Photo credit: Syd Wachs

Many of you might already be tired of acknowledging the positives and negatives of 2020. Here’s my question for you: what was your one measurable gift as a result?

For me, after decades of wanting to learn and decades of being a hungry person with low blood sugar, I finally learned how to cook pretty well.  I would have preferred to arrive here via a different route, but here I am in my kitchen, with my sleeves rolled up, the air filled with spices, and my sudden realization I *need* an apron.

If I didn’t have such a food depriving digestive disorder the past 3 years, I would not have been so motivated to make meals yummy. In the past 2 decades, I eat for health, not taste.  The past three years deprived me of almost any food I chose. The deprivation actually scarred me.  I became obsessed with flavor and texture and quantity. (I lost 15 lbs in the past 2 years, and also had severe anemia: I was a mess.)

When the pandemic began, things were so bad with my digestion, that I literally was cooking everything in water before eating, in a last ditch attempt to make food digestible to my body.  No dice.

(After 3 years of trying, I finally found a way to manage my problems. I will share in another post.)

When I was little, only one of my parents prepared meals, and this person usually prepared food with anger. It was also the age of canned vegetables, boxed mixes, and if we were really lucky: TV dinners.  I was told to never learn how to cook, because then I would be turned into some kind of kitchen slave.

Throughout my teen years and beyond, I worked in restaurants. Employee meals easily accessible and cooked to order. This was handy for my energetic and underweight body.

Every few years, even when I became a teacher, I would set the intention of finally learning how to cook. I thought that learning to cook mint following recipes: it seems to be everybody’s suggestion.  My brain is non-linear. Reading recipe instructions to me is like reading the federal instruction booklet for filing income taxes. It’s confusing, boring, and loses me within 5 minutes.

As my long-term health problems increased with age, I ate more and more for health, not taste. Plenty of organic vegetables have been eaten and cooked by me, but no particular dishes or culinary skills were cultivated.

Steamed kale, anyone?

My friends were texting pictures of food during the earlier part of the pandemic. This was torture for me, since I was still trying to figure out what was wrong with my digestion, underweight, and hungry. No comfort food in the early pandemic for me.

The pandemic forced me to work with what was already in my kitchen, and travel to the store infrequently.  The extra time at home that 2020 gave many of us, combined with my recent habit of simmering everything in water, became a magic formula when I finally (later) figured out how to help my body digest food (kinda sorta).  

I learned how to simmer any dish just long enough to create what I call “squeegee sauce”.  With the right herbs and spices, and a little salt and pepper, squeegee sauce varies from dish to dish, and it’s the secret that holds each flavor and combines them.  Squeegee sauce is a delightful coating on any vegetable it touches. Add something crunchy to compliment, on top or on the side, and you got yourself a dish.

What was your squeegee sauce this year?