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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Happy Monday! This morning I was browsing the news online when I came across this article: “A Home Built for the Next Pandemic,” by Tressie Cottom. Future homes will be built differently, like Tomorrow Land.

The overriding consensus is that the pandemic has revealed that many consumers view the pandemic not as a one-off, but as a harbinger: They will need to work from home in the future. Not all workers have the luxury of working from home, of course. But for knowledge workers, the ability to participate in the economy will be conditioned upon their ability to be productive while working from their own houses. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/15/opinion/covid-home-concept.html?smid=tw-nytopinion&smtyp=cur

Cue single mom working from home while trying to manage home schooling for her children.

In a nutshell, Cottom points out that these new Covid Concept builders are harkening back to the early paternalistic Twentieth Century, and handing out the task of cooking and childrearing and schooling in these post-feminist years to guess who – the WOMEN. A kitchen sits right in the middle of the home with her office adjacent, there’s a remote learning room for homeschoolers. And all I ever wanted was a Mud Room!

Grandma Ada had an office right outside her kitchen. She even had a greenhouse next to the garage! But remember that was the 1960s.

Today Bob and I are still in this ridiculous real estate market, and every night I’m watching Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood’s prescient dystopian nightmare about a society that slowly slips into a religious autocracy. Sometimes I wonder why I’m tuned into Gilead, a fictional Christian American country, NOW? The book has always been a top 5 for me, but a film is no longer escapist fantasy when it flirts with real life.

In Texas, women have lost their human rights, and I’m sure most southern states will follow. SCOTUS is at a tipping point.

June aka “Offred” is the Handmaid, and it is her duty to bear a child for the commander of the household. Therefore she lives a vivid inner life with lots of close-ups, and once a month she is raped in a ritualized way. I know, it’s more, much more than that with plenty of sub-plots, and snow. Women collectively named “Martha” man each kitchen, apparently men are not chefs in this world; the Marthas trade spices like nuclear secrets.

Speaking of secrets, I love how Zillow democratized real estate, still in Nashville it helps to have an agent. What should an empty nest house look like, how big a kitchen do we really need? Do I still need a room of my own? Bob thinks my notifications are driving me bonkers and he might be right!

Atwood’s feminist masterpiece is keeping me up nights. She named the commander’s wife Serena Joy! Shakespeare couldn’t have done it better. Serena is the head of the household; she is smart, too smart. We see her working on seedlings in a greenhouse, while June stays in her spartan bedroom. But then, she and June begin working together, drafting better policies for the women of Gilead. When the commander returns home after a prolonged hospital stay, Serena appears in his huge wood-paneled office to welcome him home. He beckons her to him with his outstretched hand,…

… and leads Serena Joy right out the door of his office, shutting her forever outside his power and influence.

It’s against my better nature to think negatively, to believe that our post-pandemic life will seem smaller, diminished. Ada would have told me, “We’re all in transition.” The reality is we’re not getting any younger. The “sell by” date on our knees is the same. But I’m determined to have a bigger office!

Ada teaching me to make matzoh balls in my SLUTS tee
“Southern Ladies Under Tremendous Stress”

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Congratulations to this year’s Nobel Prize winners in Medicine for their work on sensory awareness.

In a year dominated by a worldwide pandemic, where the one and only thing I wanted was to hug my grandchildren again, we now know how our neurotransmitters relay the touch of a loved one to our brains! Ironic, don’t you think.

“David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, from the US, share the 2021 prize in Medicine or Physiology for their work on sensing touch and temperature…. (the latter’s) experiments led to the discovery of a different type of receptor that was activated in response to mechanical force or touch. When you walk along a beach and feel the sand under your feet – it is these receptors that are sending signals to the brain.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-58787438

While Patapoutian was discovering a touch receptor that factors into our body’s ability to sense it’s time to urinate among other things, Julius was working on sensing the burning heat of a chili pepper. The hot culprit is the chemical capsaicin.

Last week I tried out a new recipe for Mexican street corn. I happened to have a pablano chili pepper which is probably the most mild pepper around. I like to chop one into my turkey vegetable chili, but this time I roasted the pepper before adding it to the corn – and I didn’t take the skin off. Even without the seeds, this almost bland chili transformed itself, adding quite a lot of heat. Bob loved it.

