Where ingredients are carefully sourced and meals lovingly prepared four days a week
Cover Illustration by Emma Meskovic. Photography by Stacey Greenberg.
I have been pretending that I am running a restaurant in my home.
Obviously, this restaurant can only exist—even in my mind—because it doesn’t have to make any money at all, and my only two customers are my teenage children.
Now that I have extra time to focus on every meal, I have been very intentional about sourcing the ingredients for my menu items.
(I realize that, especially with so many out of work right now, eating high-quality, local food is a privilege. As long as I am employed, I am choosing to spend my dollars in the local food system, where they help keep local businesses afloat and local people employed, while keeping me out of the crowds of supermarkets.)
I was already a member of the Home Place Pastures CSA to secure a steady supply of pastured beef, pork, and lamb. But I bumped up my monthly membership from five pounds to seven, and I place an additional weekly or biweekly order to stock up on favorites like the magical breakfast sausage. I regularly buy chicken breasts from Renaissance Farms on Saturdays at the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market (CYCFM). If Farmer Cris has bacon or bacon ends, I usually get those too. He’s been out recently, so I looked for another source and was very pleased by the fresh cut bacon Brad McCarley sold me from City Block Salumeria. I also like to get salmon from the Paradise Seafood truck. Lake’s Catfish is next on my list.
I was ordering produce from Rose Creek Farms for home delivery before ordering produce was cool. Ray Tyler’s deliveries have grown exponentially since the crisis started, and I hope that his new customers stay with him. My Tubby Creek Farm CSA just started, and it too is being delivered to my door. Having fresh produce delivered to my door is probably what makes me feel most like a restaurateur—though I do still absolutely love going to the CYCFM every Saturday to see what’s new. (I go early, I wear a mask, I keep my distance, and I try not to be sad that I can’t hug and chat with all of my friends and neighbors like I used to.) Having the Saturday ritual intact, though altered with safety in mind, has been a saving grace.
It really is amazing what you can find at the farmers market. I typically stock up on Two Brooks Farm rice—which is the most amazing rice I have ever eaten; a nice loaf of sourdough; bagels; Las Delicias chips, pico, and guacamole; honey; yogurt; ghee; and eggs.
On Wednesdays, I do the rest of my ordering. (See, don’t I sound like a restaurant owner?) Edge Alley recently started selling my favorite sparkling cold brew as well as house-roasted Ethiopian coffee beans, oat milk, vegan bread, and other prepared foods like bacon jam, curry chicken salad, and soup. I get Pasta Mama ravioli, tortellini, and sauces delivered weekly. Tamboli’s delivers my butter, cream cheese, flour, ricotta, mozzarella, bucatini and rigatoni.
Every day, I get out my colored pencils and design the menu in my sketchbook to rival any restaurant chalkboard out there. Then I hang it on the refrigerator for the kids to peruse and then place their orders.
OK, that’s a lie. But ask me again in six months—if I am still working from home!
Jiro, my 16-year-old, wakes up around 9 a.m., showers, and then, as he settles in at his computer next to me for his online classes, he says, “What’s for breakfast?”
Sometimes I’ve given it some thought, but most of the time I go through the refrigerator’s contents in my mind and come up with a few easy-to-execute suggestions. “I could do French toast with the sourdough—or avocado toast; any combination of bacon and eggs; or yogurt with strawberries and honey,” I say.
He thinks it over, and, I swear, says something like, “Can I have eggs and breakfast sausage with sautéed kale?” Or “Can I have an omelette with bacon and spinach with avocado toast on the side?”
In all transparency, I served brown avocado in my restaurant. However, I knew for a fact that I hadn’t stored it properly and that it was discolored from the air and not actually rotten. I cut it so that, if I turned the slices upside down, all of the brown parts were hidden. Securing avocados requires a big-box grocery store delivery, so I am very intentional about not wasting any!
By lunchtime, Satchel, my 18-year-old, appears and almost always wants something pasta-centric. That’s where my Pasta Mama supply comes in handy.
I can usually get Jiro to eat what I like to eat—a salad with some Renaissance Farms chicken and bacon or leftover steak. This is critical in making sure all of that doorstep produce doesn’t go to waste.
I’m not going to lie (again). Most nights by dinner time, I am ready to order takeout because I’ve already prepared five meals and done the dishes at least twice. So my typical dinner menu is a simple farm-to-table plate that includes a meat selected from the freezer; rice, potatoes, or cauliflower; and a sautéed green. These items can also be presented all mixed up in a bowl. (Chicken, sweet potatoes, and kale are a favorite “bowl.”)
We have gotten creative too. Satchel and I tried our hand at sweet potato gnocchi. Jiro and I made Dutch baby pancakes, cheesecake, and homemade paleo Twix bars. We are absolute pros at the Hog & Hominy take-and-bake pizzas. And I have been perfecting my carbonara since watching a Michael Hudman video that was livestreamed on @amitaliankitchen.
On the days that the kids aren’t here, I sometimes just eat Tom’s Tiny Kitchen pimento cheese and crackers for dinner. My restaurant is only open Monday, Tuesday and every other weekend!
Preparing meals for myself and my children is the highlight of being safer at home. I can understand why chefs are called to cook and why they persist with even the smallest of profits. There is something profoundly satisfying about feeding the people you love.
Being even more thoughtful about everything that comes into my kitchen has been humbling. I already appreciated our local farmers, but having them go above and beyond to bring the food they grow to my door has been a true gift. (Likewise, I have been thrilled to see some of my favorite chefs and restaurant servers appear at my door when delivering their goods.)
I don’t know if things will ever be normal again. I’m not sure I want things to be just as they were. I absolutely hope that we all can come out of this with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the local food system and the people who work tirelessly to keep us fed. There can only be one reason that they do it: Love.
Stacey Greenberg is the editor in chief of Edible Memphis. You can follow her at @nancy_jew.