My Pandemic Diary, Entry #17

My Pandemic Diary, Entry #17

Hello Fellow City Cooks,

It’s a gray Thursday and thunderstorms are forecasted for this afternoon. Earlier this morning and before the rain, Mark and I took a long walk. About 7,400 steps at a brisk pace walking in the park, which was exquisite for its flowering trees, daffodils, and orange tulips. But aside from a couple of runners and dog walkers, there were no people. New York is having one of its most beautiful springs in years and no one is seeing it. I’m guessing that if this afternoon's storms are rough enough, all those fuchsia and white petals we saw this morning will be like confetti grounded after a parade.

I got back to face a busy day. I’m trying to finish a strategic grocery shopping list because we’re running low on everything and I will do another pre-dawn shop in the next day or two. I have a bowl of no-knead bread dough rising to bake in a couple of hours. I have paperwork to finish, emails to answer, various other work things to do, and this diary to write. And laundry. There is always laundry. Some household tasks I enjoy. Laundry is not one of them.  But why is there always so much of it?  There’s only two of us. 

I mentioned this to my girlfriend Karin in New Orleans with whom I often correspond and she joined my complaint: “WHAT THE HELL IS IT WITH LAUNDRY? [her yelling caps, not mine].  Same number of people in the household, and it’s not as though we’re doing so much strenuous work. In fact, fewer gym clothes to wash. So what’s the deal? I know we use two fresh dish clothes a day, and sometimes a third because of so much hand washing. But that’s not what creates a new load!”

Whew, I felt better after reading that.  It’s not just me.  Maybe we should have hoarded laundry detergent instead of toilet paper.

Cooking and Groceries

Last night’s dinner was a bit of this and that put together from what I could find in my freezer and refrigerator, but it became a nice meal. I had two small bunches of asparagus which I simmered until tender and finished with a little evoo. I sautéed four Esposito Italian sausages; that took nearly 20 minutes because I cook them slowly so that they’re well done but not wrecked by too much heat. And I used up a small container of duck fat that I had saved from the last time I made duck breasts (duck fat lasts a really long time refrigerated; even longer if frozen) by using it to fry my last three Yukon Gold potatoes which I had sliced and patted dry before slipping into the hot fat to fry.

I scattered two minced garlic cloves and some chopped parsley on top of the slices once they were browned and crisped, turning them into Pommes de Terre Sarladaises.  A little French to go with the Italian sausages and California asparagus. Here’s a recipe from Serious Eats that uses ghee instead of duck fat; it cooks the garlic with the potatoes but I like it added raw at the finish.  Here’s a more classic version from Epicurious.   

Tonight’s dinner is going to be another this-and-that. I’m defrosting small pieces of cod and tilapia and have my last bag of romaine hearts and head of radicchio.  I’ll figure something out but it’s clearly time to get to the grocery store.

Pandemic Tips

I love podcasts.  I love their form because they remind me of what radio once was. I started my career working in radio as a college student. I needed a part-time job and I became a go-for and eventually an associate producer at WBUR in Boston which eventually led to other things. But that job made me appreciate what your imagination can create when you hear only voices and a story.

Podcasts can do that.  I know that lots of them are just people talking about some subject and I like many of them, too.  But there are others that are more compelling, as if you’re listening to a great novel. I recently discovered one like that called Cautionary Tales. It’s hosted by Tim Harford, a British author and journalist who calls himself The Undercover Economist, working also for The Financial Times and BBC. 

Here's how Cautionary Tales describes itself:  “[It] brings you true stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, daring heists and hilarious fiascos…. [It] relates a true story of a time when something did not go according to plan.  Some of these stories are tragic. Some are comic….”  Sounds just perfect for right now, don’t you think?  And it’s an engrossing alternative to the news.

Harford produces his podcasts in the genre of classic BBC radio productions, with sound effects, music, and actors including some great voices, like actor Alan Cumming. There’s more information here at Harford’s website and you can find Cautionary Tales wherever you get your podcasts.

Stay safe and have a nice dinner.

Kate McDonough




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