Have you been cooking at home a lot lately? It seems to be the one thing we all have in common since COVID-19 arrived in the Tampa Bay area. It was fun and challenging at first, but after so long, a sort of food ennui sets it. Even celebrity chef Ina Garten is “a little sick of cooking,” according to her June 1 Instagram post.
You’ll have to wait until October to get her Ina Garten’s cookbook, Modern Comfort Food. In the meantime, we reached out to ArtJones to find out how some of Gulfport’s artists are keeping busy, both in the studio and in the kitchen.
Nancy Poucher, Larry Busby, Monika Watson, Jila Davoodi, Jack Providenti and Brenda McMahon responded to our query via email. Each reply reads like a pandemic postcard or letter. The artists wrote of how they passed the time during quarantine, and shared an image of their artwork and a favorite recipe. Checking the inbox has never been so exciting!
Here’s what they had to say, in their own words (edited for grammar, clarity and length).
Artwork: Poucher’s parrots in pastel
So, my husband is a cook. I’m lucky! I get to spend more time making art and eating than in the kitchen. These past weeks and months (I’m losing track) have found me out in the backyard observing the birds that come by our feeder to eat. I do some sketching from my hammock and sometimes share some fruit (from the Saturday Morning Market drive-thru) with the parrots. The parrots like their fruit straight up.
Brooklyn Supper’s Strawberries in Red Wine Syrup: I like the Little Pond strawberries in red wine. I have Meyer lemons and thyme in the backyard, so no need to go to the dangerous grocery store! I think you could substitute mangoes or papaya, which are ripening on the trees around Gulfport right now. The parrots and I have our own little happy hour in the backyard. Get the recipe here
Artwork: Photo collage of Busby images (Larry Busby postcard)
I’ve been going out on personal adventures, usually hiking both nature and urban trails in the area with my camera and chronicling them with photographs. These are a few shots from some of my activities during the pandemic: making music and merriment with my friends at the Enroy Foundation, storms that blew up out of nowhere seen from my condo in Gulfport, and hiking on the Courtney Campbell trial and Tampa Riverwalk. I kept my sanity through my love of music, art and food (yes, I’m a foodie). My favorite cable channel is the Food network. I cook a lot and I’m pretty good at it.
Larry Busby’s sweet potatoes: This simple recipe is extremely easy to make and packs a lot of yummy goodness. Begin by piercing a sweet potato with a fork, then microwave for 6-8 minutes. Slice partially open and add a tablespoon of butter, 1/2-3/4 tsp. smoked paprika, and 3/4-1 tsp. cinnamon. Mash into the potato. Top with 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, and squeeze the potato back together so everything melts.
Artwork: Monika Watson postcard
It’s not the best of times — no shows, no galleries, etc. But I keep working because I really enjoy it. And there are fewer interruptions as well these days. I make, glaze and fire ceramic pieces and incorporate them into acrylic paintings. Here are two examples: the little “Seascape” from earlier and the long skinny piece I finished . Since I’m used to working at home, things aren’t that much different for me, but occasionally I feel like I’m in some surreal time spin. I’ve been able to do a lot in my garden, and cooking is something I really enjoy. Everybody always comes to my house to eat lunch and dinner with friends, but now we leave dishes on each other’s porch. Sad.
Regina Schrambling’s Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew: I’m desperate to try a new recipe for Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew (a New York Times recipe). Get the recipe here
Artwork: Don’t Worry Be Happy
In early March we took a cruise to Honduras and Mexico. I took a picture of this very modest street vendor in Honduras. I was amazed at the modesty of their business, yet the smile and the friendliness with a browser (me). I named this painting “Don’t worry, Be happy.” So often we think more money brings more happiness and good attitude. From this vendor you can see that you can still be happy with a modest life. By no means am I drawing the conclusion that these guys have it easy. I’m sure that money would give them a more comfortable life. However, their demeanor was like they were millionaires. It was definitely inspiring!
Persian yogurt and cucumber dip, aka Mast-o-Khiar: As we didn’t get to go out, we stayed home more and ate more. I thought if we eat healthier, the damage won’t be as bad. So I dug up a recipe from the old country (Iran) for a dip that can be eaten with crackers, pita bread or just plain. Combine 1 quart of Greek yogurt, 3 finely chopped shallots, 1 finely chopped clove of garlic (optional), 1 cup finely chopped cucumbers (English or seedless mini), 1/8 cup of finely chopped mint/basil, and salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Serve it in a bowl with a few crackers, pita chips or fresh pita bread on the side. You can make it carb free and dip your favorite vegetables in it or just eat it plain. The beauty of this dip is that you can also add your favorite spice to it if you want to mix it up!
Artwork: Crimson Sunset
I started painting “Crimson Sunset” as a demo for a Zoom class a few weeks ago and just recently decided to finish it. Something about the sun sinking in to the brilliant red horizon stirred my excitement and passion. As there are still no live art shows due to COVID-19, I’ve made this painting very affordable. Available here.
The Food Network Kitchen’s Scallop Scampi: My wife came home with some scallops and suggested I cook it the way I cook Shrimp Scampi (one of my favorite recipes). I decided instead to try something new. It turned out really delicious! Get the recipe here
Artwork: Heron on the Bayou set
Quarantine for regular folks is called studio time for me. In the 25 years I’ve been a studio artist, the thing I never seem to get enough of is long, uninterrupted studio time. Though I’ve felt for the devastation and fear of our nation in this time, I would be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate that the volume was turned down and the burners were shut off, giving me ‘permission’ to create. I’ve been working on commissions and designing an indoor waterfall concept. I completed my latest ‘Artful Address’ here in town and I’m finishing up another Heron on the Bayou set for a Snell Island home. The waterfall concept is still in process, but I hope to show it off at the Gallery by this summer!
The Reluctant Entertainer’s Mango Quinoa Salad: My favorite recipe these days, especially since mangos are in full season, is for Mango Quinoa Salad. It has the burst of sweet mango, mingled with the crunch of quinoa, the zest of lemon and the sparkle of cilantro. For color you add a mix of orange (carrots), red (peppers), green (cucumber and celery). This is a great recipe that can be varied with whatever you like. I often add avocado for a creamy finish and always swap out whatever fresh veggies I have around. Get the recipe here
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