Another week, another new normal. From the lack of many of my favorite restaurants being open to the public, I can't think of a time I've cooked so many meals at home. Maybe partly out of necessity, partly out of a distraction from things going on around us – it's become a vital ritual. Luckily we live in the day of Prime everything, meal prep in a box, wine and whiskey mailers, and it can be hard to keep track of all the ways we should eat while maintaining some level of normalcy. My personal favorite, though – is probably none of these.
There's such a thing as "no risk, no reward," in our everyday lives that's become quite real. I probably go grocery shopping once or twice a month to reduce the need to go out as much as I can. I've tried the grocery box thing and to be quite honest, it wasn't as rewarding for me. (Not to mention, I hate that the recipes only give you exactly what you need, no more or less. Food should be about bounty.)

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting a friend's remote ranch in Yucca Valley, California. I was pleasantly shocked at how most things, for those out there, hadn't really changed much during quarantine. Aside from the neighborhood oasis, Pappy & Harriets club in Joshua Tree - doing take out and a modified restaurant setup - most of the locals have been doing their own cooking from top to bottom. The key for living the new normal for most of them – apparently, is buying directly from farm collectives, sharing sourdough starter, and making bagels.
Ranch owners and farmers out there have direct access to fresh produce and meats from their own suppliers. And each family takes responsibility for the workload, creating neighborly meals that truly reflect their home – in our case, grilled tacos with homemade masa, smoked beef, and even barbecued shrimp. For breakfast one morning, we drove out to another neighbor's farm and watched as they rolled out dough for the most glorious New York-style bagels, tenderly boiled then flash baked in a stone oven. We heaped on soft cream cheese, chives, basil, scrambled eggs, and paired them with bright orange juice and French pressed coffee. Why was everything tasting so good?
Within minutes, even seconds, most of the bounty was gone. But we stayed for the stories. For once this month, I had little to no stress about anything. I was just experiencing life as it was happening. My friends, mostly writers, singers, ranchers - were wind and sunburnt, laughing as we talked about our plans before we got locked down in the city. I stopped by the farm and fed the ranch hog, the horses, and played with Gypsy, a giant, white Himalayan sheep dog.
I realized that much of what I take for granted in life was predicated on the fact that everything was so readily shipped, restocked, and replenished in a way you can only enjoy because it's simply instant gratification. I remembered pulling dough for the yeast bagels and how it needed an hour just to "rest" so that bubbles would rise, lending the perfect chewy crumb. Maybe we all need to take more time in our every day rituals. Go ahead, support your local farmer, your friend with the sourdough starter trend. Try making things from scratch, realizing that meals that take hours to prepare and create are enjoyable because they require a certain work ethic and appreciation for the time spent. A gentle reminder to ourselves that even these things, the good things, are temporary.