There have been many unintended consequences of the pandemic that arrived last year during Lent. Most have been painful and hard to bear.

But conversations with family and friends during meals since last March have led me to believe that one unintended consequence – the re-establishment of the kitchen as the heart of the home – has been a blessing.

Though we may not be able to gather in person, we have relearned how to eat together in the kitchen – by tablet, Smartphone, text and yes – landline. We have been calling at dinnertime, Zooming during meals and watching our screens with joy as little kids smear gravy all over their faces while they eat.

In the past year, every phone call from relatives and friends seems to begin with the same question: “What are you making for dinner?” They enjoy hearing my meal plan, and in return, they share treasured memories and cooking traditions of their own.

A lot of the conversations lately have revolved around, “What are you cooking for Lent this year?” The dishes here are my answer. In a special way, they are meant as gentle and tasty reminders that we are entering a special period of fasting, spiritual renewal, almsgiving and above all, grace.

Spinach Quiche

Quiche, a French tart composed of a pastry crust filled with savory egg and cheese custard, is a dish I enjoy serving throughout the year. It’s always on the menu at home during Lent, but, of course, without the usual bacon or sausage.

For Lenten meals, I substitute the meats with seafood or more often than not, vegetables. This year’s choice ingredient was spinach, and at a test run, two friends who joined me for a socially distanced meal gave it a thumbs-up. Also, on the recommendation of a fellow home chef, I substituted Jarlsberg cheese for my usual Muenster. This Norwegian cheese is sweet and nutty and melts easily.