Puzzles. Zeke finished another puzzle last week.
I am sick of puzzles, sick of Tiger King, Banana Bread, Sour dough starter, hearing whipped coffee being made, washing my hands, sheltering in place, social distancing, #stayingathome, hand sanitizer, staying six feet away from people. I am also sick of masks, gloves, Clorox wipes, the constant stream of depressing news, people that think the pandemic is a hoax, people predicting the next Great Depression, people who say this could last ten more years. I am sick of anything that reminds me of this COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, I have Quarantine Fatigue! It’s a thing now, a diagnosis many of us can relate to. Enough already! As Someone in my Coronavirus Go Away! group commented.
I long to be with people who are not the family I’ve been quarantining with, long for socialization, long to see people’s faces unobscured by ugly masks; I long to go back to things being normal. Like Conan O’Brien, I’m starting to miss the things I used to hate, like meetings with real live people who aren’t on Zoom.
There are those who think we will never go back to “normal” and I tend to agree. It’s like life before and after 9/11. Life changed, our world view changed, the way we traveled changed and now we are used to it and it’s become part of our lives. Adaptation. Many people who lived through WWII compare this time to that, with rationing, fear and “we’re all in this together” mindset. This fight against a deadly, but invisible virus feels like a war and I am battle-weary. Keeping up hyper-vigilance against an unseen threat is truly exhausting.
And starting last Monday, May 18th, some things in Miami did go back to normal, albeit the “new normal”. Restaurants were able to open (at 50% capacity), some businesses were able to reopen, following CDC guidelines. So we dip a proverbial toe into the corona infested water. Yet fears linger. Are we opening Miami too soon? Florida has not met the mandated guidelines for testing that is supposedly needed to re-open businesses and the number of COVID-19 cases in Miami-Date is actually rising, not declining. Will this reopening cause a spike in new COVID cases? Create new CV Hot Spots? Overwhelm our hospitals?
And as life returns to normal, so does our family. One child went to dinner (unbeknownst to us) in Boca, where restaurants were already open and is now in Tallahassee hanging out with friends. One is going back to work at a retail shop in Miami, the other planning a trip to see her boyfriend in California. As my sister Kelley suggested: “Good. Let the young ones go out and test the waters.” The problem with that guinea pig theory is the fact that the young ones may be exposed to infected people, and then come home to live with us old people. I worry about these things.
And, the million dollar question for Foodie in Miami, is it safe to dine out in Miami? From an eye-opening article (written by an Immunologist and Biology Professor) my sister Kelley sent me, the answer is unfortunately, no. You are not so much in danger from the food, servers or hygeine practices of the restaurant, but from fellow diners who may have the virus. Here is the article if you want to read it: The Risks- Know Them-Avoid Them at erinbromage.com. Another friend asked her doctor about dining out and he said he’s not doing it at this time. If you do dine out, try to sit outside. It greatly reduces your risk.
“And Gigi Camp has begun!” my daughter A.J. announced Mother’s Day night, right before she took off like a bat out of Hell. I could sense she needed a break from my high-energy four and a half year old grandson Wyatt. This was the second annual Gigi Camp. Last year I planned on keeping him one week. I made it three days before I cried Uncle. We settled on four and a half days (his age) this time and I survived.
Gigi Camp is an all-indulgent oasis designed for one little boy. The food isn’t gourmet, but the activities are fun and treats, TV watching and Disney Dance parties are allowed. When we arrived at the condo in Key Largo and Wyatt saw some items I bought him which I placed on his bed (a toothbrush, Matchbox car, pool rings and goggles) he said “Gigi, you got this for me? Thank you!” He was so happy at these little gifts. Gratitude.
The one activity we did every day was swimming, which as most parents know carries the added benefit of wearing kids out. We also walked around the Sanctuary, looking at lizards, birds, fish, collecting shells and sticks, climbing trees and swinging on the wooden swing. My attempt at fishing with him was very short lived, which was a relief to me. I don’t know how get a fish off the hook and I certainly didn’t want to filet poor little Nemo.
Wyatt had his Zoom class for his pre-school two days while I had him; it certainly gave me a newfound appreciation for teachers. It’s hard enough to get a room of four-year-old’s attention, but remotely? Many of the children had snacks, drinks, toys, siblings and other activities distracting them in their house. Wyatt kept wanting to talk (but his teachers had muted him) so he kept asking to get “un-muted” to contribute whatever random thought had occurred to him. Those poor teachers!
They conducted the class, with an opening song, greeters and activities, like their class schedule, which I think adds some normalcy to their lives at this confusing time. Wyatt was chosen to be the greeter Thursday and had to ask his classmates if they wanted to be greeted with a wave or silly dance. Most choose a silly dance because, let’s face it, who doesn’t need a silly dance right about now?
