Sunday, 5 April 2020

Day eight of the quarantine: an experience

By Paul Lysek | Prague Daily Monitor |
24 March 2020

So it is day eight of the home-office/quarantine and I am starting to wonder if we are the only family doing this. The neighborhood kids were out playing football today in between the apartment buildings, albeit with masks on. The cars were humming by as usual, visitors arriving at the neighbors. Here we are trying to do the hardcore lock-down – just to see if we can. Has the world moved on without us?

I just read Pepper de Callier’s column in the Prague Daily Monitor and found it to be very inspiring. I find myself being “old fashioned” at times and increasingly detest the race towards all these new apps and programs that make things easier. It seems more an ever complicated discussion on everyone trying to figure out how it all works, rather than solving any problems, or making work easier. I have all the apps and programs that I use in everyday life, but do I really need one for every step of my journey. But Mr. de Callier brought up a great point in his column. Using digitalization to increase the cohesion, rather than decrease, or dreaming of the “good ole days.” A great inspiration in the evening and tomorrow I am going to use the opportunity to be more cohesive to the people that are new in my life or that need me most during these uncertain times.

All this thinking, working, cleaning, playing with kids and limited ingredients, make eating regularly and well a challenge. What are we doing? Here is what I am doing:

I thought I would give out some secret survival recipes I learned when I was at University. While I went to University I thought no way in hell I am doing that loan thing and then paying it off until I retire. I did it straight up – working and paying. Now that was not so hard but sometimes there were crisis situations, like coming to work hung-over and getting fired, and money was tight. I learned to cook with whatever I could find. Here are a couple of tips for others who may be interested in trying:

Recipe number one is always a soup. You can make soup with anything or everything in your fridge. With me there is one base recipe, then a worthy combination of ingredients, and a blender involved. Since we just finished the broccoli/spinach soup a couple of days ago, I figured I would give it my best with one of the thirty bags of dried peas I have in the storage room. So the base of the soup: chop up a couple of onions, sauté with butter on low to medium heat for a bit. Add in a couple of cloves of chopped garlic, and/or similar items, I had some celery I cut up and added in. Get a nice sauté but don’t burn or brown anything. Now add in the flavor: dried peas (but broccoli or cauliflower etc work well), full 500g package followed by a litre or two of water, get a nice soup going, but remember: them dried peas absorb a lot of water. After a couple of hours throw in a bit of salt, vegetable bullion, I like red hot chili peppers and whatever else you like. The spices are the most important. Blend it up and voilà, done.

The same recipe can then be used for creation of the main dish. Today I had a dilemma. I had been eating baked beans based on the above recipe for a while (add some kind of tomato base, lots of spices like curry, various paprika). I wanted to get wild. So I pulled out the black beans I have been promising my wife to make into a Mexican night for years. Sautéed up the onion/garlic base, added celery because we had it, and fished out that little can of chipotle peppers I have been waiting to use for a while. Actually it was years and when I looked under the can I noticed they expired in 2017. I quickly erased the information from my mind and pretended I didn’t see the date. Chopped four of those into the mix, added some bay leaves, tomatoes, the dried black beans, along with some olives I found in the fridge and presto: its 22:30 and I am writing about my day eating black beans and rice! There are no limitations. The side can be rice, couscous, any grain, bread, tortilla or egg. Mix it up and enjoy. If this is my last piece, you all know that I have succumbed to the three years expired chipotle peppers. Bon Appetite!

Now let me be clear: only I ever eat any of this stuff, with the exception of my wife after a few glasses of wine. For the kids it’s a different tango.

Paul Lysek – The idea of writing a daily update came to me by seeing, hearing and trying to understand all the things that are happening around us at this time. This story is a combination of all those sources, including friends, relatives, and experiences with attempts to bring out the satire, emotion and changing environment of the situation. It is entirely fictional, with the exception of my sarcasm.