Defense of Food” a few weeks back. His books inspire me to be more circumspect about food and to enjoy the process of cooking, especially now that we’re always home. Hopefully I can write more about it.

On Religious Legalism

My journal entry last Monday was about religious fundamentalism and legalism, and how incongruous it is to the example of Jesus. I won’t go into the many details of that but I have to admit that I wrote this because of a deep disappointment I’ve been feeling about many of the Christians in my life recently, and it came to a boiling point with the issue about Ben Tulfo’s very revealing statement on rape. As in revealing of his state of mind. Continue reading “On Religious Legalism”