When the pandemic first got our attention, many people started paying more attention to arguably the most important room in the house—the kitchen.
Old recipes were revisited, many people turned to baking for the first time, and chefs and home cooks all got even more creative than ever. Facebook pages, like Cooking and Coping: Gathering Around the Virtual Table went into overdrive with people from around the world sharing ideas and food photos.
As COVID dragged on, people drifted away from the excitement they originally found in the kitchen. I understand. I did the same thing. People were and still are wary of this disaster that seems to drag on forever. But I am an optimist and I know that one day it will end.
So, I have decided to go back to the kitchen and reexplore some of my favorites from my youth, as long ago as that was. When I was about eight years old, my Army dad got a remote assignment and my mom and us kids moved to Houston, Mississippi. Attending grade school there was one of the greatest culture shocks of my life. I knew nothing about small-town Mississippi, although I learned to adjust. In the school cafeteria, we always had a protein, a vegetable or two, and a starch. It was the standard diet of the 1960s, as home economics had taught that generation. But to my shock and surprise, one day the protein was fried bologna. I had bologna sandwiches, but the idea of thick slicing it and frying it was as new a food idea as I had ever had. And on top of that, it was good.
I was also introduced to Vienna sausage, also good fried or eaten just out of the can as a snack, and spam, another fried favorite. All three are fatty and nothing improves the taste of a fatty food (like bacon or ham) like putting a brown crust on it. I recently made fried bologna tacos, added smoked gouda cheese, and diced heirloom tomatoes. Man, that was good! A spam sandwich with crunchy pickles and lots of Duke’s mayo is another favorite, and believe it or not, if you fry spam and add it to cooked ramen noodles, it is a delightful snack.
The moral of the story is, don’t give up. Get back to the kitchen, get creative, and feed your loved ones. Sharing food around the table is one of the most fundamental human experiences there is. Light the fire!