No Sink and No Oven Makes Jackie a Grim Gal + Recipe: Misozuke
Issue No. 66
|Sunshine + Microbes||Jan 28|
Like Jackie’s kitchen renovation (see below), today’s newsletter required a little bit of extra construction, but it’s now here for your reading pleasure.
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In mid-November, I embarked upon the most grown up fancy lady thing I have ever done: Remodeling my kitchen. Since the whole project would only take a couple weeks (oh to be young and naive!), I haphazardly moved all of the contents of my kitchen (tools, appliances, bags of flour, dog food, and so, so many random jars) into my dining and living rooms. I could handle the clutter for a few weeks.
You probably know where this is going. More than two months later, the kitchen renovation is still in progress (although so close to done I can taste it). And the vast majority of those random piles of shit are still all over my house, and also my car now. And my front porch. The level of clutter is definitely overwhelming, but I happen to have a fairly high tolerance for mess (as my college roommate Lauren will attest). Much more personally challenging has been the impact of two months without the ability to cook for myself. The toll on my state of mind has been stark.
I’ve been anxious and grumpier than usual, and I’m having a lot of trouble sleeping. My brain is just a bit fuzzier than normal. Sure, it could be the pandemic. Or the holidays. Or the insurrection. All those things will spin a gal’s head. But my guess is the culprit is malnutrition. Woman cannot survive on eggplant parm subs alone.
This is all just anecdotal, and I definitely do not want to go too far down the rabbit hole of food as a miracle cure for all that ails you. But for real, not being able to cook nutritious — or less nutritious! — food for myself has made life much more of a grind.
It’s reminded me of a useful acronym my therapist uses. Feeling off or considering a self-destructive behavior? H.A.L.T.! Check to see if you are
Lonely, 😔 or
Because that may well be the issue. It almost always is for me, even more so since I lost my oven.
Two months of no kitchen have made it clear to me that cooking for myself is an act of self-care. Having the time, resources, and skill to be able to nourish ourselves should be fundamental. What does it say about our culture if many people choose not to do so, and so many others aren’t even afforded the option?
As of last Friday, I had a functional kitchen sink again, and as of Monday I could once again use my stove. Cooking in my almost renovated kitchen — and, yes, even doing dishes! — has been such a joy. So far I’ve stuck with comfort food. Hot tea and oatmeal, pasta with zucchini pickles and parm, kimchi fried rice. As I write this I am culturing oats for amazake. Soon I will have shelves and cabinet doors, and I’ll be able to start working my way through the piles. I know I’ll be up for the task, because I’ll be well-fed, by my own hand.
Halt! Have you shared this newsletter yet? That would make us feel fulfilled 😊
from a budding pyromaniac 🍳🔥
One of my intentions for 2020 was cooking more meals over an open fire. I think I cooked three. But 2021 is going to be different! I’ve already built a fire pit in my backyard. Thanks to my friend Brett, I’ve got a totally MacGyvered open fire cooking setup. We thought it would be fun to share, since we’re due for more cold weather down here in Florida.
For the pit, I simply made a square of concrete blocks, hole-side-up in my backyard. Then I added another layer of blocks on top. I bought two pieces of rebar at Home Depot and lay them over the top. Then I borrow the grilling surface from my BBQ and balance it on top of the rebar. Works like a charm, cost me three bucks! (If you don’t have concrete blocks lying around, it will cost you $20)
Once you have yours set up, I highly recommend making veggie and halloumi skewers. 😋 Email us if you have any questions!
😤🎵 A Song of Impotent Rage | Reply All
Like sea level rise, a panic has been building up inside Alex Goldmund, host of the Reply All podcast. He feels so upset and impotent about the potential civilization-destroying catastrophe of climate change — but gosh, even his wife and family are sick of his existential freak out.
So what’s Alex to do? Write a pop punk song about it! 🤘
On the songwriting journey, Alex meets a lyricist who feels a similar angst to him and also climate change journalist Emily Atkin (who writes the excellent newsletter Heated) who inspires a lyrical epiphany by telling him: huge corporations want you to feel dread and powerlessness over climate change. They profit on that. Rage (against the corporate machines) and hope and action are the solution to climate panic.
And that’s how you get a lovely pop punk ditty called “The Wolf is at the Door” that helps express the furor of younger generations whose future depends on saving the planet, and who aren’t willing to back down from the monumental task.
