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.
Welcome to my blog within a blog, which combines the need to write with the compulsion to procrasti-bake/cook in times of stress.
Saturday brunch was Quail Eggs in a Hole with home cured lox and home-baked whole wheat bread. As expected, brunch looked adorable.
To crack open a quail egg, click on this link. I skipped the pouring into the ramekin part and poured them directly into the hole.
Eggs, regular flour and bread are nowhere to be found, so I made do with what was available – egg-free whole wheat bread. And because the xenophobe in the White House loves to talk smack about the Chinese Virus, the Asian groceries are relatively empty and salmon is more abundant than hand sanitizer. However bad things sound, you can still scavenge for food amid scarcity. Here’s how:
Comfort food for a cold rainy day. Ground pork cradled in rice noodles, basil and spinach, immersed in a ginger, garlic, onion broth.
Though goat meat is readily available at the neighborhood grocery, I prefer to use lamb shanks and put everything in the slow cooker soon after lunch. By dinnertime, our house smells like a Filipino home.
Our cats ignored the memo on social distancing. Happy Hour means nothing to them.
Lesley’s much anticipated 70th birthday party was canceled three days before it was set to take place. A hundred guests were flying in from out of state and from out of the country, and ten of us had volunteered to make cakes. But after Covid 19 reared its ugly crowned head, she thought better of putting herself and her guests at risk and called off the celebration.
Suddenly our weekend seemed bleak. But after spending a week in Texas, I was determined to see some friends before Covid 19 laid waste to our social life. Max and Consuelo came to dinner on Friday the 13th, for what now looks to be the last dinner party I’ll be hosting for the foreseeable future.
We buy most of our fresh produce and proteins at the local Vinh Hung in City Heights (recently renamed Little Saigon) and at North Park Produce, the halal grocery so I had no idea that folks had been emptying the shelves at Trader Joe’s and Ralphs.
Perhaps the sole advantage to having a xenophobe in the White House who’s decided to call the Corona Virus the “Chinese Virus” is that Asian groceries are relatively empty of shoppers. But even they have run out of flour.
San Antonio or Bust
By the time San Antonio’s mayor declared a state of emergency over the Covid 19 pandemic last March 2, it was too late to get a refund on our Airbnb rental. I was traveling to that city with a lawyer, a poet and ajournalist to speak on a panel at the AWP Conference & Book Fair, an annual event that draws thousands of writers, editors, publishers, and booksellers.
I’d seen much chatter on social media about the pros and cons of attending the conference, but since none of the other speakers on my panel voiced concerns about falling ill, and because three of us had already paid for our Airbnb rental, we decided to take our chances.Armed with three packets of travel wipes and a travel sized bottle of hand sanitizer, I met the Anne, Carolyne and Ari at the San Diego Airport for our early morning flight.
After wiping down mytray table, arm rests, and seatbelt buckles, I settled in for what I assumed would be a routine flight. As our plane approached San Antonio, we were rocked by five minutes of the worst turbulence I’d experienced in recent memory. Fearing we would crash, I began making nervous chitchat with the beardedmanin the window seat. Robbie was attending the same conference, was the nonfiction editor for The Rumpus. I made a mental note to pitch him a story idea, if we survived this flight.When the plane finally landed with a teeth-jarring thud, I was actually relieved to arrive in a city gripped by the pandemic.
The exhibition hall at Henry B. Gonzalez Convention looked twice as cavernous for its rows of unoccupied booths. Out of the 11,000 expected participants, about 5,000 had canceled.
Nearly all of the panels I’d planned to attendwere cancelled, giving me more time to walk down each depleted aisle and to chat with indie book sellers and editors. Slower foot traffic meant less FOMO.We greeted each other withjazz hands and thanked each other for showing up. Each time I picked up a pen to sign up for their newsletter, they insisted I take it with me.I collected many pens.
On the morning of our panel, both meeting rooms on either side of ours were deserted.I worried no one would come to ours, because despite its provocative title He Done Her Wrong: The Redemptive Value of Reframing Violence in Story — did anyone want to hear about domestic violence when the Corona virus was dominatingthe news? To our surprise, the room filled up.
Perhaps this was because ours was among the few panels still available to attend. I prefer to think people came to listen because domestic violenceposes the more immediate existential threat than does this new, incurable disease.
I began by explaining how aday job interpretingfor domestic violence survivors inspired me to write The Mango Bride. Anne the immigration lawyer, laid out the basics of the Violence Against Women Act and the U visa. Carolynethe Kenyan poet, led a call and response session before reading a piece she’d written about the American dream. Ari the journalist,recalled how as a child in embattled Tehran,she would siton the roof with her family andwatch missiles light up the sky. She described people on the streetsand those on the rooftops calling outlines of poetry to each other, usingRumi’s verses to dispel their shared fear of impending death.
To put things in perspective, folks have a far greater risk of dying from intimate partner violence, mass shootings, car accidents, and plane crashes than from Covid 19. The bottom line? Life itself is a risk, and I’m going all in for mine.