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So many of us have changed our food habits with the pandemic. At my house, we happen to be vegetarians, so I’ve always done a lot of cooking. The new regime is not different in that sense. Yet I think about food very differently now. Before, I could send the Long-Suffering Husband out to get whatever I needed from the grocery store 3 blocks away. That option has been off the table since early March (pun intended).

My plan was to wait a full two weeks before hitting the store again–no exceptions–but then the Governor said to try avoiding even that, because this is the “peak week.” I debated the risks with no real knowledge of them. How dangerous would it be to breathe the air in the store? Would a mask help? Are fresh fruit, Hendricks gin and Sauvignon Blanc really that important? (Don’t answer.)

Our virtual cocktail hour with friends involved whatever bits of cheese I had left, rice crackers, and croutons made from stale bread. (They are quite tasty as snacks.) We drank box Chardonnay.

Eventually I decided not to risk the grocery store, and to look for other options. Turns out we have a produce wholesaler nearby who offers curbside pickup, for those willing to buy what they have on hand. So tomorrow I’m getting 10 lbs of broccolini, some large bags of salad, two pineapples… sounds fun, right?

Then I emailed the little cheesemonger shop in the next town over. Turns out they have delivery and would come to my house if I ordered great heaps of cheese. If only all decisions could be as easy as that! While I was ordering, I found out that they have wine. Perfetto.

I don’t have a solution for the gin, but the LSH has bought some online. It ought to arrive some time next summer…

The biggest shift for me has been a growing anxiety not to waste anything. Now, we have always eaten leftovers, and only once in a while did I let veggies rot in the crisper drawer. Still, I was never the type to make my own stock from kitchen scraps, or peel broccoli stems and use them as crudités. I cut a LOT off my asparagus stalks to ensure no woody bits. We have a compost pile, so I figured it was all good.

With the pandemic, however, I got serious. How much food did we actually have on hand? I made an Excel spreadsheet of everything in the pantry, and vowed to use the expired stuff (I am now eating two elderly dried apricots from Costco every day). I started asking questions like “What can I do with half a bag of dried blueberries, a bottle of expired mirin, and a packet of vegetarian gravy mix?” (And the Magic 8-Ball said, “MY REPLY IS NO.”)

Serious conservation of lemon juice is the order of the day. I zested them, froze the zest, and froze the juice in ice cube trays. Same treatment for the orange zest (my oranges are long gone, sad to say).

Last time I wrote about sourdough starter. The bad thing about starter is that it can create a LOT of waste. You have to feed it constantly, and if you don’t use or discard most of it, you end up with a gargantuan bucket of hungry slurry. On top of that, my starter really hasn’t been earning its keep. It is weak and flabby even when I feed it twice a day. The good news is that you can use discarded sourdough starter in all sorts of recipes, just for the flavor and whatever added oomph it gives the rising. It makes the most amazing pancakes!

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever./ Its loveliness increases; it will never/ Pass into nothingness.” Pancakes may be an exception to Keats’ rule because they disappear quickly. I am one who could never make a good pancake before, so I’m hooked on sourdough starter.

Here is how I put my discarded starter to use: Moo Shoo Veggies for dinner!

Step 1: Thin out what’s left from the morning’s huge batch of pancake batter and add an egg to enable bigger, more elastic and rollable pancakes.

Step 2: Sauté the cabbage and carrots that were ageing in the fridge. Add home-made hoisin sauce concocted from prunes, garlic, honey, vinegar and ssamjang paste.

Step 3: Add shredded egg omelet and the very last two scallions.

Step 4: Roll the mixture in the pancakes. The LSH loved these, and I used up half a head of cabbage. But I can’t make them again, for lack of ingredients.

Despite these thrills, I finally had to put my starter to sleep in the fridge, where it will only be fed once a week (if it’s lucky and behaves itself). Meanwhile, I am nearly out of instant yeast, and I’m looking for more online. Yeast is worth its weight in gold these days.

What are all of you cooking with your odds and ends?