By Vicki Sternfeld-Rossi
The Times 

Plans, pandemics, and pork


February 18, 2021

My father always reminded us that “man proposes, life disposes,” or, as John Lennon so articulately reminded us: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.”

When Daniel decided to move here last March, we each had plans. His was buying tools for home repairs; mine was “date weekends,” opera and museums in Seattle, Walla Walla Symphony, the Chamber Music Festival, Willamette Valley wine tasting, Los Angeles trips to scope out trendy new restaurants, and tennis with my friends. But, as we all know, life with a pandemic scuttled everyone’s plans—time to rethink, regroup and replan.

I am a lucky lady. I live with a chef. I didn’t have to spend the pandemic learning how to cook, I just had to eat, learn portion control, and how to work off the great food I had the privilege of eating. Along with my passion for food, I have a passion for tennis, which helps me from becoming the Goodyear blimp. And, of course, my insomniac Mirror purchase has been a good exercise boost.

One tip that the pandemic was truly problematic was when flour and yeast became “hot commodities.” We joined the masses, coveting flour, packages of yeast, and trying different bread recipes and techniques. As Daniel is a chef and baker, some of the artisanal flours were a bit perplexing. After a few minor flops, he’s perfected bread baking, so he’s started some new projects, all of which seem to revolve around pork!

His first project, which we finally got to eat yesterday, was homemade salami. He ground the meat, cured it with salts and flavorings for a few days, then we stuffed it into the casings, ready for the next step. Voila’, we have homemade salami, and it was worth the wait! We’ve delivered some to our neighbors, and I assure you, the garlic content should keep Waitsburg free of vampires for years. I have also packaged some up to send to friends and family. I apologize in advance to the USPS.

Earlier this week, Daniel brined, and sous vide cooked pork belly, basically homemade bacon, which we used in our recent dinner of Bucatini all’ Amatriciana (thank you, Kate). Bacon is not just a great partner for eggs; versatility is its middle name!

Yesterday, after trudging through snow and tending to my freezing hands from digging Mugsy out of snowdrifts (small dog, short legs), it just felt right to have soup for dinner. Ham hocks cooked in the pressure cooker, with the stock we had made a few days ago, was the base for added vegetables, beans, and pasta. I’m glad Daniel dares to use the pressure cooker because warm and tasty soup for dinner made quickly was perfect.

Since pork is not the only food we should be eating, I bought a chicken. I noticed we had a few bottles of wine put aside because they were not great to drink but were fine to cook with, so I suggested Coq au Vin. After marinating the chicken in wine mixed with a variety of spices and herbs, you start to cook the chicken in bacon; what else? No wonder it tastes so good.

Today is Valentine’s Day, and we’re having Veal Chops for dinner. Time to give the pigs a break. But, not for long because we have spareribs in the freezer, and they will be dinner later this week. Meanwhile, Daniel bought another batch of meat, the grinder is ready and today starts another batch of homemade salami.

He once mused about raising chickens, which I nixed, but maybe we should consider a pig instead?


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