I know, you’re probably thinking “Big Deal.” So science is again just telling us what we already know – it hurts to slip and fall on the deck and never order Nashville’s hot chicken. But we didn’t actually know what these touch and heat receptors were, connected to our brains, and now that they have been identified there are profound implications.

Like treating chronic pain, for example.

Every now and then my foster mother Nell would yell, “You’re a pain in the neck!” Of course, I was usually doing something she disapproved of, but today it seems like a prophesy. My doctor recently told me I have severe cervical arthritis. Not to brag, or become one of those seniors who harps on their infirmities, sometimes I would like to have someone shoot a large needle of novacaine in my trapezius.

But what if my neck didn’t send a shot of pain to my brain whenever I move it a certain way? What if, as we age, and as we shrink, and our spinal cartilage collapses, our brain still thinks we’re 35? Or maybe 50!

The broad implications of treating addiction in the future are exciting. Less suffering in the world is a good thing. I may even start cooking with jalapeno peppers! Depending on the outcome of the two bills hovering around Congress, and the start of a new SCOTUS season filled with challenges to Roe and guns, this scientific breakthrough – about touch and heat – should give us hope for a better future.

Mexican street corn

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If you’re married to a farmer like Bob, you must be knee deep in zucchini and tomatoes about now.

Or maybe you have the green thumb? My side of our city farmhouse has all the herbs and flowers; Bob’s in charge of the raised vegetable bed on the south corner. Every morning he deposits a montage of home-grown peppers, onions, tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini on our kitchen island, and every afternoon I stand staring at the stove wondering, “What in God’s name can I do with all this bounty?”

So, like any good 21st Century farmwife, I boot up Pinterest!

After a major lull in my Pinterest activity, this pandemic has found me gazing at Pinterest boards full of building projects, hairstyles for women over 60 (I wonder how they know I’m over 60? (wink), vacations to faraway places, beach houses, and of course food!

I love following famous chefs like, Eric Ripert and Ina Garten, to see what they have cooking. In the spring, I discovered a very simple, summer vegetable dish called TIAN…how is that in all my years of semi-French cooking, I’d never actually made a Tian?

The name simply refers to an oval or round, deep earthenware pie dish that is filled with overlapping vegetables.

My first attempt was to slice tomatoes and zucchini of about the same size, and arrange them in concentric circles of green and red over a bed of onions. Here’s the trick, you must first caramelize the onions. This was new to me, cooking onions until they are brown, sugary and almost burnt. I was skeptical at first, but I added a dab of Irish butter at the end and they were delicious. This week, I broke out the madeleine and sliced up some zucchini, and potatoes to add to the tomatoes in my carousel of vegetables above onions and it was divine!

Here is Eric Ripert’s Zucchini Tian:

https://www.today.com/video/eric-ripert-makes-a-delicious-vegetarian-dish-for-earth-week-110579781927

In my never-ending search for a recipe other than zucchini bread, I came across the TART. Not to be confused with the TARTINE – which is simply an open-faced sandwich – the tart is the queen of the bunch. Imagine a savory pie. If you believe that anything tastes better with cheese and a pie crust, you will love the tart. I’ve made my share of tarts in the past, and I must admit I usually cheat and buy the ready-made pie crusts, but if you need a pretty buffet dish to bring to a picnic this is it.

Here is Ina Garten’s Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tart:

https://barefootcontessa.com/recipes/zucchini-goat-cheese-tart

Last but not least we have the TORTE, from Italy. This is the more complicated recipe since all the vegetables are cooked or roasted before they are layered in your baking dish. I usually will make this in the winter with root vegetables, but I don’t see why we can’t use what’s coming up in the garden. I like to use a loaf pan, pressing every layer down flat, and then serve my vegetable torte sliced like big slabs of bread. I would poach the torte in a water bath in the oven to make it easily removable. This recipe uses zucchini, eggplant and mushrooms baked in a spring form pan to perfection.

Here is the NYTimes Cooking Torte:

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1013213-layered-vegetable-torte

Since it is supposed to reach 100 degrees this week in Nashville, you may want to try baking your vegetable casseroles in the morning; they can all be served at room temperature. Bon Appetit!

My tian with chopped fresh basil on top!

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Have you ever heard strange sounds in the middle of the night? Not like squirrels in the chimney, or mice in the walls. And not like thunder and lightning followed by a deranged dog trying to crawl under your bed. More like footsteps out on your porch at 4 am?

