Cooking My Way Through Quarantine | Jase Graves

Cooking My Way Through Quarantine | Jase Graves

Ever since our local mayor issued a COVID-19 shelter-in-place-and-go-completely-cocoa bananas order, my family and I have found ourselves cooking more than we have for our entire lives. We’ve even been following recipes and using the actual stove/oven thingy, much to the relief of our exhaustipated microwave. And considering the Mad Max-wasteland conditions in the “cooking-stuff-from-scratch” aisle at Walmart, we aren’t the only ones.

It all started on the first night of quarantine when we all got tired of sitting around and staring at our iPhones while drooling into our belly buttons. We decided it was time to lift our spirits and get some exercise by making a batch of homemade Nestlé Tollhouse cookies — minus the nuts, since my three daughters didn’t want to ruin the experience by including something natural and healthy.

Because these were the first cookies we had made in a while that didn’t start out in a refrigerated tube, we had to locate the ingredients. After rifling through the bowels of our pantry, we found some prehistoric flour, Crisco, baking soda and vanilla extract — the remnants of a sad attempt at making Christmas cookies a few months ago. I’m not sure whether any of it was expired, but it didn’t stink or fight back, so I assumed it was OK.

We had plenty of chocolate morsels­ — thanks to my middle daughter regularly adding them to the grocery list so she can hide in a closet with a bag of morsels larger than her head, a serving spoon, and a jar of creamy Jif to binge on her own twisted version of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. (OK, that’s me, but I’m pretty sure she does it, too.)

The cookies were delicious, including the ones that we actually baked. And we’re hoping to get all of the flour out of our clothes and hair before school starts next fall. The cookies were so addictive, in fact, that we’ve had to resist making them too often and have managed to cut it down to a couple of batches per day.

After we had rocked the Nestle Tollhouse, I decided to try my hand at the deep magic of Grandma’s old-fashioned pound cake. I never really understood why it’s called “pound cake” until I saw that the recipe calls for enough ingredients to support the American farming industry for the foreseeable future. I actually felt guilty while I was cracking the required number of eggs, like I was back in junior high vandalizing somebody’s front windows — not that I ever did that — not even to that cute girl who wouldn’t go to the movies with me to watch “Meatballs Part 2.”

Despite following the recipe right down to the last shipping container of pure cane sugar, my pound cake clung to the Bundt pan like that infernal “Dance Monkey” song that’s been stuck in my melon for the past three weeks. We tried everything to get the cake to turn loose — steaming it, freezing it, threatening to make it watch Joe Exotic’s music videos. Nothing worked.

Finally, I just gave up and gouged out the cake in chunks, until I wound up with a heap of freshly-baked wreckage. I was so disappointed in the disgraceful presentation that I could only bring myself to eat three servings that night after supper.

Despite a few mishaps, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed regularly trashing the kitchen with my wife and daughters to get my mind off the COVID-19 crisis. There’s just something about sitting around a table loaded down with dangerous levels of homemade carbohydrates that brings a family closer together. And even though I still can’t call myself the Rembrandt of baked goods, at least I can pretend to be Mad Max when I go to Walmart for more Crisco.

Jase Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at

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