If 2020 was a VHS tape, I’d like to press the rewind button to January.
What could we have done differently to prevent this whole fiasco? Plenty, methinks. I have heard so many people who THINK they already had the virus in January or February, even though they weren’t tested, because it was before COVID was a news item. Is this paranoia common in 2020? Or is it justified? I also know of a lot of people, who have suddenly decided to move from their house, city, state, job, you name it. The self-reflection forced upon us in Pandemic quarantine has brought plenty of radical changes.
My favorite neighbor Maggie has moved to Coconut Grove. I’m happy for her as she embarks on this new chapter of her life, but I will miss her. I didn’t get a chance to really say goodbye, since I’m down (up?) in the Keys. Not that I could’ve hugged her, at any rate. And after being in the Keys alone for so long, I’ve started to veer into a weird territory- growing scallion ends and succulents, researching recipes for pickled watermelon rind and taking photos of mushrooms growing in my condo development to see if they’re edible. If the Pandemic doesn’t get me, the mushrooms may.
And Wyatt’s gone for a week, so I miss him.
It seems people are divided in our country on many fronts. One example is the working vs. not working camps; this even comes into play in my own family. My son Christopher is a welder in Tallahassee, his wife Courtney a Labor and Delivery Nurse in a hospital. When I Face Timed with them last week, Christopher told me he only worked 25 hours the week before. Courtney, on the other hand, is working more than ever. Her hospital has always been understaffed, but added to that now is people out sick with COVID or awaiting results from COVID, and they’re severely understaffed. She’s working her a** off and she’s pregnant! My son wants more work, but it’s not there. The situation is frustrating and it seems, no one’s happy.
My friend Katy is a server at Disney World and was one of the “lucky” ones hired back recently. But instead of her normal 6 hour shifts, on different days, she now has 12 hour shifts, four days in a row. And she has to wear, not only a mask, but a plastic face shield while serving Disney diners- she’s on her feet all day and she’s my age (60). Not easy! But when the 7000 Disney employees who got hired back complained about the working conditions in an online chat group, the 12,000 who haven’t been hired back said: “Stop complaining. At least you have a job!” And the $600 a week unemployment boost by the government, to help citizens in the Pandemic, ends at the end of this month.
Apparently, lingerie sales are up 50% in the Pandemic. Not in this household. Mumus and yoga clothes are still in steady rotation. We’ve been looking into buying a boat this summer (a dream of ours for a while), but apparently they’re a hot commodity right now, since everyone wants to be out on the water, socially distancing. Since being in the Keys for a month straight, I’ve started noticing things here that need to be fixed/organized/replaced, so I’ve made some Amazon purchases, delivered to the Keys. All my kitchen appliances are original, from the 90’s, so I’m thinking about replacing them, especially my Hotpoint microwave, which I feel must have been a prototype for microwaves. There’s no turntable that spins and when I put my coffee in to heat it up, the mug comes out hot, the coffee cold, so besides being ineffective, I worry about getting zapped with radioactive waves.
At home, our roof is still not fixed, but they have found the leak, thank God. The deck guy I got to install our deck was cheaper than the rest (originally), but he underestimated the size of the deck, so I had to pay him $2000 more. And when the contractor pulled up the deck, they found he had screwed the faux wood panels into the roof, which caused our roof to leak, so my “cheap” deck is going to end up costing me a fortune. Lesson learned.
My week of meals down in the Keys ended up being (at least somewhat) the way I envisioned them. Monday I made shrimp ceviche, a Cotsco recipe (Ceviche Salad with Avocado, Cilantro and Green Chile) since I had all the ingredients already. I wanted to give a little oomph, so mixed a simple mashed avocado sauce to put on top, along with sriracha (for color and heat). I also wanted a little crunch to my salad, so heated a flour tortilla in the cast iron skillet to go with it and sliced it into wedges. Yummy and pretty healthy.
Tuesday, I stuck with my normal Num Thai take-out, with an order of crispy duck and stuffed tuna. I’d read about the stuffed tuna on Yelp. It’s basically a slice of ahi tuna wrapped around crabmeat tossed in spicy mayo and it was as good as Yelped about. I fufilled my fantasy of grilled teriyaki chicken and corn on Thursday night. Zeke always accuses me of trying to “man his grill”, so this was my chance to man it myself. It turned out fantastic, but prefer boiled corn to grilled, even with the wasabi butter I slathered it with, to keep with the Asian theme.
