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Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021

COVID Culinary Chronicles


Quarantine inspires new cookbook

Maura Querbes Pugh is living proof that one bad apple doesn’t spoil the entire batch – or in the case of 2020, the entire year. Despite the pandemic and subsequential quarantine, Pugh made lemonade from lemons and shared them with Shreveport via her very first cookbook: “Covid Culinary Chronicles.”

The recipes in the “Covid Culinary Chronicles” are a culmination of everything cooked in Pugh’s kitchen from March 24 to Sept. 15, 2020.

“After a few weeks of quarantine, I had cleaned everything in my house and completed every unfinished task. I was alone at home for hours on end and bored to tears,” Pugh said. “I had always wanted to pen a cookbook but never had the time. We had a stack of recipes cut out from various publications we had wanted to try but never got around to, so I decided to start cooking all of them – along with our regular fare – and keep a log of whatever came out of my ovens or off my stovetop.”

Available at The Village Washstand for only $29, this cookbook contains everything from Italian, Creole, Indian and Mexican cuisine to a hodgepodge of desserts and condiments and appetizers – even homemade beverages and dressings. The “Covid Culinary Chronicles” is a cookbook that both novice and experienced chefs alike can appreciate. It’s organized into categories, including an index, and even includes mistakes Pugh made on the first try so readers don’t make the same ones.

“”Covid Culinary Chronicles” is meant to help people get over their fear of kitchen appliances and entertaining,” Pugh said. “People love going to someone else’s home and sharing a meal or appetizers and drinks. It never has to be elaborate to appreciate the camaraderie and community of being together.”

Pugh encourages new cooks to “let it burn” if need be. “If your recipe burns – and believe me, I’ve had some doozies over the years – it’s OK to call the pizza guy to deliver. It’ll just make it a story to tell for years to come,” Pugh said. (Much like the time she attempted to make chilies rellenos and wasn’t aware she was supposed to wet the paper bag before warming in the oven!) Pugh literally grew up in the kitchen.

“I’ve cooked all of my life. I honestly don’t remember not cooking,” Pugh said. “When we visited my grandparents in Mayersville, Miss., MamaCile and Granddaddy would make scratch buttermilk biscuits every morning, and my siblings, and I would always help. MamaCile would bake pies and cakes and send us out to the garden across the alley to pick fresh vegetables for dinner.”

Beyond cooking, Pugh enjoys sewing, needlework, reading, exercise and embroidery. She’s been married to her husband, Bobby, for 36 years and has two adult children. From 2003-2009, Pugh wrote a column for The Shreveport Times called “The Recipe Detective.”

Oddly enough, Pugh didn’t find herself necessarily cooking more during quarantine than was typical. “I’ve always cooked at least every other day ever since we were married,” Pugh said. “Once we had children, I cooked every day. Fortunately, my husband loves leftovers, which is good for two reasons. One, I’m not in the kitchen constantly, and two, they are usually better than the first day because the flavors have really married.”

Pugh assures readers this cookbook is handy for even the most beginner level of cooking. “Every recipe is really simple, but some take about 18 hours, such as the Chef Shorty Leonard’s Black Forest Cake. Don’t try to make it on a humid day; the meringues will not get crisp, they will stay gummy,” Pugh warned.

With recipes such as Maura’s Basil Mayonnaise (see on next page), Shrimp Pate, Lemon-garlic Snap Peas, Poblano Corn Pudding, Cajun Meat Loaf, Oyster- Bacon Pot Pie, Hot Buttered Rum Carrots, Crawfish Boil Potato Salad, Crunch English Toffee, Orange Dream Cookies, there’s surely something for every palate around the table.

“I just hope readers will be willing to try something new and get out of their comfort zones,” Pugh said. “And mostly, get over the fear of failure in the kitchen. This is a great time to share with your children. Cooking teaches them mathematics with tablespoons, cups, etc., as well as cleanliness and sanitary habits.”

Pugh is hoping things will start turning around soon with the pandemic but has been keeping records of recipes cooked since Thanksgiving 2020 – just in case there’s reason to create a Part 2.

For hours and locations, please visit The Village Washstand on Facebook at: https:// www.facebook.com/VillageWashstand


1 large egg, room temperature 

1 tsp. salt 

1 tsp. white pepper 

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper 

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice 

1 cup canola oil 

2 Tbsp. prepared basil pesto

In food processor, blend egg, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice and 1 Tbsp. oil for 60 seconds. With the machine running, drizzle in a steady stream of the remaining oil. Remove to a bowl and thoroughly whisk in prepared basil pesto. Cover and refrigerate up to four days. Makes about 1 pint. Great to use for crudite’ platters, as a dip for artichokes or a nice change in a sandwich. Garnish with few basil leaves for flair! FUNNY NOTE: As a newlywed, I made this for Bobby. My time was limited, and the blender accidentally chewed up 1/2 of the rubber spatula. I served it anyway, acting like everything was fine. After a couple of chewy bites, he went to investigate. He returned to the table, waving the befouled spatula from the garbage can, accusing me of trying to kill him! I told him it couldn’t be too bad for you and was probably good roughage. I recommend getting your roughage from a better source like carrots, artichokes, celery … Deny everything!

Reprinted in part from my first “Recipe Detective” column, The Shreveport Times, June 23, 2003.


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