Cooking heals the mind

+ good news, sad news, industry activism, and community engagement

I’ve been trying to calm my mind by cooking and baking a lot. Both are activities that ensure productivity in concrete and rewarding terms, which is something I’m struggling to come by these days. And inspiration comes easily since chefs and cooks are sharing recipes more generously than ever before.

(Front right, all the way)

Earlier this week, I saw that Frederik Bille Brahe, the Copenhagen chef behind Atelier September and Apollo Bar, had posted his honey, olive oil, and vanilla granola and I decided to make it immediately. I swapped sunflower seeds for pistachios and was a little loose with my measurements, which caused me to overdo it on the wet ingredients. My results were still delicious and addictive, but more brittle-like than crumbly in texture, so watch out for that.

My favorite quarantine cookbook is one that I always come back to for simple, wholesome, and pantry-friendly recipes: Mina Stone’s Cooking for Artists. I made her spicy chickpea stew yesterday for lunch, and it reminded me of the tomato-chickpea soup I used to eat from Once Upon A Tart multiple times a week when the Sullivan St café was still open and operating under its original owners.

New England canned bread is an enticing buy after having spent the last 24+ hours toiling over my first two boules of sourdough bread. It went okay! Maybe even better than I expected? There’s plenty of room to grow, that’s for sure. Send me your best tips and favorite beginner recipes. I’m thinking of making sourdough pancakes this weekend. [Gastro Obscura]

Interested in acquiring your own sourdough starter? Lots of bakers are offering to ship you some of their own along with providing resources, lessons, and real-time answers to your bread-baking questions (See Natasha Pickowicz and Tara Jensen). Even better, if you can pick it up: ask your local bakery if they’ll grant you some of theirs.

A few days ago I offered to send dried starter to anyone who wanted to try their hand at baking and received over 400 requests in the first 24 hours. Since then that number has kept on ticking up. What can we glean from this, besides that suddenly gluten isn’t the threat?

Some folks who wrote have lost their jobs and are looking for ways to keep feeding themselves and their families, others are looking for distraction, a hobby, a way to provide for others, or just therapy. (Personally, I bake for all of these reasons.) I’ll be mapping the spread of the spores that are sent out. It feels necessary to acknowledge the productive and hopeful edge to this new, acute awareness of our ability to share things between us.
There’s now a small army of volunteers around the world helping to fill these orders with their own cultures. If you’d like some please email me your mailing address and one of us will get it to you, or I can provide instructions for making your own. All requests can now be sent to I’m asking for small donations for shipping if it’s within your means, but the service is free of charge.

Such a strong interest in bread making over the last week really underscores the necessity of revaluing our ability to make, distribute, and consume necessary goods outside of a commodity marketplace. We are so estranged from these processes that many people’s relationships to sustaining themselves feels urgently inadequate, and the powerful, the gatekeepers of wealth, are officially not coming to save us. Because of or in the face of this, bread has once again, as in so many other eras of crisis, risen up as a symbol of sustenance, comfort and security. How do we get to it? Many non-commodity farmers, millers and bakers are standing by to provide for this resurgence. Bread is the commodity that requires *humans* to produce. A return to it logically coincides with a time when human life feels unprecedentedly precarious. All metaphorical intonations of bread as life, bread as livelihood, bread as money, as body, have melted pretty quickly into the real. (Contd >>)
March 25, 2020

Got a whole head of cauliflower on hand? Eyal Shani shared his famous recipe in an email to Miznon and HaSalon customers. Be sure to watch the video of the zany chef; he uses a pomelo to imagine a cauliflower and it’s pure entertainment.

Serious Matters

Stimulus Bill Moves Forward

The $2 trillion deal that Congress and the White House agreed to last night includes a $350 billion program for small businesses to keep workers on payroll while they’re out plus other stipulations (four months of unemployment benefits, expanding loan forgiveness) that industry lobbying groups such as The Independent Restaurant Coalition have been rallying for. Sign up for emails on how to get involved: daily briefings on key legislative updates, messaging for mobilizing your network via social media, and what to ask of your lawmakers. Follow @IndpRestaurants on Instagram and Twitter for further calls-to-action and updates. Right now, the ask is to tell House reps to pass the bill.