Well, that’s how our weekend began. Someone was clomping around on our porch – but let’s start from the very beginning.

On Friday I really wanted to see the Groom. We’d called, texted and Zoomed and Facetimed, but he was finally out of the Tower and back in the bosom of his family. I had to make sure he was doing well and warn the Bride not to expect too much; he needed to rest after all. Covid can take a lot out of a person. I mean just walking to the mailbox could be exhausting.

But you can’t keep a good man down for long because on Friday he had already been teaching the Love Bug how to ride a bike, setting up their “tiny school” at home, and then he took the dogs on a 30 minute walk! So I rewarded my Son-in-Law’s enthusiasm with a big plate of chicken parmigiana that night. As we were leaving, the Bride began to take the Grands blood for a study at the university.

We have at-home kits to take blood, but not to test for this virus?

As we drove home from our socially distanced dinner on their front porch, we passed a long Catholic parade on the streets of Germantown. An official Bishop-type led dozens of priests and altar boys carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary adorned with flowers, there were at least a hundred people following the procession – the Assumption of Mary. Many of the women wore a lacey head covering, but virtually nobody wore a mask. Everyone was singing!

As I opened the car window and looked on adoringly, thinking about all those years at a Catholic camp singing with nuns in the woods on our way to a grotto, Bob yelled, “Wear a damn mask!” breaking the spell.

And that was the night, or actually early the next morning, we heard the intruder on our porch. Bob immediately went downstairs and I immediately thought to myself, “My phone is plugged in downstairs, what if I need to call 911…”

Then I heard Bob’s voice, he was talking to somebody. Prompting Ms Bean to leave her cozy bed, she led the way downstairs; so much for our little guard dog, she never uttered a peep, not a growl or a bark! Bob had already locked the door and sent a young man, who was surely a drunk tourist, on his way.

“What did you say?” I asked him.

“I asked him what he thought he was doing here,” Bob said. Sometimes the NJ vibe just cannot be contained. I was stunned. What if he had a gun? What if What if What if…..

Once before, in the Blue Ridge, a large van pulled up to our house at around midnight. Bob got up and looked out the window to see an elderly man standing there, putting on a jacket. We opened the front door and the man said, “We’re here for Mr Young.” Now Mr Young was actually an older gentleman farmer and former UVA professor who lived down our country road a piece, and he had died in his sleep. The van was from the Cremation Society of Virginia.

Would it be wrong to say how relieved we were – that the van wasn’t coming for us? We were living on 14 acres in the middle of a forest, still Bob wasn’t scared. And he had no fear in the wee hours before daybreak on Saturday, in fact, he went back to sleep! While I stayed up replaying all the different scenarios in my head. Maybe we should move out of the city? Should we start looking for a beach house, again?

When in doubt, cook! Yesterday I sent Bob to Whole Foods for tahini because the Insta people voted on Baba Ganoush as an appetizer. Although zucchini season was done, Bob’s elegant Japanese eggplants were just getting started. I haven’t made this yummy hummus-like spread since the 70s and it was a major hit at our party for two.

How many lives do we humans get? I survived a car accident in 1949, the Groom survived Covid in 2020. I wonder if our democracy will survive this political pandemic season.

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At daybreak, I hear Ms Bean’s clickety paws on the floor, and the bedroom door closes. If I’m lucky, I might get another sleep cycle. When I wake from my Covid dream, the one about keeping Great Grandma Ada away from the crowded dining hall at Camp St Joseph, I have to change my nightgown. Bob likes our bedroom freezing cold at night, and I’ve been sweating glowing a lot lately.

Breakfast is easy; but first, coffee. I know Bob loves me because he keeps the Keurig carafe filled with water. I need to wake up with a big mug, my only caffeine fix of the day. And I like to watch a few cable news networks in the process – how many more deaths, what state is seeing a spike in virus infections, what does, “Defund the Police” actually mean?

Breakfast is a banana, covered in vanilla yogurt and granola. My favorite Hudson Henry granola from Virginia, the orange bag with pecans and chocolate. We order it in bulk, direct from the company. I pour myself a big glass of green iced tea, and flip open my laptop.

Bob eats Eggo waffles most days and doesn’t like watching the news in the morning. He’d much rather watch Rachel Maddow at night; we are the exact opposite in our daily news consumption. I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I watched Rachel before bed. Or if I did, my Covid nightmares would get worse.

