My Pandemic Diary, Entry #67
Hello Fellow City Cooks,
It’s an overcast Friday and the end of another week at home. It’s due to hit 80 degrees today plus it’s possible we’ll get a thunderstorm or two late this afternoon so it has started to feel like summer.
The photo I took for today’s diary is of a bowl filled with what I call our pandemic gear – primarily masks and gloves. The bowl is a much-loved piece of pottery that I bought eons ago at a little dusty shop, now long gone, in the Village, pre-the Marc Jacobs et al. invasion that in my and others’ view, nearly ruined that once magical NYC neighborhood. That’s another discussion.
Before our world changed, not by Marc Jacobs but by Covid-19, I always kept this large olive-green bowl, with its gorgeous matte glaze, in the center of our dining table. I always kept it empty because I thought that by denying the bowl its utility, it showcased its simple grace. But needs change and suddenly it was the perfect place to gather the items we now must quickly grab.
Besides our bowl of gloves and masks, I also keep a container of anti-bacterial wipes in the foyer and another in the kitchen. We use the wipes judiciously because they’re a precious household item that we literally can’t live without. But gradually I’ve come to appreciate that having things like wipes and anti-bacterial soap is actually no different than keeping other necessities on hand, like laundry detergent, dish soap, toilet paper, and towels. Sure, there’s more importance given to anything that says it’s anti-bacterial, but as we slowly move into a new normal, I think it will benefit our mental health if we don’t look upon a plastic canister of Clorox wipes as the ultimate antidote. Instead have them, use them, share them, and keep them accessible but don’t give them their own authority. That belongs to us. The wipes don’t save us; we save ourselves by being smart and cautious.
Even though it may be a while before we again serve meals at our dining table, I’ve decided to release my pottery bowl from its pandemic duty by transferring the gloves and masks to a pretty basket to keep in the foyer, near our front door because all these arrangements are no longer temporary; this is now how we live.
I’m still on the hunt for the basket; it’s fun to have something non-survival to shop for. I’m also looking for a second, larger basket to hold Mark’s and my exercise equipment, so to keep it all together but also within easy reach since working out at home, instead of going to the gym, is already another new normal.
I admit that what I’m attempting to do is play a trick on my mind. That if I adapt in some small and almost cosmetic ways to our new circumstances instead of railing against them, it will help get rid of the drumbeat of feeling denied. If every day I repeatedly walk past my dining table and see a bowl filled with latex gloves and masks, it’s like getting constant needle-prick reminders of the dangers we face and that, in turn, feeds my anxiety. I’m betting that by moving the gear to a handsome basket near the front door, just as we always do during winter months with our scarves and hats, or with our stand filled with umbrellas, it will remove the taunt but keep the utility. I’m trying to make it normal because to not do so, is pointless and as Governor Cuomo says, "don't go back, go forward."
Cooking and Groceries
Last night’s dinner was beef burgers topped with a little sharp cheddar and a fennel, red pepper, orange, and black olive salad that I discovered in a recent issue of Milk Street that was served on a schmear of yogurt and dressed with an amazing harissa/lemon juice/orange zest/olive oil dressing. The brightness of the crispy salad contrasted perfectly with the richness of the ground beef.
You need to be a subscriber to see the full recipe at Milk Street, but I described it in more detail in my diary’s entry #58.
I’m still figuring out what to cook this weekend because it depends on how warm the weather is. We don’t yet have our window air conditioners installed for the summer and if it’s over 80 degrees, I won’t want to have the oven on for very long. But on the short list are a pork tenderloin cooked with roasted pears and blue cheese, chicken fricassee with artichokes, and cod teriyaki. I also have to replenish our supply of romaine lettuce because we’ve been eating so many salads, I’m down to only two hearts and that won’t be enough for the weekend.
And a recipe resource I’ve been meaning to share is the website for Garden & Gun magazine. If you’re not familiar with it, this is a fascinating and beautifully produced bi-monthly publication that is all about America’s south and its cultural heritage, traditions, and modern expressions – in food, music, architecture, gardens, design, spirits, sporting, dogs, travel, literature, conservation, culture, and more. The “gun” part of its name refers to the tradition of hunting in the south. It’s a testimony to the magazine’s quality and engagement that has allowed it to launch in 2007 and then thrive at a time with most other print media are struggling or failing.
Anyway, I love their articles about food and cooking and right now they are featuring recipes from a new cookbook by Suzanne Vizethann called Welcome to Buttermilk Kitchen. In this link you’ll find her method for making butter in a mason jar which could be a great project to do with kids. But I’m drawn to Vizethann’s recipe for red pepper jelly, a neglected and over-looked condiment (or confiture, as the French call jam, such a nicer word, I think) that can be served with pimento cheese, poured over cream cheese and spread on crackers, or used to glaze pork or poultry (it’s my favorite glaze for a roast ham). I think I may need to order some apple pectin.
A reminder that tonight at 7:00 pm, the Bloomingdale School of Music is streaming a live concert of Beethoven piano sonatas played by two of the school’s esteemed faculty, Roberto Hidalgo (my amazing piano teacher) and Monica Verona.
The concert is free and is part of Bloomingdale’s tribute to Beethoven 250th birthday year. You can register for the concert here.
Stay safe and have a nice dinner.