Bad Manners

I have an awful lot of privilege. I know this. I’m a white woman living in suburban New Jersey with her family. Mid-thirties, house, yard, and even no job losses in our house in the middle of a pandemic. I consider myself “woke” in so many ways, yet I keep finding ways that my privilege shapes how I view the world.

One of these is the cookbook formerly known as Thug Kitchen. It wasn’t until the recent discourse surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement that it even occurred to me that “Thug” was a racial slur. It flitted in and out of my head with no real lasting consideration. I typically call the cookbooks my “sweary cookbooks” and I’ve loved their gimmick from the first time I saw them. Delicious, healthy vegan recipes that taste like comfort food, with recipes peppered with colorful language in ways that I, born and raised in the Garden State, found hilarious.

However, the creators of the cookbooks, who are two white people around my age from LA, have been (rightfully, when I think about it) called to task about their use of the word “thug.” They’ve been shifting their brand to “Bad Manners Kitchen” these days. Many activists in the online cooking community are justifiably angry that it took them so long to shift, or that they even dared to do this in the first place. There’s a lot of suspicion and anger around the fact that the authors kept their identities secret in the first place, maybe proving that they knew what they were doing wasn’t right. Many have called for “canceling” them over all of it.

I’m sticking with the recipes. I’m tentatively supporting their switch. I’m also acknowledging that I’m doing this from a privileged space and am not the authority on what is right. The recipes are still delicious and healthy. These cookbooks have been instrumental in making my cooking “grow up.” I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong way to handle a situation like this, but I wanted to be clear about all of this before posting recipes from this source. They’re particularly a summertime staple for me, so it was a concern.

I choose to believe we’re all growing and learning how to be more respectful.

Bad Manners can now be found here.

Their statement on the name change can be found here.

Executive Function in a Pandemic

If you follow my Instagram feed (and really, if you don’t, you should), you’ll know that I have been cooking like crazy but suffering from a variety of writer’s block. .There are all sorts of things at play here, to one degree or another. I could easily attribute it to my days being full of childcare, or I could point to my exhaustion at the end of the day. However, what resonates the most with my lived experience is a struggle with executive functioning.

In layman’s terms, the “executive function” system in your brain is the part of the brain that keeps you organized. It’s the part that makes to-do lists, has a sense of time, and nudges you to begin and continue tasks. It’s the part that needs support in individuals with ADD, and it’s one of the first things to misfire in people struggling with anxiety.

I know this. I’m a special ed teacher by trade.

I was reminded recently, in a tweet that has long since scrolled on by, that it is a very real, and common, response to trauma to have your executive functioning go all screwy. It really clicked with me – the malaise, the inertia, the confusion, the disorganization. It all matched what I was going through.

In short, this living through a pandemic thing is hard. I’m sure it doesn’t help that childcare and keeping the house stocked with necessities combine to take up most of my brain’s function.

My good intentions are with this blog, and as things feel less dire, hopefully my consistency will improve.

For now, I’ll leave you with a locavore tip that has little to do with cooking, but lots to do with enjoying things that are delicious: Four City Brewing, in Orange, NJ, makes delicious beer and delivers. We ordered from them on Friday, to go with a delivery meal from The OAK Barrel Pub. It was a welcome vacation from homemade meals.

By the way, if you’re concerned about the safety of ordering out, I totally understand. I was really hesitant to for the first few weeks. A doctor friend of mine posted this article about food safety, though, and I’ve heard others chime in in agreement that it is safe. We’ve adopted a policy of moving the food from the containers to our own dishes, then disposing of containers and washing hands before proceeding. I’m comfortable with this state of things, and it’s allowed us to continue to have some small comforts (and support some local businesses).

Welcome Back – Quarantine Edition

Now that life is settling down into this strange new normal that is our quarantine, I figured it was time to get this blog fired up again for the season. Ever since Littlest Chef was born, my cooking life has, understandably, suffered. We’ve eaten out more, gotten take out more, and relied on quick and easy meals more. That’s understandable and part of an era in parenting. However, with this new shakeup, we’re obviously at home, so I’ve had a chance to start getting excited about cooking again.

Let’s talk shopping. When a mandatory quarantine, to varying degrees, began to obviously loom, everyone went crazy. I did not want to be part of the throng of people at ShopRite. It didn’t feel safe or wise, plus I couldn’t deal with the stress of it. In a way that honestly aligns with my principles anyway, I turned super local for my needs. I bought bread from Supreme Bakery and did last minute food stocking from Greengrocer Food Hub. I ordered basically everything else I needed online. I attempted an Instacart order that failed miserably; after scheduling it days in advance, the shopper abandoned the cart during the shopping because the app was being glitchy. We ended up needing to cancel my order, but Instacart’s customer service was really kind and generous with some compensation for my trouble.