This morning, he’s in the living room with classical music and his iPad. Soon, he’ll be outside watering the garden.

In my office, I check in on Twitter, the BBC, and the New York Times, in that order. Did you know that Winston Churchill was a racist? An idea for an essay is percolating in my mind. I look up and out the window, something has caught my eye. Beyond the parking lot across the back alley, a shirtless man keeps popping up doing jumping jacks. Intrigued, I stand to get the full view – eight push-ups on the ground followed by the jump.

Some people miss the gym more than others.

Around 9am Bob pops in to say he’ll be walking Ms Bean, and I hear her happy joy circle dance by the front door. He yells back, “By the way, I fed the starter.” My cell is off and Bob knows not to disturb me when I’m writing. How do I know? I know this because I overheard him tell a friend that Tuesdays he’s on his own in the morning! Well until 11am anyway.

We used to drive Ms Berdelle to 11am T’ai Chi at the Y on Tuesdays, but now we set up two yoga mats on the floor in the living room. Bob has decided to join my Zoom Beginner Pilates class. He’s read my post and gives me feedback like any good editor while we gather foam rollers, balls and exercise bands, the tools of the senior set.

During Pilates I find out there’s a fire burning in Tucson, where my instructor’s mother lives, and she had to be evacuated last night. I try to concentrate on cracking a walnut between my shoulder blades, sticking my tush out, and what I’m going to make for dinner. I try not to think about climate change.

After Pilates Bob asks, “Do we have any plans for lunch?”

Luckily, I don’t have any plans for lunch, so we decide to walk down to the Vietnamese restaurant and see if there’s a table on the socially distant patio. We haven’t been out to eat in three months. Unluckily, all the tables, which is maybe half of the usual tables, are occupied so we pick up two ready made salads and walk home. I really miss going out for lunch.

Long ago Bob told me I was making him fat because I’m a pretty good cook, a backhanded compliment for sure – ever since that day, whenever I cook something for us to eat, he gets to make his own plate. You see, somewhere along my feminist learning curve I decided that I was supposed to plan and shop and cook a delicious dinner every single night… for 41 years… but not breakfast or lunch.

I never got the memo that I didn’t have to cook dinner. I still look with wonder at younger women who say they never cook. I mean, is that even possible?

After lunch we decide to make a Shipt order on my computer. Bob likes to do this with me, he drags in another chair so we can sit side by side while we discuss the status of milk in the refrigerator. We would rarely go grocery shopping together in the past, but he needs more bread flour. Bob is now on his fifth try at perfecting sourdough bread, in my vintage Dutch oven.

“You should see, my starter is growing!” Bob tells me proudly and we discuss the merits of sourdough baking – damp towels, parchment paper, bubbling.

The afternoon is upon us and it’s time to start our day, so we go back upstairs to shower and I change my yoga pants and floss my teeth. I’m responding to comments on social media about my blog on my phone and doing laundry when I hear a timer go off. It’s time for Bob to “do something” big, there’s lots of noise in the kitchen. I think he’s making the dough, or maybe it’s time to “stretch and fold.”

Then my phone bings and we have to drive-through the pharmacy and get a case of wine curbside delivered.  We suit ourselves up in masks and head for the car. As soon as I start the engine, my cell rings so loudly on blue tooth that we both startle. Four people call us in that 15 minute round-trip ride. A brother has a tax question, a grand daughter has a bee bite, a neighbor has a medical consult, and what color gray should the Bride paint her new bookshelves?

We arrive home and I Google “panzanella” salad. What a great Italian idea for the heel of a sourdough loaf of bread! It’s also close enough to 5 o’clock somewhere to pour a cold, glass of unoaked Chardonnay. But first I must feed Ms Bean.

Then I tell Bob to pick some kale, and I pick some tarragon. Chopped garlic and tarragon, mixed with a little honey mustard and salt and pepper, then add Balsamic vinegar and some good EVOO. I wash and halve some cherry tomatoes, tear up the kale, and Bob’s picked a pepper too. I improvised and threw in some leftover pasta salad and added some cubes of Swiss cheese, but any hard cheese would do. I combine the chunks of bread that I’ve dried a bit in a hot oven with the veggies and pour the vinaigrette over it all.  https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-panzanella-italian-bread-salad-recipe-206824

We had to dance around each other in our galley kitchen since Bob was kneading or rolling dough while I was assembling the salad, but he pronounced it my best summer salad evah!

