Day 21 in captivity-
I consider the beginning of this strange, trapped-at-home situation to be the Monday before the state of Florida shut down all the restaurants (March 16th), because that’s when s**t really started hitting the fan. This week has been called the “Pearl Harbor” of our generation by the U.S. surgeon general, for the escalating amounts of coronavirus deaths anticipated and the lack of critical equipment available to some states.
Sobering news, for sure. It’s such a strange and unprecedented time, I have decided to give myself some kind of structure in my life as a way to not go crazy. So, besides the different themes for dinner each night, I will do laundry on Monday, clean the bathrooms on Tuesday, InstaCart shop on Wednesday, etc… The more structure I can self-impose on myself, the more in control and less helpless I feel. When I wake up in the morning, I make my bed and get dressed; these simple tasks make life seem more normal.
I always thought it would have been interesting to have lived during World War II. Besides the fact that I love the clothes, music, movies and cars of the era, it must have been an empowering and communal experience to rally round the flag to defeat a common enemy.
But this pandemic is different. The enemy is invisible, for one thing. Facts we always considered true, like: “get some fresh air” are now false. More like don’t breathe in while passing another human being. And even the ultimate comfort of gathering together to talk, hold hands, listen to music, eat dinner, hug or just hang out, is forbidden, and deemed dangerous. The danger isn’t a mustached Hitler hiling, the enemy is us, our fellow man- friends and family included.
So, I don’t imagine it feels the same dealing with this pandemic as it did living through World War II. There are shortages, like there were then, so home cooks are starting to get creative. Gardens, especially those bearing food to eat, are popular, like the Victory gardens of the forties. But I haven’t experienced that feeling of goodwill and “were all in this together” as I imagine would’ve been prevalent back then. Besides the fact the bear I put out for a kid’s Bear Hunt got stolen, when I pass people in the street (6 feet apart) the most palpable emotion I feel is fear. It’s hard to be magnanimous when you’re afraid for your life, when you look at each person you pass with suspicion. “Do you have it?” I wonder.
Women also pitched it during WWII and made a real effort to support our troops and take over in factories for the men serving in the armed forces. I’ve been wanting to help, but mostly what seems to be needed is people sewing fabric masks and I don’t sew.
I did volunteer to help serve meals to unemployed workers and the their children at a restaurant called Someone’s Son, through the Coral Gables Community Foundation, but my sister Kelley read me the riot act and begged me not to do it.
“Even with a mask?” I asked.
“Yes, even with a mask,” she said. “You’re going to be around a lot of people.”
Since she used to run a nursing home and now owns a pharmacy, I figure she knows what she’s talking about. We now have masks stationed by the front door, to go along with the gloves and hand sanitizer that was already there.
Now, in a total reversal of the original advice, the CDC does recommend wearing a mask while out in public. This is not so much to prevent you from getting sick from others, but to prevent spreading the virus if YOU are sick. Many people with coronavirus are asymptomatic and can spread the virus unwittingly. Others who get it can be contagious up to 14 days before coming down with it. I got a video today on a group chat about how the Czech Republic significantly slowed down the spread of the coronavirus, as compared to other countries. The one thing they did differently? Wore masks when they left the house.
So everything is changing on a daily basis, which inflicts panic and fear. I’m writing, reading and cooking a lot, lifting free weights, gardening and saying Novenas for my family. A journalism student from UF is coming tomorrow to interview me about my garden, after seeing photos I posted on Facebook. Zeke and I are still taking walks, but trying to vary our routes to change it up and stay away from crowded streets. And we’ve been noticing a lot of piles of junk in the swale in front of houses. Apparently, people are taking this unintended break as an opportunity to Spring clean their houses and garage.
My themed dinners this week went well.
Zeke and I were the only ones who showed up for Meatless Monday. The Curried Lentils with Kale (a Linda Gassenheimer recipe) http://www.dinnerinminutes.com was served over jasmine rice with an avocado salad. It was delicious- even Zeke liked it (I did give him some chicken to go with it). I put a homemade Middle Eastern hot sauce on it that gave it I nice kick. I love the one at Daily Bread, so made my own with jalapeño peppers I’d frozen, garlic, cilantro and olive oil. I’m on a bit of a homemade kick and also made homemade ricotta (an Ina recipe) that was SO easy and much more delicious than store bought. I spread it into my baked Ziti last Sunday and on the Date Nut Bread I made last week.
Since the chef needed a break, we ordered Flannigan’s take-out on Tuesday. The week before it was buy one, get one free rack of ribs, but this Tuesday it was buy one, get one free chicken wings. Zeke picked them up curbside, but being pandemic paranoid (aren’t we all?) didn’t check it. They messed up the order- fries instead of dirty rice and no coleslaw. Verdict: the ribs were good but the wings smallish and kind of dried out. I won’t be racing back to Flannigan’s for take-out.