As the shutdown intensified, Chelsa moved Greengrocer’s operation to an order-online and contactless pickup model. It’s worked fabulously. We’ve been able to be eating fresh, healthy foods while maintaining the integrity of our self-quarantine. I can’t remember a time when salad tasted quite so good. I also got in on a group order from a wholesaler, so I was able to get things like hummus, seltzer, flour, etc.

The interesting thing is that, by piecing my groceries together and working with what is available, I’ve basically been back in CSA mode- looking at what’s in front of me and trying to find interesting ways to turn it into healthy meals and snacks for my family. What better time to get this blog back up and running? If you follow the Instagram account (@omgcsa), you’ll have already gotten a good preview of what’s been going on in my kitchen thus far, but I’ll break it up into a series of posts here. I’ll likely also have interludes to talk about the quarantine and to share tips and information that I have. I won’t be talking about the disease itself – there’s plenty of that going on on social media, and it is not my field of expertise. We are, however, in strange times when it comes to procuring meals, and that is an area I can speak to with confidence.

I encourage each of you to record your experiences during this strange time. I read someone’s observation recently that we are the ones who will be creating the primary sources that historians will be referencing decades from now. Even if it’s just a personal journal, even if it’s just a Google Doc with your thoughts jotted down – record your navigation through these challenges.

Be well.

The Best of Intentions

(This is going to be a personal post. If you’re just here for the food, feel free to skim on by.)

I came to this season with the best of intentions, though didn’t I say that last year, too? I looked forward to this summer; a baby that would graduate to purees by the end of August, a bigger, more comfortable kitchen, no caretaking responsibilities outside of my immediate household, and most importantly, no morning sickness. I was ready and raring to go.

And yet.

I forgot how hard it is to have a baby, and I discovered how differently hard it is to have two. To be in this season of being unable to finish a thought, to be ready to switch gears on demand at all times. To be so needed so much of the time. To be so tired.

So, so tired.

When people ask how I’m doing, my answer is pretty much always somewhere in the “okay” spectrum, and ultimately that is true. I am okay and will be okay. But oh, brother, has this been hard. And there have been many times in the past few months that I’ve felt very not-ok.

So, the posts have quieted. The cooking goes in waves; some days, I feel creative and motivated. Perhaps it’s a day I have a sitter. Perhaps it’s a day the baby mostly slept through the night. Some weeks, most of the share gets blanched and frozen. Some days, I look at my plate and say, “Well, this is good, but no one needs to see a 12th picture of my green beans and corn.”

The corn has been so abundant this summer. For that, I’m grateful.

If you’re following my instagram (@omgcsa), you’ll know I’m still alive and cooking. Blogging takes some time and brain space that I haven’t always been able to muster this summer. School has begun, though, and while that means that I’m working during some afternoons, it also means that my eldest is away at Kindergarten all day, so I’ll do my best to post some of the better meals I’ve conjured up this summer.

Fall is upon us. I hope to really start decorating today; it’s my favorite season. Halloween is my favorite holiday. While I love the eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, and corn during high summer, I am happy to slide down into squash, potatoes, and greens.

I’m already thinking about next year. I planted some tomatoes and peppers this year, but they did not do well. It’s our first year in this house, and I misjudged the amount of sun that my back yard gets. The planters will be in a different location next year. Soon, I’ll start plotting out what will go where. I didn’t dry many herbs this year; I had a lovely closet that I used off of my kitchen in the old house. I still haven’t quite figured out where I’ll hang the herbs here. My window boxes never quite made it to sills. I’m not in the flow of the shape and size of my new refrigerator and freezer. (It’s a side-by-side, which is also different for me. Plus, we’re down 1 fridge, since we had a garage fridge in the old house.) I’m still figuring out the best use of pantry space and of cupboards. Our composter is ordered but has not yet arrived. I still have missing cookbooks that are likely in the boxes that I still have to unpack.

It’s hard to be patient with myself. It’s hard to wait for all of the dust to settle on the landslide that life has been in the past year.

If you’ve stuck with me through all of this, I’m grateful for your readership. If you’re new to the blog, I promise it’s not all confessional all the time. I’m here for the food just as much as you are.

An August share
Baby kisses
Shucking corn