Summer Cooking in the Time of Plague
I can point to multiple women whose reaction to adversity was to double down on the abundant, the gracious, and the the extravagance of freshness and simplicity.
There is the duchess who refused to turn her back on her guests— walking backwards — after serving them as a way to honor them with all humility. Then, there is the story of the woman locked in a World War II Japanese internment camp, who took that opportunity to write a cookbook with all the most long forgotten luxury ingredients, complete with generous portions of butter and olive oil and all the good things denied them in captivity.
As we wait out the postponed delights of spring and look forward to the fruits of summer, it's well to pull out Elizabeth David's "Summer Cooking" with hope. She became Britain's first lady of food during the mid-twentieth century leading cooks out of the colorlessness of postwar austerity to the then-exotic use of fresh herbs and garlic — books such as "An Omelette and a Glass of Wine," "Mediterranean Food," and "Summer Cooking."
"Summer Cooking" includes a chapter on fresh herbs, jams and other preserves, buffets, and picnics, as well as the usual categories. On vegetables, she writes, "The tender young vegetables of early summer, broad beans, green peas, new potatoes, new turnips, young carrots, are nearly always best quite plainly cooked and eaten with fresh butter ... the time and trouble necessary to the preparation of fresh vegetables, as will as their delicious fresh flavor, deserve full recognition."
As we all slow down and experience a slower sense of time, let's plant some vegetables and look forward to harvesting them this summer. There is nothing like going outside, picking a fresh eggplant, slicing it, tossing with panko crumbs, and frying in olive oil. Toast up some good bread with slices of gouda cheese or mozzarella, add Duke's mayo or a homemade aioli, a few leaves of fresh basil from your garden, and you will forget anything in the time of the plague.