My Pandemic Diary, Entry #29

Ham for Dinner, day two

My Pandemic Diary, Entry #29

Hello Fellow City Cooks,

Today is a busy Tuesday. Mark and I are back from our walk which we took early this morning as this afternoon we’re supposed to have thunderstorms.

I’ve got my Zoom French lesson late this afternoon. One of my assignments for today was to write a brief essay about Jonas Salk. I think my teacher got the topic from my last lesson when I used Salk’s invention of the polio vaccine as an example of the passive voice, as in “The polio vaccine was discovered by Jonas Salk. Le vaccin contre la polio a été décourvert par Jonas Salk.”

I will spare you my complete essay, however, while reading about Dr. Salk, one sobering fact I learned is that he worked for seven years on his polio vaccine. Seven years. Prior to then, the polio virus had terrorized and terrified the world, especially children, for far longer than those seven years, until the day in 1955 when Dr. Salk was hailed as a “miracle worker.” This infectious disease had been around for millennia but major polio outbreaks occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries, stopped (mostly, but not completely – there are still occasional cases in areas where vaccines are not deployed) with Salk’s, and later Albert Sabin’s vaccines.

No one is saying a Covid-19 vaccine will take seven years but it’s a reminder that invention and solutions can take time and we may need to be more patient than we’ve recently been accustomed to being. Adding to his being a fascinating man, I also read that Dr. Salk’s second wife was French artist Françoise Gilot, who had had a long and tumultuous relationship with Picasso. Today she is 98 and is said to live in New York and Paris. Here is her website.   

Reading about both Salk and Gilot reminded me how history can be such a comfort. We may not always learn the right lessons from history, but it proves that at those times when our leaders may be without courage or selflessness, that others with tenacity and mettle will step forward or dig in or inspire us. Dr. Salk was like that. His celebrity could have let him just be famous for the rest of his life but instead, his last years were spent in pursuit of a vaccine for HIV. I’m sure that today in labs around the world there are other “miracle workers” like Salk and one of them will figure this Covid thing out.

Until then, it’s our job to stay safe, wear our damn masks, and get through this with as much grace as possible.

Cooking and Groceries

Dinner last night was meatballs in tomato sauce that I had made a week ago and a large pan of broccoli rabe, braised in a little olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. No pasta for Mark; a small amount for me (pasta is my crack). I have all that ham in the refrigerator but we decided to pace that out so that it’s still a treat to eat instead of a frugal chore. I’ve got ideas for what to do with it over the next week or so; for example, I’m going to make pea soup, using the beautiful ham bone that is the bonus from any bone-in ham. But tonight we’re being simple and we will have slices of ham served with grainy mustard, pickles, bread, a big salad and I’ll add a piece of cheese to the table. I think I have a last wedge of manchego which will be nice.

I really miss Zabar’s cheese department. I know the store is open but its narrow aisles are too crowded for me. This is going on my list of what I’ll do when the normal returns as number four: go to Zabar’s cheese department and buy French feta, a wedge of Cashel Blue, Le Tur sheep/goat/cow from Piedmonte, and a good aged pecorino.

I don’t have kids at home but here’s a candid and constructive article written for Epicurious by a food writer who lives in a “tiny” San Francisco apartment with two kids, 8 and 6, and her lessons for trying to feed a family.  I thought much of her advice was really smart.

Finally, for adults and kids alike, and pasta lovers everywhere, here’s a Ted Talk that my husband found that’s about the daunting and uniquely Italian world of pasta shapes. Paola Antonelli, a senior curator at the Museum of Modern Art, answers the question, why does pasta come in all its shapes and sizes? It’s a short talk – only 3:24 minutes – and I think that after watching it, you’ll be even more likely to agree with the axiom, “don’t trust anyone who doesn’t eat pasta.”

Stay safe and have a nice dinner.

Kate McDonough



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