Time for another stroll with Ms Bean. She’s super excited because I’m joining them. We’ve relaxed our puppy sniffing rules a bit, but we still don’t stop to pet other dogs. Sometimes we talk, but half the young people in our neighborhood are not wearing masks. How can people be so callous? Our Mayor has decided to keep Nashville at Phase 2 of re-opening, but we’re staying home in our own Phase 1 for the most part.

The bread is sitting on the counter rising, and we’re ready to wind down. Tomorrow morning the sourdough bread goes in the oven. We might play Scrabble or watch Netflix tonight. Or talk to the kids on the patio across the way, they are both residents at Vanderbilt. Our kids are driving to the beach for a well deserved vacation from Covid.

We could all use a vacation about now.

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I saw a meme the other day that went something like this, “There will be 2 types of people on the other side of this quarantine: great cooks and alcoholics!” Let’s all strive for the former.

While Bob and I were chopping up nuts and apples for our virtual Passover Seder, I started thinking about food and our relationship to it – do we live to eat, or eat to live? Now, our days revolve around meals like never before. What kind of traditional foods would we need at this year’s Seder table? What could we do without, since it’s just the 2 of us?

What could we even order on Shipt? Horseradish? Would grape juice be just as good as Kosher wine?

Then I started to wonder if people were going to cook a big ham, studded with pineapples and cherries for Easter? Is everybody still coloring eggs even if there are no little children to hunt for them? Today is Good Friday, and as far back as I can remember it was always pretty unremarkable. The statues and the crucifix at Sacred Heart Church were covered in purple cloth, the mood was always sombre. At home, we gave up meat, so I either ate shrimp or fish sticks!

In Ireland, people will plant root vegetables, especially potatoes today:

“…most had a custom of setting their scealláin, or seed potatoes, on Good Friday when it fell in March. This was termed putting down the early pot”, and the people worked each day from Good Friday until they had set all the potatoes.

If Good Friday was late, and fell in April, it was seen as the point up to which such work should focus. In any case, it was imperative that all the spuds be covered before the cuckoo was heard. Nobody wanted to be a “cuckoo farmer”  https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/10-good-friday-traditions-you-ve-never-heard-of-1.3864889

My foster mother Nell was never a great cook, admitting that if it didn’t come in a can she didn’t know what to do with it. But her one reliable, home-cooked, go-to, comfort meal was pork chops and applesauce, with a side of french fries. This was always a special treat, along with her once a year “Haloopkies.” Pork stuffed cabbage simmered in sauerkraut accompanied by rye bread and butter, nirvana for me in the 1950s.

But I inherited my love of cooking from my mother, the Flapper. Almost every weekend I’d watch her chop, cook and bake delicious meals for her diverse family of Catholic and Jewish kids. She abhorred waste, like many Depression-era women before her, so she’d always make a soup out of leftover pot roast with barley or a mulligatawny stew out of whatever was left in the refrigerator.

I just looked up the word “mulligatawny” since I thought it was a word she made up, but no. In fact, it’s a curry stew! The Flapper loved to embellish the truth, which I hated at first, but came to enjoy with my siblings. If someone dared to ask her if a dessert was homemade, she’d proudly say “Of course!” But you never really knew.

The first dish I cooked last month as the pandemic was looming large was chicken chili. It was the last night we had our Grands sleepover, before we were told to shelter in place. I added whatever vegetables I had left in the refrigerator to the pot, plus 2 cans of beans. I chopped up a poblano pepper for a slight whiff of heat, and served it beside sliced avocado and of course, bread and butter. It was a hit with the Bug and the Pumpkin!

Bob’s got his raised bed planted and we have already picked spinach. We ordered food from Shipt online and were delighted, I may never set foot in a grocery store again.  Never thought I’d ever have someone else do my grocery shopping, but here we are in this brave new world. Searching our pantries for lentils and flour, or matzoh, and remembering how cooking can nourish the soul.

I sent Bob over to Ms Berdelle with some chicken soup last night. Maybe I should start a chicken soup food truck when this over? He ran a pretty great Zoom Seder for our family and friends, from 3 years old to 95! It’s time to clean out the cobwebs in our homes and our minds; this is the season to declutter, to wash our patio furniture, to renew our lives, to plant and welcome fresh air and sunlight into our cloistered homes.