On Wednesday, I made a Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Muenster cheese, guava preserves and arugula, on fresh rye bread. My Mom always used Muenster cheese for making grilled cheese sandwiches when I was growing up; it melts perfectly. The secret to getting a golden crust on the sandwich was spreading mayo on the bread (neat trick!); the preserves and arugula took it from a Ho Hum grilled cheese to Heck, yea! I served it with some quinoa bean salad my neighbor in the Key’s had dropped off for me. It was an easy, comforting dinner.
I also made Key Lime Bars with Vanilla Wafer Crust (a NYT Food recipe), just because I felt like it. It was basically a Key Lime Pie in bar form, but the vanilla wafer crust was kind of genius. It made the crust crunchier, and unlike the crumbly, graham cracker crust with a hint of cinnamon, focuses the palate on the intense Key Lime filling. Zeke loved them.
While I’ve been hunkered down in the Keys, Zeke has been in Miami whipping up gourmet meals for Rachel and, sometimes, Lauren. When I complained that he never whipped up these creative (or basically any) meals for me, he came down to the Keys equipped with a very fancy Coquille St. Jacques recipe (Ina Garten). He sautéed shallots with brandy and cream; it smelled heavenly. Best of all, this scallop recipe can be made ahead, stored in the fridge and baked later, which is what we did. He served it with rice and it was delicious. Saturday night, Zeke grilled a stuffed pork chop and served it with a Dijon, maple sauce. I made roasted Brussel Sprouts with balsamic vinegar to go with it. Both meals were winners and much appreciated.
We ate lunch at Mrs. Mac’s on Friday, which felt like Saturday all day because Zeke came down on Thursday. We sat outside (of course) and each got a cup of their Conch Chowder and split the Superfish Sandwich with onion rings. It came with grilled yellowtail snapper, sliced tomato, Swiss cheese and 1000 island dressing, on grilled whole wheat bread. It was really good and the service is always attentive and friendly at Mrs. Mac’s, a true local gem.
I can’t really complain about being quarantined in the Keys, as I’ve always wanted to seclude myself here and just write. Now I have the perfect excuse. I’ve been walking every day, reading a Travis McGee murder mystery (Bright Orange For the Shroud) and watching Chef’s Table, the ABC Murders and Clueless (25 year anniversary) on T.V. I’d like to paddleboard but I’m deathly afraid of sharks. I realize the chance of me getting bit by a shark is one in 3.75 million, but I feel like if it was ever going to happen, this would be the year. And Natalie Wood was deathly afraid of drowning, and you know how that ended.
I’m lucky I have a pool to swim in, as it seems to be the most desirable home luxury to have this summer. I was reading an article on The Skimm about how “Inflatable Pools are the Official Symbol of America’s Lost Summer.” The article said, about people ordering inflatable pools, if this Summer has a theme it would be: “It’s Better Than Nothing.” People are making do, doing without, realizing this might be as good as it gets, especially since Americans are allowed to travel like, nowhere. The article ended with “It’s 2020. Take a nice dip in all of your abandoned dreams.”
I’d been planning a Road Trip to visit my Mom’s condo in Steamboat Springs, Colorado with my Mom, A.J. and Wyatt. We were going to drive there, fly back, but after knowing a couple people who got, or were exposed to COVID on flights, I really didn’t think it was the right time to be flying. Especially with my eighty-something year old mom. And, Zeke and I were going to fly up to D.C. with Lauren to get her set up in her apartment to start Georgetown Law School in August, but now we’ve decided to drive instead. After dropping Lauren off, Zeke and I are going to knock off three more states on my Bucket List- West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.
The expression “There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s a grisly little saying and while I have no desire to skin a cat, it’s just kind of been my theme for 2020. Because if this year has taught us anything, it’s how to pivot on a dime. If you can’t go on an Alaskan cruise this summer (like I was supposed to), vacay in the Keys, if you don’t have a pool at home, buy an inflatable one, if you can’t fly somewhere, drive and, if you don’t have a boat, paddleboard instead. Just watch out for sharks!
We’re gonna need a bigger boat!Brody (aka Roy Schneider) in Jaws.
Up Next: Key West Food Tour Seafood Lover’s Tour and Best Melting Cheeses.