Comfort food in an uncomfortable Pandemic

Today is March 22nd, 2020, and by now if you live in the United States, for the last three weeks, we’ve been dealing with an uncertainty of our near future. The “Coronavirus,” “covid-19,” “the disease,” “the sickness,” “the virus,” and, so disrespectfully the President of the United States calls it “the Chinese virus” and “the Kong Fu disease.” whatever you want to call this thing, because, I’m not here to talk about ignorance, I want to talk about a purposeful forward. When life for all of us has taken a drastic downward, frightening path, of course we tend to linger on what’s gonna happen to us and we want to start rebuilding immediately, but with this new world we are living in, unfortunately, rebuilding is not even on the lips of our politicians yet. Talking about rebuilding is just too early for that. Everyone’s convos today are talk about “survival,” “how much toilet paper and water to stock up on, and where do we go from here.” Not since 911 has our lives dealt with this monstrous type of circumstance, because at least we knew how to rebuild immediately after the attacks. It’s almost like life imitating art, because “pandemics” is only suppose to happen in the movies and tv shows. I think I can honestly say that someone or something has thrown a monkey wrench in everyone’s lifelong plans!

It’s hard to not watch the news, with updates every hour on the hour, that seem to get more and more frightening with every broadcast. I don’t know about you guys, but every time the governor is on tv, and he always says “there’s no need to panic.” Yet, when I see him on my television screen interrupting my programs in the middle of the day, I panic! I’m not a hypochondriac, but the more the media has “breaking news,” the more my heart start skipping beats!

I realize that living in America, born and raised in the “Big Apple,” Americans are somewhat spoiled. We have so many choices available to us. Where to live, what schools to attend to further our education, to the many career paths we can choose to take. Nowadays, we choose our work, with what we love to do, and please, don’t tell us we can’t do what we love. (And, that’s probably why most Americans are in school loan debts). I say that to say this, as intellectual Americans I believe it’s easy to become overwhelmed in something we haven’t experienced before since the Black Plague. Our planning through this has to be accordingly. However, last week at the supermarket what I experienced was far from intellectual, and/or adult rational behavior. I understand that people are scared, but we are only three weeks into this mess, now is not the time to panic. However, what I witnessed at the market was fear, unclear narcissistic thinking. The long haul of this BS is not even upon us yet! Wall to wall people, pushing, shoving, arguing. Later that afternoon my neighbor told me, a fist fight ensued over toilet paper! What! Really! Glad I missed that! Shopping carts overflowing with unnecessary perishable foods! Being a culinary grad, I was disgusted and appalled at looking at the waste. Unless you’re going to have filet mignon every day for the next two, three or four weeks of your “please stay-work from home,” from your government officials. You will waste money, precious time and energy!

When our Politicians suggests and/or of course by law, the possibility of having to stay home voluntarily or by force. Life as we know it, in this moment in time, has changed forever. With all the chaos happening around us, being at home should always be a comforting and safe place. Whether single, coupled or a family with two or three children. Home is where your heart is. When I’m home whether a pandemic is happening or not, my little apartment is my safe space, it’s my palace, because I’m a Queen, my oasis when I take a soothing bath, my resturant when I want to make an extravagant meal.

I’m not an expert on Pandemics, (my first and hopefully last one). However, with all the information given us from the medical experts on television. Also, from watching dozens of zombie apocalypse movies and tv shows, (hey, it can’t hurt)! I’ve gathered that being trapped in your home for maybe an uncertain amount of time, canned food and bottled water is the upmost importance for survival. We’re able to go out shopping now, but what about the upcoming months, when the seriousness of this virus really takes effect of our normal, and “wish it was simple again” in our every day ordinary lives. “Easy to make,” “spoil myself rotten, because I’m depressed” kinds of foods will be on this agenda or menu.

Here is my first recipe for what I deem to be comfort food during a pandemic: Johnny cakes! Why, because they’re sweet, buttery, and just sinfully deliciouso!

Johnny cakes or cornmeal pancakes, as some like to call them. I discovered these simple, tasty, filling and energetic pancakes, when I was finishing up my externship at an Italian catering company Acquolina Catering. Most of the chefs and prep cooks that trained me at Acquolina were of Mexican decent. No shame in this, if I sound condescending, but I believe they gave me the best training money can buy.

When I worked/studied at Acquolina Catering, little did I know it would be the integral part of my training. Although it was hard work, (I’ll explain that in a later chapter) I believe my creativity evolved during my time at Acquolina. One day I came into the main kitchen starving! The one lady chef, her and I became fast friends. And, although there was a language barrier when days were tough for me, she had this motherly way with me, that made me feel so special. She was so funny, l would laugh so hard. One morning she had these pancakes waiting for the all the kitchen staff to eat, before starting the busy day. I thought they were just plain pancakes, but when I tasted one, I started daydreaming because I thought I was in another dimension. The butter, the cheese, the sweet, the salt, it was the most delicious pancake I’ve ever had, seriously!

Johnny Cakes

Prep time: 15 min, yields: 5 servings


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2/3 cup cornmeal

3 tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 slices of soft butter for batter

How to make

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a kitchen aid (if you have), if not a good whisk and bowl will do. Whisk dry ingredients first. Whisk wet ingredients in a separate bowl, with butter. Combine wet to the dry slowly, while mixing together. At this point you’re should have a batter consistency.

Heat up a pan with half a cup of vegetable oil. Scoop your batter with a 1/3 measuring cup. Takes about a minute and a half to brown on each side. And, should be rising. Place on a cooling rack, and then transfer to a baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes. May be more or less as long as they cook through.

When cooled, slice open and slather some butter and cheese, any cheese you prefer. I prefer mozzarella. Butter is also good by itself, or syrup, but these are too good to be just considered a pancake, or just breakfast food. Anytime of the day, because binge watching on Netflix takes place all day. And, this is our new America, shelter in home, time passing by.

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