This is the season to stay at home and save lives.

I hope that cooking brings you joy during this lonely, holy week, and that your pantry stays stocked with your choice of beverage. Below Bob is setting up the Zoom Seder, while I prepare the Seder plate.

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Hello again. 541 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Davidson County this morning.

TN Governor Bill Lee has finally issued a state-wide “Safer at Home” order.  It’s anyone’s guess if it will be enforceable since he doesn’t like mandates. So before hunkering down for the long haul, Bob and I ventured out to 2 grocery stores; because I tried an Amazon delivery from Whole Foods again, and once you get to the check-out page they inform you there are NO delivery windows.

The Bride told us that a new Turnip Truck had just opened in her neck of the woods – and they have hand sanitizer and toilet paper!!! Plus, they have gloves for shoppers to don at the front of the store! So we ventured out last night around suppertime.

The Turnip Truck is an East Nashville institution. They combine the best of Trader Joe’s with Whole Foods and I always loved shopping there. Their produce is pretty much like going to a Farmer’s Market, plus you know exactly where all their meat and fish are sourced, and the prices are affordable. It is the Portlandia of food emporiums.

It was actually a great experience. The people working there seemed happy and helpful AND they kept their distance. We only picked up a few things since we had a BIG list for the following day, today, at PUBLIX.

Publix has decided to designate the hour of 7am – 8am for senior shopping, (just like Whole Foods which is every day), BUT at Publix it’s only TWO days a week – Tuesday and Wednesday. What a nuisance. Our local midtown store just recently opened, and it’s smaller and geared toward young, working professionals. We walked in at 7:30 this morning and the workers were stocking shelves and NOT keeping their distance. There were many people shopping who were young, no one was outside screening people.

It was a disappointing trip to say the least, the only plus was that nobody appeared sick. But as we know, the virus can spread before symptoms show up….so Bob and I decided to try and stick with delivery systems only going forward. I’m happy to have a restaurant meal now and then, but cooking is something that gives me pleasure and we need all the pleasure we can find these days.

In fact I love following Nashville’s own Chopped Chef Maneet Chauhan, Ina Garten and Eric Ripert on Instagram. They are always churning out videos of comforting, simple meals you can make at home. Whether it’s watching a pot of Bolognese simmer on Ina’s stove, or watching Eric make a quick chicken and red wine stew, I’m finding myself longing to cook at home.

Except for famous chefs, most celebrity culture has taken a beating in this brave new self-isolating-social-media world. I have to admit I got pretty tired of watching Ellen call all her famous friends and ask what they’re doing. I mean it’s OK for singers to try out some new tunes, but when celebrities film what they are doing in the midst of their gorgeous estates it is a bit tone-deaf.

“Staying home is my superpower,” the “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot reported from her walk-in closet. Ryan Reynolds urged his fans to “work together to flatten the curve” from within his rustic loft. When Jennifer Lopez posted a video of her family sheltering in the backyard of Alex Rodriguez’s vast Miami compound, the public snapped.

“We all hate you,” was one representative response.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/30/arts/virus-celebrities.html?searchResultPosition=1

I’m staying home for my daughter the Bride, who is working in her ER without enough PPE for everyone, so she is reusing masks and covering N95 masks with homemade cloth masks to make them last longer. I’m staying home for the Groom who is preparing his ICU for the tsunami of patients to come.

Who are you staying home for?

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Passing time isn’t quite like passing the salt. It’s a phrase that invokes prison, “doing time,” except in this case the whole world is on “house arrest.” We’ve all felt this way at one time or another. For Bob it was a prolonged period of treatment with interferon. For me, it was a year of trying to get pregnant again when the Bride was 3 years old, having 3 miscarriages back to back.

It’s the uncertainty, the randomness, the sheer terror of knowing we are actually NOT in control.

If you are one of those people with a strong faith, lucky you. I’ve been reading a lot on social media about God’s plan, the joy of this pandemic, and I honestly don’t get it. I mean did God really want to take out that whole young family with a tornado, then a week later come back and say: “Guess what everybody else, you need to stay right where you are because a plague is coming?” It can make even the devout have questions.

