Crises of any kind tend to shift people into a utilitarian, no-frills mindset. This is fine when applied to hand sanitizer and other, less glamorous necessities, but I will not accept it in regards to food. We may all be eating beans for the next few weeks, but there’s no reason those beans should be bland.
Now—and I mean right now—is the time to buy the absolute best condiments, priciest pickles, and every umami bomb you desire. Now is the time to invest in shakers of bagel seasoning, boxes of flakey salt, and bags of MSG. Sauces, seasonings, and pickled things can help alleviate food boredom.
What’s on my shopping list? I am so glad you asked (because I love to talk about myself). I already have plenty of Maldon, MSG, fish sauce, and Better Than Bouillon, so my focus is going to be on the sour, the fermented, and the spicy. Chili crisp, cornichons, Louisiana hot sauce, soy sauce, citric acid (sour MSG), and lots of lemons are my priority, but I’m also going to snag some duck fat, because duck fat-refried beans actually are something I can eat multiple days in a row.
In addition to buy Cadillac condiments, you might want to make some. Pickled corn, aquavit onions, and fermented honey garlic are already in my fridge and (in the case of the honey) on my counter, and I’m gonna start some shio koji in case I need something to perk up a frozen pork chop.
And, while it technically isn’t a condiment, I recommend grabbing many little tins of little fishes. Anchovies can be melted into butter or oil for intensely flavored pasta sauces; sardines make a great toast; and the oil from any kind of premium canned fish makes an excellent frying medium.
It’s easy to focus on the “essentials” when planning for several weeks of near-isolation, but that does not mean pleasure and fun have to go out the window. Bland, monotonous menus will keep your body going, but they may have adverse effects on your soul. Devoting some focus to the details—the salts, the sauces, the seasonings—will prevent at least one part of you from getting bored.
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