Call it survival. Call it boredom, but I somehow learned to cook.

Before the great COVID-19 pandemic I couldn’t hardly boil water. Today, I am transformed into a lean (not really), mean (well sometimes) cooking (oh yea!) machine.

Before the pandemic, I did often grill on my barbecue. Properly charring a steak has been one of the few things I could always do with food. I remained pretty useless in the kitchen and would just sit on the couch when others cooked or I went to a local restaurant for a dine-in or take-out meal.

Thanks to COVID-19, I had to change those habits.

Thankfully, learning to cook went a lot better than my attempt to learn the ukulele. I’m still trying but that “miniature guitar with just four strings” has overwhelmed me. I think I may need to find a “uke” teacher if I want to continue my efforts.

If you might know a great ukulele teacher, please have them call me.

But learning to cook was something I kind of did on my own. I’d mixed this with that and created my own dishes or I’d find a dish that I liked and reverse engineered it through internet research.

Yes it was that serious.

First comes what I call my “Tin Can Chili.” It’s stunning and so hearty. In fact its so good many people complain that they just can stop eating it!

I first combined four different kinds of beans with a “standard” chili base and added beef jerky – yes you heard that right beef jerky. It is smoky and “oh so good.” Of course any “extra” meat you have around is always welcomed in chili.

My second evolution chili involves “Eddies Country Store.” I was shopping there one day and I just had to purchase an apple wood smoked turkey leg – because I love turkey legs. I accidentally purchased two legs instead of one, and a new chili was born.

Opting to substitute smoked turkey leg meat for the beef jerky and an “alternate” meat in my chili produced the healthiest and best chili I ever made. Not that my chili is exactly healthy.

I have to do more!

I’ve learned to produce awesome omelets, ribs, tasty side dishes, garlic potatoes, rice that is out of this world and I’ve done amazing things with ham.

One effect my new found cooking has is on my two dogs, Jack and Rascal. The “boys” always follow me in the kitchen. Often they are in the way and standing between me and my stove. I can’t blame them as they often get the scraps or down right share the meal that I’m working on that day.

They seem very happy with my culinary efforts.

I feel fortunate to have learned how to cook during this pandemic. It helped me survive and kept myself fed while cutting costs compared to always eating at a restaurant. Cooking has somehow become very important to me.

Don’t get me wrong – I love eating out at restaurants. The food just tastes better when someone else is doing the cooking and cleaning even when I was always sitting alone and everyone was staring at me.

Before COVID-19, going out to a restaurant alone was a mark of an oddball. Now its “socially-distancing.” That’s one good thing that has emerged out of the pandemic.

Now I am off to the kitchen to see what new things I can come up with. The other day I even had a salad but of course I put way too much salad dressing on it and other “trimmings” from the barbecue!

Reach the Editor at jheadley@wmicentral.com

(1) comment

che guevara

Good for you Jim , you've gotten with the program , because all the world's best cooks are men - period . If travel to the outer Cosmos were possible , you would find that on Mars or Mercury the best cooks would be men , provided of course that Earth is not the only planet that sports the two sexes ( for now anyhow ) . Elk meat finely minced by hand , in my humble opinion , makes the best chili , along with fresh garlic and Santa Cruz Red Chili powder ( available up here only at Eddie's Market ) plus the customary seasonings , which I would hope you are at least basically familiar with ( cumin , oregano , salt , fresh ground black pepper , ground pasilla peppers , cayenne ) . Perhaps the upside to the entire Covid situation is that people will again learn to tap into their latent and yet - to - be - cultivated skill sets .

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.