My Pandemic Diary, Entry #46

My Pandemic Diary, Entry #46

Hello Fellow City Cooks,

It’s Friday but it seems like any day, or at least that’s how I felt on this gray morning. I thought I was feeling fine but as Mark and I headed out for a long walk, I was having trouble with the bandana that I had decided to tie over my face instead of wearing my deteriorating mask. While on the elevator heading to the lobby, the bandana slipped and I couldn’t get it back into place. And I started to cry. It wasn’t the first time I’ve abruptly cried since all this started and I fear it won’t be the last. I’m not surprised when it happens. I think I’m only surprised that I don’t cry more often.

We headed back upstairs so I could finish crying and dry off. Then I replaced the bandana with my grungy mask, washed my hands again, and we made a new start on our walk, knowing that getting into the fresh air and moving faster than you can in an apartment would be good for us. I still feel the memory of the crying but I’m okay and my fake-tough-self decided to make this day something good to remember, even if all I do is write this diary and call a friend.

Cooking and Groceries

Yesterday while making dinner I listened to the YouTube happy hour that The Times’ Sam Sifton and Kim Severson did. It only lasted about 45 minutes – I guess it was a happy three-quarter-hour. Besides being disappointed by its brevity, I thought it was surprisingly dull. Kim dominated the conversation and spoke mostly about herself. Sam took a few questions from the gazillion of those posed by fans posting live during the chat, but most of what the two of them talked about were restaurants. Given that the two of them are part of The Times’ cooking pages and that this chat was hosted by The Times’ cooking channel at YouTube, I absolutely thought they’d be pitching pantry and recipe ideas, giving tips for using cooking as therapy and family events, sharing data about which recipes at the NYT cooking app were the most popular or are showing regional preferences (websites can produce a huge amount of illuminating data), giving advice, and cheering us on. Instead we heard about Kim’s experiences with AA while staying home (not uninteresting but a major detour) and her going to a restaurant in Georgia where she was the only one wearing a mask. I thought the happy hour would be fun and it wasn’t. Maybe they’ll try again. I think the ever-enthusiastic Melissa Clark might make a better conversationalist.

But I remain a Sam Sifton fan and deeply admire what he and his team have done to create NYT Cooking, plus I love his wide and deep range of interests, as when he adds asides about books or articles to read, music to hear, and places to visit. To me he always displays his humanity, with cooking as one way to express it. I saw that aspect of him in his Times’ Magazine essay, “How Cooking Dinner Can Change Your Life,” published in mid-February before we were all sent home. It’s about cooking for, and eating with, others. In case you missed it, or want to re-read it through the lens of today’s conditions, here’s a link. It includes a recipe for Beef Stroganoff, which sounds like a perfect dish to make tomorrow, for a special Saturday night dinner.

Less fancy than Beef Stroganoff, last night’s dinner was a favorite combo that’s always in rotation. I made big, juicy cheeseburgers, using a half-pound of ground beef I bought this week at Whole Foods, plus slices of their 365 extra sharp cheddar. I also had some rather good English cheddar available to use, but Mark correctly recommended that we save that for snacking. Besides, the 365 extra sharp cheddar melts really nicely. I’ve described before how I cook my burgers but a quick recap: form large, generally 8 oz. patties from beef I take out of the fridge a half-hour before planning to cook it. Salt and pepper them aggressively, and cook in a very lightly oiled hot cast iron pan, about three minutes on side one, flip, and place the cheese on top and cook for another four minutes. Perfect.

To go with the burgers, I made one of my usual big mixed green salads, which I don’t vary very often as we both love the combo of romaine, radicchio, thinly sliced red onion, and vinaigrette. But last night I added some bacon lardons and a handful of the croutons I’d made from my rye bread, saving the rest for the chicken I wrote about in yesterday’s diary that I’ll make either Sunday or Monday night.

If you’re wondering why I’ve included a photo of asparagus with this diary, it’s of the ones I served as part of Mark’s birthday dinner earlier this week. I just liked the photo, with the green stalks and its blue and white dish. Burgers are tricky to photograph and make appealing, so I’m giving you asparagus instead.

I’ll close with another YouTube recommendation, although this one I’ve already watched and can actually vouch for. While it has nothing to do with food or cooking, if you’re a Judy Dench fan, and who isn’t, you may like this tribute to her June 2020 British Vogue cover, making her the oldest person to have done so, although that seems like a banal technicality for how perfect she is for her cover girl role. In the video, eighteen celebrities, including Daniel Craig, Stormzy, Kate Moss, and fifteen others, get to ask Dame Judy questions and she’s able to take even the most fawning query and show her charm and wit.

Bon weekend!

Stay safe and have a nice dinner.

Kate McDonough

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