My Pandemic Diary, Entry #18

My Pandemic Diary, Entry #18

Hello Fellow City Cooks,

It’s Friday. Good Friday. Sunday is Easter, and like Passover, it is another holiday that reminds us that rebirth and better times are possible. As the national conversation begins to turn, prematurely or not, toward those better times coming back sooner rather than later, it’s tempting to fantasize that we’ll have a new national holiday called “open for business again,” when of course, that is not going to happen. Instead we are much more likely to have normal become something entirely different than it was before. We’re not going to suddenly snap back to where we left off.   

So what does that mean for right now when we don’t know where we are and how or when this will end?  How can we put limits on the relentless feelings of being threatened and the cravings for normalcy? I find myself constantly searching for that sweet spot between being in the moment, urgent and attentive every day to what is occurring in my city with my friends and neighbors being sick, and being in my life with a familiar daily routine. I’m not seeking some philosophical statement of how I should plan my days. No, I just want my days to be as good as possible, despite what is swirling around us. I want this moment, right now, to be precious and not lost or forgotten because there will be a time when today, this week, this Passover and Easter, will be our history and I don’t want to remember simply a blur of fear and cans of garbanzo beans.

I don’t have any great insights or solutions. There are the obvious things I’m trying to do, like set a regular schedule, perhaps one that mimics what your life was like before now. We can try to stay busy, and if we have time to spare, we can look for ways to help others, even if it’s from a distance. I've been heartened to read how much civic activity has surged. We can donate time or money to causes in our community because everyone needs help right now. Or every day we can call two people who live alone or who maybe are parents overwhelmed by home-schooling and could use the break to talk about something -- anything -- that isn’t Covid-19-related. Helping is not only noble but it will also pull our focus back to what we are accomplishing rather than reacting to the latest news which can be toxic, and who needs that right now.

I was struck by something that Vanessa Friedman wrote in The Times about the sartorial choices being made by our crisis authorities like Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx and Governor Cuomo, pointing out how Governor Cuomo wears a tie and jacket during the week but becomes tie-less on the weekend, a small but notable message about his work ethic and how he is there for us even on a tie-less Saturday.

I don’t have a comparable wardrobe choice to make. I spend most of my days in yoga pants and Vince tee-shirts just as I did in the time before Covid and have no tie-equivalent to set aside. I had already decided to treat Saturday as a time for most of my housework, like vacuuming and mopping the floors, and I reserve a big block of time on Sunday to read. And Mark and I sit down for dinner at 7:30 most nights and our walks together are always first thing in the morning. Those things help.

However, like you, I still have many days when I awake and think this is a bad dream and I’m at a loss as to how to take that first step.  But we do.

Cooking and Groceries

My refrigerator is almost empty and my freezer has been thinned out. I’m a little anxious about that but my grocery list is done, and I’m shopping tomorrow.  I’ve carved my list into seven categories that fit the layout of my neighborhood grocery store: produce, dairy, cheese (I know, similar, but in my store, cheese and dairy aren’t together), meat/fish, deli, dry (like pasta or tea), and household/non-food (like soap and paper goods).  I’m going to shop tomorrow morning as I did two weeks ago and will get to the store before 6:00 am when it is empty of other customers and the staff is restocking the shelves.

Tonight’s dinner will be a bowl of minestrone soup which I’m making this afternoon using up most of the vegetables still on hand and using the same Marcella Hazan recipe I used a couple of weeks ago, which I love for its flexibility.  After making the soup, all I will have left in my fridge will be some carrots, a couple of lemons, and a head of cauliflower. In addition to tonight’s soup we’ll have chicken sausages, the last from my freezer that I had bought at Whole Foods a few months, made with fresh chicken which always tastes better than the pre-cooked kind. 

I’m really hoping that when I’m shopping tomorrow that my grocer will have some hams available so that I can make a traditional Easter dinner, plus have leftovers.  It's a small but nice thing to wish for. 

Stay safe and have a nice dinner.

Kate McDonough

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