We’ve weathered our first week in isolation, and I’ve found that I’m built for something like this. I encouraged Bob to help me bake muffins. One night a friend dropped off a warm loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, it was like getting a hug! I swapped books with a friend on my porch. We listen to classical radio and play Scrabble. We walk Ms Bean when it’s not raining and wave to all the exceedingly happy dogs in the neighborhood. There will come a day, mark my words, when our fur babies will be giving us all the side-eye, as if to say;

“Aren’t you guys ever going somewhere so I can take a rest from guarding you?”

Techno-wise we’ve signed up with Marco Polo and can now send video texts. We’ve Facetimed with the Rocker and Aunt KiKi AND the Bride’s family split-screen, all at the same time. We call and Facetime Great Grandma Ada who is taking this whole thing better than any of us! Bob can visit with them through a vestibule window.

Cooking-wise, I’m sticking with comfort food. I can order from Whole Foods online and they deliver via Amazon Prime… it’s a 2 day wait but that’s fine. We order take-out from a local restaurant – 3 meals a week – and they deliver. We feel like it’s a small way to help their staff stay afloat. And I was running out of my Charlottesville granola, so Hudson Henry delivered in no time! https://www.hudsonhenrybakingco.com/

I keep having to remind Bob, “We’re in no rush.” We are all being asked to slow down – He is out there weeding, and I’m putting some pearls together to start stringing again. One of our local boutiques started carrying my necklaces; it was open for a few days after the tornado. But I feel no obligation to produce something during the quarantine, to knit a sweater say, or write a sonnet. “A Sonnet of Isolation.” Maybe next week I’ll clean out a closet? Be kind to yourself first, and the kindness is conveyed to others.

I’m the original slow-walker, slow-cooker. Bob is the original let’s jump right in and get this done NOW kinda guy.

That’s why he’s volunteered to help Vanderbilt when the tsunami hits us; he is being credentialed by the hospital to help with emergency medical care by telemedicine. This actually scares me, not because of possible exposure – he may do this from home – but because he might have to confront, serious life-and-death, ethical decisions. That’s what wartime triage is all about, who lives and who dies, and that’s a heavy burden.

I feel bad for hourly wage earners with rent checks coming due – if you know someone, why not Venmo them some cash? Every little bit helps. Know any musicians whose tours are cancelled? Pre-order Nicole Atkin’s next album “Italian Ice.” She’s an amazing singer and old friend of the Rocker and the Parlor Mob. https://www.nicoleatkins.com/  I just ordered the vinyl bundle with a tee shirt!

We were never binge TV watchers, but I’m seeing lots of requests from friends about “what to watch.” With streaming, the sky’s the limit but this is our list, and believe me we only occasionally watch ONE episode before heading to bed! Mrs. Maisel, Little Fires Everywhere, and Valhalla Murders. The whole Love is Blind thing is beyond ridiculous to me!

The other day I read a story to the Grands on Facetime….”Before They Were Authors, Famous Writers as Kids,” by Elizabeth Haidle. It was about Dr Seuss, did you know he wanted to become a professor? Here are our banana bran muffins!

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Italy has quarantined 16 Million people. Meghan and Harry are finishing up their official royal duties. And Bob and I have moved back into our home after the tornado because we have our power back!

Women all over the world were marching yesterday for equal rights in support of International Women’s Day. Fighting for equality, and the right not to be raped. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-51791335

The NY Stock Market had to suspend trading this morning because of its torrential fall. It’s hard to watch for retirees like us. And it’s not just here, a sharp drop in oil prices has had a domino effect around the world. Today has a name, “Black Monday.”

But in our little world, the lights have come back on; and the outpouring of love and support for our community continues and is life affirming. Every single day, a restaurant or a church or a group of people show up with a barbeque grill in a parking lot dispensing hot meals and drinks to everyone. We share our stories, our extra bedrooms and bathrooms. We sweep and clean and pick insulation out of fences. We’ve moved back into our house.

Yesterday I tried getting back to “normal.”

I went to the Publix and was determined to cook dinner. It was jam-packed with young people probably moving back into apartment buildings since the tornado touched down, that is if their building wasn’t condemned. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/vista-germantown-condemned/ar-BB10LG80 I asked the young Black girl packing my groceries if she was alright, she lives in North she said. We had quite a heart to heart right there.

It’s funny how I’d just been explaining what “small talk” is with the Grands. We don’t do much of it now, it’s all deep talk.

