I retired from organized religion years ago, but remember all too well the dreariness of Lent, when good Catholics were expected to abstain from chocolate or wine or some other delectable indulgence. Ironically, for Lent this year, the Covid 19 pandemic compelled me to revert to being that “good Catholic” once more, for I had to abstain from a favorite indulgence: cooking dinner for friends.
Consequently, I have become obsessed with cooking dinner for family. Not just a meal, but dessert. Here is ourHoly Week of meals.
Apart from cooking, another source of solace in this time of social distancing is the view from my kitchen window. Some weeks ago, a pair of mourning doves decided to nest in the hanging planter of fuschias.
There will be no photos of Easter Sunday dinner, because even obsessive cooks need to take a day off.
After hearing horror stories about long lines of people storming Walmart to buy fabric for face masks, I decided to go shopping in my closet instead.
I donated my Victoria Secret bras after the company was disgraced by its association with Jeffrey Epstein and the #Metoo movement, but for some reason forgot to reattach their straps before giving them away! Serendipity must be the stepmother of invention, because I realized I could upcycle the straps as the base for face masks Dr. Fauci has advised everyone to wear.
If you have a strap with two panels like the one above, pull the two hooks together as though you wanted the strap to be as short as possible. Using a sharp knife or scissors, cut the seam between the two panels until they can open wide enough for the top panel to slip over your nose, and the bottom one, under you chin.
Any soft cloth will work for the mask itself – a handkerchief or a piece cut out of an old T-shirt. Since the neighborhood yoga studio is closed for the foreseeable future, I upcycled one of my Manduka headbands.
Fold the headband obliquely on itself so that it looks like a pair of parentheses lying down. Sew the outer edge of the top parenthesis to the bra strap’s top panel and the outer edge of the bottom parenthesis to the bottom panel. Stitch overlapping centers of the headband together.
If you’re using a handkerchief or T-shirt, ignore the parentheses bit and just stitch on enough fabric to cover your face. Extra points for ruching on either side of the mask.
If the mask is too tight, cut into the seams and pull the panels apart a little bit at a time until it fits comfortably over your ears without pulling on those eyebags.
Only a fool would refuse to use a face mask in this pandemic and I do not suffer fools gladly.
In other news, I did an interview last Friday on Chat And Spin Radio, a British talk show. You can listen to a recording of the full show at this link, or skip to minute 41 to catch my interview.
For the love of Bread, stay home! And we did, with the kindness of a virtual stranger. Yeast is as hard to find as hand sanitizers these days, but N. found several packets in an East Coast grocery and offered to send them out to her kneady friends. N. and I know each other through a private cooking FB group and I live on the other side of the country, but she refused to accept payment for the packets and postage. So I offered her a book instead.
The yeast arrived yesterday, and my daughter and I used one precious packet for our first attempt at Focaccia. I used Melissa Clark’s NYTimes recipe for Focaccia dough (sadly not allowed to share the link with non-subscribers).
A little over an hour later, the dough had risen impressively. Yay for N’s yeast!
I’m a Catholic school survivor. Though we spent a year in 12th grade Home Ec class learning how to sew with dress patterns and sewing machines, I still can’t machine sew to save my life. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
For this no-sew PPE, I borrowed my husband’s silk pocket square and snipped up a widowed sock for the ear loops. Wore it to the post office to mail off N’s book and felt like only half a dork.
Following our Dinner and a Movie routine, my daughter suggested The Shining. The premise seemed particularly apt for these quarantine times – – a family is isolated in a hotel by a snowstorm, just as we and thousands of other families are isolated in our home by a virus.
We could relate.
We warned her it would be scary but she insisted, and we made it through the first half. But when Jack Nicholson began to unravel and his son Danny showed up with strangle marks on his neck, Sofia switched over to The Great British Bake Off.
There’s only so much crazy we can deal with right now, and to be honest, I’d rather eat cake.
Yesterday I did an hour of Youtube Yoga, forgot what day it was, cooked this soup and shakshouka and forgot to bathe.Without the Monday – Friday routine of carpools and yoga classes, I’m beginning to feel like that matriarch in Downton Abbey.
As always, cooking forced me to focus, with delicious results,. We showed the tart off at the Zoom dinner party we hosted, then ate it it all ourselves as our guests watched.
I found eggs at Trader Joe’s for the first time today after a two week absence.
Why I love Trader Joe’s
We stood in line the way folks do for a hot new club or the best Sunday brunch place but spaced farther apart. One TJ employee ushered an old lady in a purple bathrobe to the front of the line. She was pushing what looked to be her own wheelchair that doubled as a grocery cart. Another TJ person manning the door offered to some hand sanitizer spray, explaining it smelled really good. (It did). I took a twelve pack of eggs and enough alcohol to cover this week’s virtual Happy Hour and dinner parties on Zoom.
Unaware that Mayor Faulconer had ordered the closure of all beaches, parks and boardwalks in San Diego yesterday, we took what turned out to be our last walk in Balboa Park this afternoon.
Unaware that Trader Joe’s has shortened its store hours , we arrived 45 minutes before it closed at 7 and stood in line with other last minute shoppers, as though it were the hottest new club or brunch spot. TJ store associates were unfailingly kind, and the woman manning the door offered a squirt of hand sanitizer to everyone she let through.
And finally, there were eggs! I bought the usual dozen, plus enough alcohol to get us through this week’s virtual dinner parties and Happy Hours on Zoom.
It took nearly two weeks and three groceries to assemble ingredients for Sunday dinner. One night, smoked ham hocks were all that remained in the meat section at Vons. I froze them and hoped. Several days later, collards showed up at the halal grocery I grabbed 5 bunches. The salmon came from a third store. Doing the groceries has turned into a scavenger hunt.
In all other respects, Covid-19 has slowed everything down. In place of the regular morning routine of carpool duties and yoga classes, I rise before 7 to disinfect kitchen counters, feed the cats and find some quiet time to write before the rest of the family gets going. Because now the three of us are in each other’s space all day, every day.