My Pandemic Diary, Entry #8

My Pandemic Diary, Entry #8

Hello Fellow City Cooks,

Today is the last day of March and it’s a cloudy, listless Tuesday.  We sure could use some sunshine, don’t you wish?  Even if we don’t go outside, it would sure be nice. 

Cooking and Groceries

I was up before dawn to do “a big shop.”  Aside from getting a couple of things from a favorite sidewalk produce vendor, I hadn’t bought groceries in nearly two weeks and it was time. I was up so early because my neighborhood market is open 24/7 and I planned to be there before 6:00 am.  I had done this before and was grateful for the stocked shelves and absence of other customers. This morning I don’t think there were five of us for the entire time I was in the store, although that was certain to quickly change once the sun rose.

In some ways I think of myself as a brave person. I am not a super hero, but there is much that I believe I can handle.  This may be delusional, but delusions are often useful and more than once I’ve found that a good fake can take you quite a distance. But not this morning. I was really rattled to be heading into a narrow-aisle Manhattan supermarket with a long shopping list. In my own version of a pandemic movie (which, by the way, I have never seen a pandemic movie), I have no mask so I wrapped a scarf over my lower face. I told my husband to not come with me; why should both of us be exposed?  Instead he handed me one of our only two pairs of latex gloves and waited outside on the sidewalk with our red grocery cart.

Even though I know the store’s layout, it took me over half an hour to fill my basket.  I think it took that long because I nervously kept second-guessing my choices and running menus through my head as I came upon new items that weren’t on my shopping list. Plus the aisles were often blocked by the staff restocking the shelves, leaving empty boxes and ladders along the way. I found nearly everything on my list except for cherry tomatoes, a bottle of Mr. Clean, and cream cheese.  I knew better than to look for hand sanitizer; there was none.  But there were lots of paper goods which I didn’t need to get and while the impulse to buy more was tempting, I wasn’t about to be a hoarder.

The lovely man who checked me out was gentle with every item, filling four big shopping bags to their tops.  Mark wheeled the grocery cart to the door, we transferred the bags to it, and walked five minutes to our building, not even noticing if the sun was yet up.  Once inside we peeled off our coats, latex gloves, shoes, and any clothing that I had worn that was exposed in the store.  Not really knowing what we were doing, we began by washing our hands, I washed my face, we transferred the bags to the kitchen where they were emptied item by item to the kitchen counter.  Most things were wiped with antiseptic cloths and moved to the refrigerator or freezer; the shelf-stable items were wiped and left on the counter which was also wiped down.  Twice.  I washed my hands again. And again. The grocery cart is still in the hallway, along with our coats and shoes.  I may not put them away until tomorrow.

I am exhausted.

But we now have enough food to eat well and happily for about two weeks.  This matters to me because I fear that these two weeks will be the most frightening and we will be comforted by staying away from the world.  If there was a time when I could use my ability to fake courage, this is it.

Tonight's Dinner

The last things I bought this morning were fresh fish and meats and as I headed to the cash register, I turned back and grabbed a lovely New York strip steak. It’s not the beauty that I would sometimes get at Whole Foods or at a specialty butcher like Hudson & Charles, but it looked like a treat and so that will be our dinner. I will lightly rub it with olive oil, salt it generously, and cook it in my cast iron skillet to medium rare (if you've never seen my piece about how to test a steak's doneness by touching it, here it is).

As our steak rests, I will assemble a modified Caesar salad. I don’t have croutons (I don’t have them yet; I’m baking bread this week so soon) but I do have anchovies, Dijon, garlic, and eggs so it will be close enough. 

Stay safe and have a nice dinner.

Kate McDonough




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