Thursday the mystery meal was Chicken Quesadillas made by Emma and Lauren. They were served with yellow rice and refried beans; it was nice to not have to cook! For Fishy Friday I marinated shrimp in a delicious cilantro lime dressing, that also served as the dressing for my romaine, grilled corn and cherry tomato salad. The recipe came for the Serve it Up! cookbook I helped work on as an Autism fundraiser for the tennis community. Zeke grilled the shrimp and some cherry tomatoes on a skewer, as we sat outside, drank wine and listened to Bob Marley tunes. It almost seemed normal!
I had a Virtual Happy Hour with my Corona Virus Go Away text group on Friday at 5:30 pm on Zoom. It was great to see and hear everyone, although we did have some technical difficulties. Two of our six participants were away from Miami, so we got a peek into the landscape where they’re bunkered down for the pandemic. We cheered with our individual drinks and talked about how it’s been going. When the talk turned to toilet paper- favorite kinds, where to get it, how much we had- someone noted “This is a sad happy hour.” Sort of a contradiction, but a sad Happy Hour is better than no Happy Hour at all.
The winner of best dinner this week goes to the grilled TriTip steak we ate Saturday night. If you’ve never tried TriTip, it’s an economical and delicious cut, kind of like a brisket (according to Zeke), so it tends to be a little chewy but has a lot of flavor. We rubbed it with Santa Maria Seasoning, grilled it, let it rest and served it with mushrooms sautéed in red wine, boiled potatoes with dill, truffled green beans and grilled Italian rustic bread. It was so tasty and even better the next day, on a TriTip sandwich.
Now that we finished Tiger King, we’re on to McMillions (about the McDonald’s Monopoly scandal). We watched Screwball (funny!), so I guess we’re on a bit of a documentary kick. We also watched The Talented Mr. Ripley, one of my favorite creepy movies, last night. If I was home alone (a girl can dream!) I would be watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Roger musicals (Swing Time), romantic comedies like The Philadelphia Story, It Happened One Night and The Thin Man series. These movies were made during the depression, when people needed an escape from reality and I can’t think of a time I’ve ever needed an escape from reality more than now.
I started the new book for my book club, Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton. I’ve only just begun it, but like it. It’s a food memoir. Zeke just finished The Boys on the Boat and gave it a thumbs up. My Book Club meeting was supposed to be at my house this month. Obviously, that’s not happening now. I suggested a Zoom meeting, but didn’t get a lot of positive feedback, so we may just postpone it until we can actually get together in person. We will have all forgotten the book by then.
The 1500 piece puzzle’s done and we picked up more from a friend’s mother. Emma and Lauren have been attending classes online, so they stay busy during the day. I read an article about people going back to hobbies they loved as a child or adult, but had neglected. I bought a calligraphy tablet awhile ago I’ve finally gotten around to practicing on. It’s relaxing. I’m ordering photos I’ve taken to make into photo cards (another hobby of mine). I thought I could send them to people who need cheering up.
Zeke and I have been getting along well. I think it helps he goes to work in the morning- makes it all seem more normal. But sometimes, when he’s crunching on something while he eats, it really gets on my nerves. I just have to walk out of the room and breathe. He comes home for lunch, which he used to before, but now he’s home all day after that. I would normally have those hours between 1 and 6 to do what I wanted. Now, it’s different. We’re adjusting.
I got to see my grandson Wyatt a couple times this week. He was sitting in his Dad’s pickup truck in the driveway as we spoke from six feet away.
“When are we going to go to Disney World?” he asked. We were supposed to go two weeks ago.
“I’m not sure,” I said.
“Maybe when the virus goes away?” he asked.
“Yes, we will go when the virus goes away,” I said.
“When will that be?” he asked.
“Well, that’s the million dollar question baby,” I said. “Nobody knows.”
This week was Palm Sunday and I noticed a lot of people with palms on their doors. Has this pandemic ushered in a wave of faith? Maybe- kind of like finding religion in a foxhole. On the plus side, someone dropped off a container of purple flowers by my front door. I still don’t know who it was, but it was appreciated and I was thrilled to spot my first mango of the season on my tree. I can’t wait to taste it!
Easter is next Sunday. I asked A.J. if I could do an Easter egg hunt in the backyard and watch Wyatt through the sliding glass doors. She agreed.
“That’s so sad,” said Lauren.
It is sad, but right now, it’s better than nothing.
I haven’t decorated for Easter, really don’t feel in the mood for celebrating anything, especially since Wyatt won’t be here. But I will dye some eggs (blue for Wyatt, pink and purple for his Mom) and for the rest of the family with our names on them. I will hide them around the backyard, within sight of my deck upstairs. I will sit on the deck, watch Wyatt find them, squealing with delight and that will have to be enough for this year.
“Don’t worry about a thing, ‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright.”