My Pandemic Diary, Entry #68
Hello Fellow City Cooks,
It’s a sunny Saturday in Manhattan, in the high 70’s with lots of blue sky and sheer clouds.
I’m hoping tomorrow will be just as beautiful because I’m taking the day off to have another break. I have no plans, although I’ve been anticipating more what will happen as NYC begins to open. Governor Cuomo said it could be as early as June 8. Ten days from now. I doubt there’s anything I need to do to get ready, except perhaps be observant and patient. I’ve never been an early adopter; I’ve found there are benefits to not always being first, such as saving myself from some bugged computer upgrades, shoe fads, and bad haircuts. So I plan to decline being in the first wave of Covid re-entry. Let’s wait and see what happens.
In the meantime, Mark and I are trying to live in this new normal and taking care of domestic business, like the big job we did this morning to really scrub our apartment. Today that included cleaning the oven which must be the worst of all household tasks, certainly for someone like me who aggressively uses her stove. I have a regular four-burner gas stove but because we live in an older building, there isn’t enough electric power to support a self-cleaning one so it’s me and a can of Easy-Off.
I’ve also started a list of things to take care of during the summer months when it will be easier to get things done. In anticipation of needing to stay home again come the fall, I keep a piece of paper on my desk to easily jot down anything that either made our at-home life easier during these ten weeks or else that I wish we had had. And then, in July and August, when I expect shopping will be easier, as will access to expert help, we’ll get ready.
Here are some of the things on my list so far:
- It was really helpful that we had some cash and postage stamps on hand. While banks were open by appointment, ATMs, at least in our neighborhood, were not always accessible and if, for example, we wanted to buy fruits and vegetables from our sidewalk vendor, we needed cash. Likewise, it was great to be able to spontaneously send mail or packages without having to go to the post office.
- We love our Soda Stream seltzer machine but until now only had one CO2 cartridge and being home more meant more trips to the hardware store for refills. So we’ll get a second one.
- Flu shots will be more important than ever this fall. On my list is to check with my doctor in August to find out how early we’ll be able to get the next season’s inoculation.
- Stationery supplies, like Scotch tape, masking tape, Sharpie's, note pads, glue.
- Stocking and maintaining our pantries became a far more dynamic process and for many, it changed how we cook. I’m going to do a reassessment of my pantry hoping that will help me replenish it intelligently. Without knowing it would be useful, I saved all the grocery shopping lists from this entire quarantine and I think I can use them to figure out which items were refilled and replaced, and what had I over-bought at the outset. For example, I learned I bought too much peanut butter. But I repeatedly re-stocked tuna, anchovies, pasta, and olive oil.
Cooking and Groceries
Last night’s dinner was gorgeous asparagus, boiled for four minutes until just tender, and then dressed only with a little of my best olive oil and salt, plus a lovely piece of cod that I had had in the freezer (cod freezes really well) that I cooked using a delicious new recipe from Rika Yukimasa’s new book, Rika’s Modern Japanese Home Cooking, which I’ve mentioned before, including with more detail in my diary entry #53.
Her Teriyaki Fish recipe, which she says works with tuna, halibut, mahi-mahi, salmon, scallops, or swordfish, as well as cod, includes a wonderful and versatile teriyaki sauce and a really simple method for cooking and glazing the fish with the sauce. The sauce has only four ingredients: mirin (2 tablespoons), soy sauce (2 tablespoons), cooking sake or dry vermouth (I used sake; 2 tablespoons), and sugar (1 tablespoon). Mix until the sugar dissolves, pour the marinade over the fish in a shallow bowl and marinate for five minutes, then cook the fish at a medium heat in a tiny bit of vegetable oil, about 1 minute a side, and then pour the remaining marinade over the fish and cook for two more minutes. It was fabulous and absolutely will now frequently be a new way for me to cook cod, a fish we have often.
I’m not a sake drinker and I’ve never known what kind to buy for cooking. But in her book, Rika says that while there is very fine and expensive sake for drinking, for cooking we should buy whatever is the cheapest. The bottle I bought, its beautiful label photographed with this article, cost $6.95 at our local wine shop and it worked perfectly.
I won’t be back until Monday and while I often raise a virtual glass to it being Saturday night, I won’t do that today. Because millions of us fear it will not be a safe night. With so many of our friends, families and neighbors still sick and struggling from the virus, we now have the pain of George Floyd’s death and its consequences. There are troubles in our wounded country as we seek answers and solutions to the centuries-old injustice of racism.
I wanted to leave you with some words from W.B. Yeats who more than a century ago, was also aching for ways to escape the agonies we can foist on one another.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
Stay safe and have a nice dinner.