RIP, Chef

Some extremely sad news: Floyd Cardoz, the NYC and Mumbai-based chef who once helmed the lauded Tabla and later opened Bombay Bread Bar, died yesterday of COVID-19 complications. I still remember my first meal at Tabla, as a lucky middle schooler, because I was blown away. I had never had Indian food that tasted anything like Floyd’s, dressed up and adapted for adventurous New York palates. It was extraordinary, not to mention complimented by stellar service and an atmosphere both handsome and vibrant (courtesy of a Danny Meyer-led team). Take it from Ruth Reichl, in her 1999 review for the NYTimes.

Essential Reading

Industry giants Andrew Carmellini, Tom Colicchio, Danny Meyer, Missy Robbins, Marcus Samuelsson and Adam Saper band together in a loud cry for help: Will We Have an America Without Restaurants? [NYTimes]

Helping Those in Need

America Eats Now

José Andrés makes a case for a large-scale, government-funded relief effort that would stem from his nonprofit, World Central Kitchen, mobilize unemployed restaurant workers across the country, and help those most in need of food in an op-ed for the NYTimes.

Today an army of American cooks stands ready to serve our most vulnerable citizens, at a time when those cooks are themselves in desperate need of support. They are our food first responders. With the full support of the federal government, they can serve the many, while saving so many jobs.

The COVID Clinician Meal Support Program

The folks behind the SF Clinician Meal Support Program, which I covered last week, “open source” their concept and process in this Medium post so that it can be replicated and iterated upon in other communities.

Restaurants Stepping Up

Restaurants across the country, from New Orleans to Seattle, are cooking meals for healthcare workers. The three-pronged effort allows spots like New York’s 886 to continue to support their suppliers and employ at least some of their staff.

It's been a week since we started packing bentos at 886. What was a vibrant neighborhood restaurant a month ago is now a full on bento operation...and we're feeling extraordinarily blessed. Within a week, more than 200 of you have donated to our cause. Happy to say that we have hired back a few of our staff to help out with the operation. We went from cooking and packing 50 bentos a day to doing 150 daily. We now have 8 hospitals in rotation and the list is growing! Shout out to @shenghi for selflessly lending us his car, making our deliveries SO much easier. We're also working on getting other restaurants involved, stay tuned! Thank you all again for creating this movement. Let's get through this together.
March 25, 2020

Keep on Trucking

New community-generated resources for supporting small businesses continue to pop up.

A group of friends and Venmo alums are behind this centralized hub of service worker relief funds. You can Venmo @bailoutnyc to have your dollars distributed across registered businesses or search for your favorite spots to contribute directly. Businesses can add themselves to the registry by filling out this form.

Help Main Street

The digital ordering start-up Lunchbox released a website that aggregates small business gift cards available for purchase. If you don’t see the places you love on here (and you know they offer gift cards), submit them for entry.

Industry Resources

Culinary Agents, the careers service for hospitality workers, has compiled a guide of COVID-19 resources for their vast network of at-risk clientele.

Reads & Listens

TAKE AWAY ONLY is a brand-new “emergency podcast about the hospitality industry in crisis” from food journalist Howie Kahn. I listened to episode two with esteemed Indianapolis restaurateur Martha Hoover yesterday (which I recommend).

From a pastry chef overseeing delivery orders to a Michelin-starred chef in quarantine, Grub Street’s Shutdown Diaries are first-hand accounts of the new normal for restaurant workers.

A special episode from TheLINE voices stories from owners and chefs across the country on the pandemic’s impact.

On The Counter, award-winning Minnesota chef Gavin Kaysen documents the roller coaster last week of events.

For a while lately, a lot of the time, we’ve been going out to restaurants that we find “rate-able,” versus restorable. I think the current situation will push people to find more of that restoration, and connectivity, when they go out to eat again.

I’ll leave it at that for today. What’s everyone cooking, reading, pioneering? Hit my line with any thoughts, ideas, or feedback. And as always, stay safe. 💞

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