It’s here, people. After all these months of rising numbers of infections due to COVID-19, Miami County has lost one of its residents to that plague.

I knew her, liked and respected her and now miss her as I am sure others do, too. I offer my appreciation for her and my condolences to her family. I pray for her eternal repose, and I offer another prayer, too. May this death be a signal that this virus can be deadly. May it remind us all to take needed precautions. We neither want to be infected nor to infect others.

The fact that so many continue to ignore the need for masks, distancing and sanitizing concerns me. Kudos to those who heed the warnings, and hisses to those who don’t. I still struggle with the question of what I can do to help. I’ve decided that will include continued prayer, support and food. That last one is what I want to think about now.

Those of you who are longtime friends of this column know about my affinity for cookbooks. That hasn’t changed, even though I cook much more simply now.

Did you know that the very first cookbook to be written and published by an American appeared in 1796? Its title is nearly as long as its 47 pages: “American Cookery, Or the art of dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, and the best modes of making Pastes, Puffs, PIes, Tarts, Puddings, Custards, and Preserves, And All Kinds of Cakes, From the Imperial Plumb to Plain Cake. Adapted to This Country and All Grades of LIfe.” Its author was Amelia Simmons, who described herself as “An American Orphan.”

Amelia had older British books to use as a guide, but she definitely adapted New World ingredients into her recipes. She required the use of corn meal, pumpkin, squash, spruce beer, watermelon rinds and cranberry sauce. She introduced chemical leaven into doughs, a practice that resulted in the compounding of modern baking powders. She instructed her readers to beat eggs so they incorporated air and to add yeast or “spirits” to produce a ferment. In effect, she revolutionized the culinary world of her time.

What does Ameliia have to do with our present pandemic? Only this: providing nutritious and comforting foods during stressful periods is, indeed, a corporal act of mercy. Nothing is more loving. We can donate to our food pantries and even take food gifts to friends and neighbors to help sustain them in these times. We can also cook comfort food for our families and ourselves.

Here is one of my “feel better” recipes.

ANOTHER “BEST” MACARONI AND CHEESE

8 oz. elbows or shells

1/4 cup butter or oleo

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 tbsp. flour

1 tsp. salt

3 cups milk

1 1/2 cups cheese, shredded

Melt butter in large saucepan. Add onion and sauté until transparent. Stir in flour and salt and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add milk and stir to blend. Bring to low, steady simmer. Add uncooked macaroni. Cover and continue to simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Mixture will thicken as it cooks.) Remove from heat. Add cheese and stir gently until it has melted. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Margaret Hays is a longtime Osawatomie resident who writes a weekly column for The Miami County Republic.

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