All Wyatt wanted to eat was Chocolate Chip pancakes for breakfast and Spaghettios for lunch and dinner. When I ran out of Bisquick, he wanted a big box of Fruit Loops for breakfast, because the toucan is his favorite bird. I talked him into getting the little individual packs with Cocoa Krispies, Apple Jacks and Corn Pops as well, so at least his sugary cereals had some variety. This is what my grandmother used to buy for me when I spent the night over at her house.
Needless to say, I cooked nothing of significance at Gigi Camp. I tried a Bon Appetit recipe for gnocchi with peas and mint, but it didn’t really work so I went back to my Aunt Josie’s foolproof recipe for gnocchi with ricotta. By the time I returned to Miami I was ready for a break from babysitting but also from the crappy freezer food I’d been eating. I craved real food so made myself a panzanella salad with some failed sour dough bread. It was fine in my salad, after being sauteed with olive oil and soaked in balsamic vinegar . I didn’t have the avocado or burratta Eating House’s Georgio Rapicavoli suggested, but made due with with tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil, it hit the spot.
I was so excited to have friends Martha and Luis over Saturaday night I could hardly contain myself. Cooking a meal! For people who aren’t my family! Talking to people in person! Who aren’t my family! Yay! I tried to think everything out and was very conscious of safety. Some frozen lamp chops inspired me to do a Middle eastern meal. We had chairs and a table set up for appetizers (6 feet apart), with individual bowls of olives and plates for the lamp chops. Dinner was Persian Chicken Kabobs (my Aunt Emma’s recipe) with Grilled Tomatoes (also my Aunt Emma’s recipe) and sides. For a side, I wanted tabouli, but since I had no bulgur, I shopped my pantry and found barley. I made a salad of barley, feta, bell peppers, toasted walnuts and radishes with a Greek dressing. It was a Publix Apron Simple Meal on the Publix package.
I served individual bowls of Persian hot sauce and Labneh to go with either the grilled flatbread (which tasted of freezer burn) or the chicken. It was such a treat to have friends over to share a glass of wine, gossip and laughs. Martha’s housekeeper’s sister works at Sedonanos and heard the next shortage was going to be rice and beans.
How can I be Cuban without rice and beans?
So now she has a ten pound bag of rice and beans. You can take meat away from a Cuban woman, but don’t you mess with her rice and beans! Martha brought the most delicious dessert, which she says is a favorite in her house. I kept the rest of the plate of cookies in exchange for some Labneh and Middle Eastern hot sauce. Bartering. If you’re in search for a delicious recipe to make while sheltering in place, check out Inas’ recipe for Raspberry Crumble Bars.
On Sunday, we went to Lee Schrager’s House to a “Putting on the Pounds” Bake sale benefiting the FIU Hospitality Relief Fund. There was a line around the block in Coral Gables to buy certain items for $25. Most of the items were sweets or cocktails. We went for The Dumpling Lady’s Miami Spicy Pork Dumplings. Alas, they were sold out. I’ve been craving foods like tamales, meatballs and dumplings lately. Salty, savory, homey. Sunday night, we had a lasagna that I’d made a month ago and put in the freezer. It was a little dried out and nothing to write home about, but with salad and garlic bread, it was dinner.
I have been sending out my photo cards to members of my garden club with a poem about hope by Emily Dickinson. I’ve heard from many members, including former school, teacher Connie Collage who normally gives the (often unintentional hilarious) prayer for our meetings. She called me the other day and told me she just turned 86. Happy Birthday Connie! I also sent one of the free hero Hallmark cards I got to an employee of The Floridean, my family’s former Nursing home, who I thought could use it. This is what she sent when she received my card.
“Thank you for your beautiful card. My days have been pretty long and dark. But the day I got your card was exceptionally dark, and it came as a sign that I shouldn’t make any crazy decision, because I was on the verge of it. So I thank you for taking the time to pick it put, send it and write something so beautiful, but more so for sending the perfect sign to help me see the light on that day.”
So, I took that as a sign, that even the little things I can do, sending a card and writing a note, do matter, perhaps even more than I realize. I am a writer, so I write, but if you’re a seamstress, sew, a musician, play your instrument, a baker, bake some goodies to cheer up someone in need. Do whatever little or big thing you can in this crazy world at this time to help; it will make a difference.
“Hope is the thing with feathers-
That perches in the soul-
And sings the tune without the words-
And never stops at all-
And sweeteset- in the gale- is heard-
And sore must be the storm-
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm-
I’ve heard it in the chillest land-
And on the strangest Sea-
Yet- never- in Extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.” Emily Dickinson
And, as a side note, I’m sorry about the lack of photos and recipes in this blog, but I spilled a glass of wine on my computer while watching Netflix (no judgement) so it’s acting pretty strange and impossible to get my photos on here. Hopefully I can get it resolved and be back to posting photos soon. Even writing this blog post was a Herculean feat, as my computer is about ten times slower than normal.
Stay safe out there! Gina aka Foodie in Miami