Back to home cooking
Apparently I spoke too soon.
Last week, as we were cheering 2022 on, I was encouraging everyone to help the economy and ‘spend, spend, spend’ either by dining out or ordering in. And now, in the blink of an eye, so many are sick, sick, sick.
My heart goes out to all the restaurateurs and chefs whose businesses had just started to pick up again during the Christmas season, only to be forced to close their doors yet again. I hope you find a way to pivot your business, adjust and stay afloat. I pray that the frustration never descends into despair.
For perspective, realize that even Quiapo Church, the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, had to close today for the first time in its long history of celebrating the Feast of the Poong Nazareno and Traslacion, usually attended not just by thousands but by millions. This was in spite of having proven this time last year—under the leadership of Quiapo Church rector Msgr. Hernando Coronel—that the church is capable of executing a disciplined fiesta as devotees patiently waited in line to enter the church, practiced social distancing, and wore the necessary face masks and shields. To the dear devotees reading this today who are so hungry for the spiritual nourishment faith provides, which Cardinal Jose Advincula even classified as ‘essential,’ please consider this a divine gesture of the Nazareno himself being one with you in isolation in this most trying time.
Now I wonder what Jesus would have done if Nazareth was in lockdown during his time. Would he have cooked? Did he know how to make hummus? Would he have made tzimmes, a Jewish vegetable casserole? Did he make his own olive oil? How would he learn to do that without guidance from Youtube?!
Seriously now, since we are now forced to cook at home again, may I introduce you this time to a site that can become your quarantine best friend? Check out themayakitchen.com.
Most of us are familiar with the brand Maya for the hotcake mix. But this site has become a very handy source of information not just for how to make pancakes or bake brownies but for practically everything anyone would need to know relating to surviving and thriving in the kitchen.
For instance, coming from Christmas, they have posted a guide on what to do with noche buena leftovers. These include: (1) tossing leftover ham into fried rice; (2) transforming leftover lechon into paksiw or adobong lechon kawali; and (3) converting your leftover queso de bola into cheese pimiento.
For those who overstocked on baking ingredients during the Christmas season, they also have tips on how to store flour, distinguishing whole grain from cornstarch and refined flour, and identifying what you can put in the freezer and what can last up to a year if placed in an airtight container.
As the nation gets back to cooking at home, they also have tips on how to make tough meat tender. The tips range from rubbing salt to marinating with acid, aside from cooking at low temperature, although you should know that by now.
They also identify common cooking mistakes, such as not waiting for the oil to fully heat up; overcrowding the pan; and flipping too much when pan-frying meat.
If you are just going to start baking now or would like to up your baking skills, they have a post on how to measure correctly in baking, noting: “Baking is not only an art, it’s also a science since it requires precision and an understanding of the role of each ingredient to get great results every time.” This includes tips for measuring sticky ingredients like honey: “spray the inside of the measuring cup lightly with nonstick spray.”
Or if you will start to make your own bread, they have a Breadmaking 101 section, with tips on what to do if your dough did not rise; if your bread has an uneven shape; or if your bread rose but collapsed in the oven.
They also have a very handy kitchen conversion chart so you won’t have to rely on your own recollection of sophomore algebra when trying to figure out the teaspoon equivalent of 1/8 cup.
For those who are more serious about improving kitchen skills, Maya Kitchen offers classes too (visit themayakitchen.com/classes). They have a workshop on Healthy Pair Snacks, i.e., two healthy sandwich and two healthy juice recipes on Jan. 15; another one on breads to pair with coffee, like apple custard buns, on Jan. 22; one on Italian, specifically Tuscan, cooking on Jan. 29; and, in time for Valentine’s, one on chocolate on Feb. 5. These are all online classes and you can enroll as an individual, as a pair, or as a group! You can make it a quarantine family affair!
This is really an incredible, kitchen-friendly and encouraging site. Just what we need to accompany us in these bleak days of isolation. Just like the brownies from their delicious, classic mix!
Evidently, now is not the time to spend, spend, spend. Instead, cook, cook, cook … and pray, pray, pray!
Happy Feast of the Black Nazarene to all the devotees, in spite of the restrictions. Keep the faith, everyone, and never lose hope!
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