I had my first Pilates lesson with a friend of the Bride whose studio is right down the street. Her building, an arts cooperative, didn’t have power yet but it was 68 degrees and sunny. Rebekah helped me heal my arthritic parts, she dispensed her knowledge with love. She lives in East.

Bob walked me to her studio so he could stop by our favorite Japanese restaurant and talk with neighbors – they were serving chili on the patio. Then he planted his raised bed with winter vegetables. I kept thinking, spring is coming, it’s such a beautiful day and yet so many people are still suffering, what else can we do? I already mentioned Crossroad Pets, their employees are in hotels and their animals are in foster care now. But a donation their way would be incredible. https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=E330162&id=1

Here are some  more organizations that are on the ground in Nashville if you’d like to help:

The Community Foundation of Middle TN – https://www.cfmt.org/

Middle TN Emergency Response Fund – https://www.cfmt.org/giving-and-investing/become-a-donor/give-to-a-fund/middle-tennessee-emergency-response-fund/

To find out what else you can do, visit https://www.nashvilledowntown.com/events/numnashvillestrong-tornado-relief

We’ve dropped off diapers and batteries, and now the big machines are coming in and clearing out. Picking phone poles out of trees. Our neighborhood is a patchwork quilt of blue tarp roofs. But the Farmer’s Market has reopened and last night I made comfort food.

The CDC is warning “old” people not to travel, to stay home. I’m happy cocooning in place; we have lights and heat and wifi! When we were prepping for the coronavirus, I never thought we’d be hit by a tornado. Normal, whatever that is, in Nashville will never be the same. Oh, and I dyed my hair pink.

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Yesterday, a crocus pushed its shiny, new green leaves up in our garden. I remember always being surprised to see the little flower in the midst of snow and ice in the Berkshire Mountains. It is the harbinger of spring, just as sure as a robin jumping around in the grass. But this time, it’s too early; the first week of a new year should find us deep into winter with hats and scarves and gloves. Instead, today it will be 60 degrees.

“In addition to Crocus’ merit as a beautiful and cheerful winter bloomer, one species, C. sativus, is the source of the spice saffron. Henry Beston describes C. sativus in Herbs and the Earth (1935, D.R. Godine, Publisher, Inc.): “An autumn Crocus with a long history as a drug, a flavoring powder, and a pigment, only the golden stigma of the flower being used… May not overwinter.”  True enough, although many Crocus are perennial in Tennessee, as a USDA Hardiness Zone 8 plant C. sativus may not overwinter for many Tennesseans. If that doesn’t deter you from growing your own saffron, Steven Still writes that “about 7000 flowers are required to produce 3 ounces of saffron.”  https://ag.tennessee.edu/news/Pages/POM-2016-02.aspx

I had no idea the costliest spice in the world comes from a crocus!

Makes me want to dig up my old, Julia Child paella recipe. I was thinking about my younger, newly married self in the car the other day; living in Cambridge, MA and spotting Julia herself at the small green grocers’.  NPR was interviewing a chef about his “…worst kitchen disasters.” Of course, it was slicing off the tip of a finger with a mandolin his first time on live TV!

I’ve managed to avoid the dreaded mandolin injury – I use mine to slice whisper thin vegetables into my veggie lasagna. But one of my very first attempts at the fine art of cuisine in Cambridge does come to mind. I almost torched my kitchen when I tried making Julia’s recipe for Coq au Vin! Since then, I’ve left anything flambeed to the experts. Even resisting the urge to buy a tiny blowtorch to crinkle-brown creme brulee – my favorite dessert!

I wish my keyboard did l’accent aigu“Getting your (French) accents right is the difference between being a pêcheur (fisherman) and a pécheur (sinner). Which one would you rather have on your résumé?”

Parsley and rosemary are still growing in the garden, even some of Bob’s winter kale seems hardy and ready to be harvested. The Bride and her family are returning soon from Hawaii and I’d like to cook them something for their first night back. Maybe I’ll buy some red wine and make a big pot of Boeuf Bourguignon! Like every good semi-Southern cook I’ve got some bacon in the fridge and I know the L’il Pumpkin loves this dish.

Although, after hearing about their first Kalua Pig in a Pit, where the Love Bug definitely did not like the idea of unearthing the body of a full-on, dead, roasted pig, I may have to get creative with vegetables and her old stand-by, pasta. Maybe we’ll roast some marshmallows on the fire pit, and pretend it’s still winter! Here they are on a lava rock.

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