Ty Jones, a 26-year-old from rural Arkansas who moved to the big bright lights of Manhattan, Kansas, has turned into an online sensation through his self-proclaimed ‘Redneck Foreign-Food Reviews.”
Journalist Eddie Kim writes that he didn’t think he’d find himself so enamored by a white guy sampling foods from around the world on TikTok. However, Kim delights in the way Jones gives each food a chance instead of flinching at something that looks or smells different. Kim remembers eating kimchi growing up and getting “teased at school for eating such ‘smelly’ food.” But Jones devours half a jar in one sitting (even though that caused some uh gastric issues). While the stakes are fairly low, it’s exciting “to witness cultural barriers crumble.”
Kim says “watching Jones is like watching a buddy fall in love with the things you love.” Jones’ fanbase keeps growing, and he’s getting requests to try things from beyond the Asian food market near his home. Still, his enthusiasm for taste-testing feels authentic. He’s made friends with the owners of the market (who gave him his own P.O. Box to receive snacks to try), and even replaced his morning Monster energy drink with a can of boba tea.
Food writer Tejal Rao characterizes the hideous blandness of food when one loses their sense of taste or smell: “Cheese became rubber and paste. Popcorn turned into thorny foam. The bland squish of a roast-chicken breast made me recoil.”
Rao hasn’t regained her senses yet after a bout with covid-19. But she’s found one unique flavor that’s helping her recover: Sichuan mala. The word translates to numbing (ma) and spicy (la), thanks to Mala’s mix of Sichuan peppercorns and chiles. Peppercorn plants arrived to China from the Americas in the late 1500s. And the Mala flavor that developed over there has become popular in the U.S. with the success of hot pot restaurants.
When Rao tried a mala dish of mapo tofu and boiled fish she felt the blood rush through her face. And “she could taste with some dimension, in color, with exhilaration.” Once you make the mala broth, you can really mala any meal, bringing a spicy, tingly sensation to anything that tastes a little too dull.
We’ve added a new section to the newsletter, a rundown of upcoming classes and other food events happening virtually or in South Florida. Feel free to email us with calendar submissions!
Reading from “Southern Ground” by Jennifer Lapidus | January 28 (tonight!) at 6 p.m. EST | IGLive @carolinaground
Kojicon | February 22 - March 7 | $20-100 | Virtual | Yellow Farmhouse Education Center
Intro to Winter Gardening in South Florida | $20 | Virtual | Little River Cooperative
Submit an event to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to everyone who came to Wednesday’s vegan cream cheese class!
Misozuke is a type of tsukemono, or Japanese pickle, in which you bury the veggies (or fish! Or meat!) in miso, which serves as the pickling agent.
Garlic misozuke is a two-for-one. I get delicious, deeply umami pickled garlic, and also delicious, garlic-flavored miso! You can also use this technique on other veggies instead of garlic. Play with the length of time of the fermentation (the longer, the funkier) to decide what works best for you.
Makes 4 cups
Ingredients and special tools
2 cups miso of choice
1/4 cup mirin
5-6 heads garlic
optional: 2 tablespoons sake, 2 inches ginger, 1-2 dried hot peppers of choice
Peel the garlic cloves. The most effective way to do this is to slice off the rough end (not the pointy end), lay the clove flat on the cutting board, and smash it with the face of a chef’s knife blade. The skin will peel right off.
Make the misodoku (the miso pickling mixture). In a bowl, mix the miso, mirin, and any of the optional flavorings.
Set aside 1/4 cup misodoku. Mix the garlic cloves into the bowl so they are coated in the miso mixture.
In a mason jar, add the garlic and miso mixture — one spoonful at a time, smooshing it down and removing as many air bubbles as possible. Top with the reserved misodoku.
Loosely cover the jar and allow to ferment at room temperature for as little as two days, but as many as several years! Once you are pleased with the flavor, seal tightly and store in the refrigerator.
Jackie tried her first Popeye’s biscuit in January, and she would not be opposed to this proposal if it came with a sweet tea too.
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Sunshine + Microbes team
Jackie Vitale is a cook and kitchen educator based in Stuart, Fla. She is co-founder of the Florida Ferment Fest. Her newsletter explores the intersection of food, culture, environment and community.
Matt Levin is a communications specialist at the ACLU of Texas. He edits Sunshine + Microbes and contributes other scraps to each issue.