“Livin’ the dream”. That was the regular response from the snarky trainer at my kickboxing gym when I asked how he was doing. I loved it and started using it also when asked my state of affairs when I wasn’t necessarily in a positive state of mind.
So I put it out there now into the universe. But with a twist. A far from snarky but closer to sincere declaration. I’m livin’ the dream in quarantine. I am living in a reality television cooking show.
You see, I live and breath food. Not it a nourishment sort of way. But in a passionate, healthy (some might say unhealthy) obsessive sort of way. I wander around my house with my AirPods listening to culinary podcasts. The only things shown on my television when I have control of the remote control are celebrity cooking shows and competitions. My Facebook feed is peppered with posts from Kosher Trader Joe’s, Tasty and I Don’t Cook but I Give Out Recipes.
I am currently living “Chopped: Quarantine Edition”. Chopped is a competitive cooking TV show on the Food Network. Contestants are presented with four or so mystery basket ingredients. They must whip up a dish using unlikely items with anything they find in the show’s limited pantry.
In my housebound world of Chopped: Quarantine Edition my mystery ingredients come from whatever came home from the grocery store’s sparse shelves, my freezer (which my husband calls the black hole. What goes in is lost and forgotten), my kitchen pantry of junk food and an overflow cupboard above my washer and dryer filled with canned goods.
Each morning I take a kitchen inventory and turn to my three children (the judging panel) sitting at the breakfast table. I announce to the room in my best announcer voice things like, “Okay kids, what can I make for dinner using fresh but seen better days brussel sprouts, fast food condiment packets of taco sauce, frozen bagels (from my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah kiddush lunch frozen November 2017) and a third of a jar of hot fudge”?
These judges are a pretty tough panel possessing a keen sense for the culinary arts. They judge for visual appeal, smell appeal and may not even get around to tasting the food but definitely offer a strong opinion without it passing their lips (“This is yucky, Mommy”). I have observed them judge with one glance and respond with a simple push of a plate away or refusal to come to the judging (dinner) table at all on personal protest. They have high expectations for their mommy, the sole contestant and their personal short order cook. If the final plate does not meet their standards, the judges expect a speedy backup option to be presented to the judging panel.
And the grand prize? Albert Einstein said, “coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous”. Like being stuck home in quarantine the three weeks before Passover. My grand prize is twofold. First a freezer, fridge and pantry cleanse. Eating our chametz down to hopefully the current state of the sparse shelves of our local grocery store. Ready to be packed with Passover fare. And second, hours of entertainment to keep my kids occupied. My kiddos helped organize my three fridge/freezers throwing away items resurfaced from the freezer’s black hole, expired spices moved seven years ago from our last house and unidentifiable containers from the back of the fridge that were once food and now a homeschool science experiment.
Tune in everyday for Chopped: Quarantine Edition for the unforeseeable future.
This blog post is by Jennifer Saber. Jennifer, who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is Shutaf’s Educational Development Consultant.