Kitchen Shrink

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Alas, April, the mild-mannered month that typically heralds the coming of spring — and sparkles like its designated diamond birthstone with a pile of precious celebrations — is now on lock-down. These fun events that highlight fertility and rebirth, freedom, the national pastime, pranks and humor, and literary and planetary pursuits will all have to be rejiggered this year.

More and more of us are turning to plant-based diets, whether for health reasons or environmentally-conscious ones. So the hunt is on for protein sources that don’t bleed, yet are satisfying, hearty, tasty and versatile. I broke down last week, and tried a batch of “cheat meat.”

Some folks love to spend a leisurely Sunday morning strolling the stalls of a gourmet farmers market, scoping out seasonal offerings from local growers and purveyors, and feeling like part of the community. A couple of Sundays ago, I joined a group of intrepid foodies in a farmers market trip on steroids — an adventure that began in the state-of-the-art Studio Kitchen, San Diego headquarters of Specialty Produce, the glitterati of fruit and vegetable sellers. There, the first in a series of “Food as Medicine Cooking Classes” was launched by Chef Christina Ng, chair of the Berry Good Food Academy, a non-profit that embarks on benevolent food programs.

Mellifluous holiday tunes have quickly been replaced by a cacophonous chorus of sneezing, coughing and retching. And wherever you turn, someone is wearing an ominous blue surgical mask — to either shield themselves from airborne illnesses or prevent the spread of their own. Whether the threat is seasonal colds and flus, viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu), or the many strains of Coronavirus, especially the current COVID-19, causing respiratory infections — they are all nothing to sneeze at.

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Years ago, my aunt hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people. She prepared a turkey feast from scratch and it was delicious. The next day, 18 of us had a date with the toilet bowl and were queasy for days. The only two who weren’t impacted were the vegetarians. We were all stymied and started asking questions trying to deduce the source of our illness. Remember the board game “Clue”? Well, Mrs. Peacock poisoned Mr. Boddy with a contaminated turkey leg in the dining room. Turns out that Auntie left the unwrapped, partially frozen turkey on the counter to thaw overnight, so the vegetarians were unscathed by her “fowl” deed. Here are some cautions to help keep your dinner guests healthy, happy and free from harm.

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