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CULINARY THRILL SEEKING — Are you a better cook now?

Before things got real about quarantine, a Bible study friend got a call from his brother that restaurants would be shutting down in his state. My friend and his wife are skilled hosts creating internationally themed meals from appetizer to labor-intensive desserts.

They seemed more than a little concerned because the brother’s family “doesn’t cook.” Like, doesn’t know how to cook. I always think that must be an exaggeration but there was concern.

Creatively cooking is one of the main things keeping me going. I’m already one for unusual combinations and I’m rotating the pantry. I’m actually clearing the pantry as nothing new is coming in. Who bought that tin of squid in its own ink?

I don’t think I’ve had one bummer yet, and I’m including a lunch featuring sautéed whole okra, crackers and cheese and Spam just about the only way I like it, sliced thin and fried up crisp.

Quarantine has allowed my a focus on my “garden” of potted plants, which include gargantuan aloe vera plant that came in handy after an elbow scrape. I taped a soothing sliver of the stalk to the damaged part until it healed. What to do with the rest? I read that the drinking the gel could aid in weight loss, so I scraped some gooey, clear chunks of gel into a blender with water that had been infused with fresh mint. I played with this on three different days. The third time I lifted my wide-mouth Ball jar for a cool sip, and got burned. I finally remembered that the day before I’d ground some dried red peppers into dust for seasoning and hadn’t thoroughly rinsed the blender blades. Once I knew what I was imbibing, it turned out to be a pretty good beverage.

Baking bread seems to be the American trend as people stay home. Have you done it? I’ve been blessed to have some gifted. Let me know what restaurants you all have been missing the most and how your own cooking skills have been put to use.

 

Plants get around

While we’ve been locked down, plants have been traveling and taking root with help from bees, birds and wind. “The Incredible Journey of Plants” is a romantic and factual collection of stories from Stefano Mancuso, one of the world’s leading authorities in the field of plant neurobiology. With watercolor maps by Grisha Fischer, we become part of this journey of how even fish could help seeds travel. Did you know jaguars have a thing for avocados? There’s this one tree in the desert that was hit by a vehicle, twice? Lonely trees and seeds that explode and some, well, very sexy plant stories. And the guy who ate coconuts only and recruited people into his coconut tropical cult.

My favorite is the Hibakujumoku of Japan, or “trees that had suffered an atomic explosion.” The name means “person exposed to the bomb.” These misshapen trees are not called “survivors,” and that is part of the story. They are marked, visited and treated with great respect.

Plants have their stories and this book is getting them out.

 

Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie ready to enjoy Southeast Texas and beyond. Reach her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com