I write this, inspired by the New Yorker’s April 13, 2020 Tables for Two, “Celebrity Chefs Take to Instagram, and to the Pantry.” There, Hannah Goldfield lauds New York chefs for permitting us to make lunch out of leftover Brussels sprouts and carrots with a fried egg for lunch, and to substitute this for that and that for this and skip confession if we just leave it out because we don’t have it.
Jan Buhrman, Island chef and caterer who is giving Zoom cooking lessons for free, has changed my life. I have taken three classes and have signed up for three more.
Having prepared 14 boxes of ingredients for participants in one of her classes, she forgot to save feta cheese and preserved lemons for herself. No matter, use any cheese you happen to have, brie or cheddar, it doesn’t matter. No preserved lemons, here’s a short cut. Or zest a lemon. Or an orange. Or a lime. Or forget it.
Julia Child taught me to cook. I know how to roast a chicken. Well, maybe not. My husband can’t stop telling me how Jan’s roast chicken was the best we’ve ever had. Leftover beet greens went in the spinach pie. Delicious. The beef marinara is so easy and so good. Her salsa is now an everyday staple. Half an onion, red or yellow, equal parts parsley, juice of half a lemon. Or add chopped cucumber. Or add pineapple or mango. Put it on eggs, or chicken, or fish, and be sure to add it to a can of tuna with mayonnaise for lunch. Save all those vegetable ends and discards and keep them in a bag in the freezer and make vegetable stock. The best ever.
But then there’s the orange cake. While she was teaching online, the cake overflowed my cake pan and smoked up the oven so much the fire alarm went off. The Chilmark police responded and while we waited for the fire department and while Jan continued with her class online, smoke filled my kitchen, and the police officer checked our alarm system and the basement, all unbeknownst to Jan and the rest of the class. We ended up tossing the cake, but my husband wants me to try it again. Why? It had all the earmarks of a great cake!
Jan’s students are masters of the substitute, of survival, of forgiveness. These are trying times; we can make do.
I love you, Jan Buhrman.