by Sheridan Lane, director of culinary program and operations, Lincoln Land Community College
One year ago this week, Sangamon County was recording its first few cases of COVID-19 which quickly brought about a major change of events for all of us here in central Illinois. While the world at large had been grappling with the pandemic for much longer, it wasn’t until about the second week of March that we quickly began to escalate a completely new normal.
Pre-pandemic we would have scoffed at the idea of a virtual happy hour and scorned the shuttered doors of bars and restaurants. We would have ridiculed the idea of no in-person dining and mocked the thought of online conferences. We would have rejected the thought of cancelling sporting events, concerts, festivals and even camping, yet here we are.
As this new normal persisted locally, whether we liked it or not, we were forced to find new ways to be satisfied with seemingly less. We have emerged and are hopefully on the other side of what many thought would never have been possible. There is a silver lining – as a community, as humans, we have grown, and while growing is not always fun, it is advancement. For me personally, I look forward to being able to look back on this year as a reminder and lesson in how to make happiness anywhere – to create joy even when you are sick of interacting with the same faces week after week and to enjoy simply just being at home and thankful for food in the fridge.
In the vein of being 100% corny, I am going to attach the Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani duet, “Happy Anywhere,” to this long pandemic year, but I am still going to do a little dance as I book my State Fair concert tickets, make a ton of dinner reservations, plan the next five trips and schedule a bunch of weekends with friends! Now to relish in the second part of the lyrics of that song – the human connections we soon will have the opportunity to experience and appreciate just a little more. Cheers ya’ll.
Land of Happy
Cocktail by 312 Chicago’s head bartender Jenn Knott
- 1 1/2 oz Fords gin
- 1 1/2 oz Honeydew-basil-white balsamic shrub*
- Prosecco, to float
- Lemon wedge, to rim glass
- Basil salt (chopped fresh basil combined with coarse salt), to rim glass
- Rub the lemon wedge on half of the outside of a coupe glass, coat with the basil salt mixture and set aside.
- Add the gin and syrup to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until chilled.
- Double-strain into the prepared coupe glass.
- Float the chilled prosecco on top.
- Honeydew-basil-white-balsamic shrub: Cut off the rind and remove the seeds from 1 whole honeydew, then cut the melon into chunks. Combine it in the blender with 1 cup fresh basil, and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a saucepan, add 4 cups white sugar and 4 cups cold water, and simmer until the sugar has dissolved, being careful not to overheat. Remove it from the heat and let it cool, then strain through a chinois cloth. Add 1 1⁄2 cups white balsamic vinegar, and keep the shrub in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.