Well, the best news last week is the Hurricane Isaias didn’t hit South Florida, because it seems if there was ever a year for it to happen, it would’ve been 2020. Of course, Hurricane Season isn’t over yet, but the thought of a major hurricane hitting us now, with people having to cram into shelters and then being without power with COVID on the rise, is just too awful to contemplate. But Hurricane Isaias is still a factor in other parts of the country, so fingers crossed for them.
In other good news, it appears that new coronavirus cases are leveling off, in the nation and in Florida. We’re still a “red” state, with a high volume of cases however, and last Thursday, Florida had a record number of deaths for the third day in a row. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me a lot of people are dying lately, not just of COVID, but in general. Celebrities like Regis Philbin, Olivia de Havilland and Wilfrod Brimley, the guy from Cocoon. A lot of babies being born are also popping up on my Instagram feed, so I guess it’s a circle of life kind of thing. And, in what’s really the most shocking news of 2020, Ellen DeGeneres, inventor of the motto “Be Kind to One Another” and America’s Golden Girl, is apparently mean. Or, at least her producers are.
Denim Sales have fallen sharply amid the Pandemic, as people are becoming one with their yoga and sweat pants. The Pioneer Woman, aka Ree Drummond, referred to them as “hard pants” on her cooking show. Apparently, people are realizing it’s more comfortable to wear athletic wear amid the lockdown and are rejecting their stiff blue jeans, or “dungarees” as my Dad used to call them. Levis sales have dropped 62% and True Religion and Lucky Brand stores, known for their jeans, have filed for bankruptcy. Lord and Taylor and Men’s Warehouse are two other retailers that have declared bankruptcy amid the Pandemic retail free fall.
Let’s see, came home Monday for a quick pit stop. Zeke had bought steaks at Wild Fork, but had an online meeting at 7, so after waiting till after 8, I gave up and cooked the steaks so we could eat. I was going to reverse-sear the Flat Iron steak I seasoned with Montreal Seasoning, but cooked them too long in the oven, so we ate it as is; they were still very good. Flat Iron is a flavorful and tender cut of meat we first discovered at the now-closed Ortanique. I made baked potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, a green salad and garlic bread to go with it. It was a Meatfull Monday and there was a big mess to clean up afterwards. Is it any wonder I’ve been retreating to the Keys?
While I was home, I threw away all my Sour Dough Starters that were clogging up the outside fridge. You have to maintain them by adding flour and water at least once a week and by the inch of dark sludge on the top of them, I could tell I’d killed them through sheer neglect. It made a white, floury bloodbath in my sink and, as I dumped them down the drain, my dreams of Pandemic Baking met a watery, sludgy end. The girls, Zeke and I were talking about how in the beginning of the Pandemic lockdown in March, this all seemed like a temporary adventure, with puzzle solving, long walks, yoga by the pool, Tiger King and endless whipped coffees on rotation. Cut to five months later and it’s sort of unbelievable we’re still dealing with this and it’s gone from bad to worse.
I picked up a breakfast sandwich from Cecile’s Bakery and Cafe in South Miami, since I had to go by my bank and it’s close by. I didn’t realize my bank’s lobby was closed, so I parked, picked up my sandwich and went to the bank’s drive-through instead. It’s little things like this that are disheartening to me in the bottomless pit of the Pandemic disappointments. Going to my bank, which is normally open except for Holidays and weekends, and finding it closed made me sad. I’m not one of those people who does online banking, I actually like to do it in person, even though entering a bank with a mask on does seem the opposite of normal. I even miss the cranky old man and cranky young man tellers who used to wait on me at my bank. Sigh-
My breakfast sandwich was very good- scrambled egg with cheddar cheese, crispy bacon strips, on a croissant. It came with a little side salad, which was wilted and sad by the time I arrived back in Key Largo, but I saved the dressing. Cecile’s Bakery on Sunset Drive is a neighborhood gem, with soups, salads, sandwiches, delicious baked goods and outdoor seating.
I made easy tacos (Taco Tuesday) that night, with leftover pork marinated in lime juice and garlic. Instead of a tomato salsa, I made a mango salsa (see previous post) which went perfectly with the pork and added some sliced red cabbage for crunch and a squirt of spicy mayo. I love using leftover meat, chicken or pork to make easy tacos! These were with flour tortillas, but corn would work as well. Cilantro is always a welcome addition to add a bit of freshness.
Thursday morning, I figured the odds were in my favor, so took my paddle board out into Buttonwood Bay for a ride. I survived, but as I paddled off, was horrified to find the water was super cloudy and murky. I don’t like to paddle board in these conditions as I cannot see WHAT LIES BENEATH. Luckily, I hadn’t read the article that came out Saturday about a Great White Shark who fatally attacked a woman off the coast of Maine. Apparently, she was wearing a black wet suit and the shark mistook her for a seal and… the article said Great Whites are making a comeback. I’m not sure if this is Good News or Bad News. I’m guessing good for the sharks, bad for us bait.
Thursday I repeated my Grilled Cheese sandwich with Muenster for lunch, but this time added Fig jelly (I liked the Guava better) and whipped up a Fresh Tomato Soup to go with it. It wasn’t the best soup in the world, a little blah, but still better than Campbell’s (no offense to Andy Warhol). I added some avocado chucks to thicken it up instead of the normal slice of bread. The next day, I ate a salad with leftover soup and little teeny grilled cheese sandwiches, that was kind of genius.
And, since I had an abundance of parsley, I decided to make Pesto. Basil is usually the main herb in pesto, but it’s an adaptable recipe and I already had garlic, olive oil and Parmesan cheese, so I attempted to make it in my blender. I don’t have a food processor in the Keys, but soon discovered, pesto cannot really be made in a blender, so I ordered a new Cuisinart and will take my old one to the Keys. I justified this purchase by the fact that my old Cuisinart is REALLY old, like from 1985! I had it serviced once, but other than that, it’s original and has lasted thirty five years.
Thursday night I made Bay Scallops with Thai Red Curry Butter and Clean Out Your Fridge Fried Rice, since I had leftover take-out rice and lots of veggies that needed to go. This can be made with almost any vegetables, although onions, peas and carrots are typical. Mine was made from corn, Brussel sprouts, carrots, onions and jalapeño pepper. I used chopped bacon to sauté the veggies in. Tip: sauté the ones that are the hardest first, like carrots and celery.
Here are some other helpful hints for Fried Rice from Gimme Some Oven.
1) Use cold, leftover rice.
2) Use butter (like Benihana) to fry the rice and veggies in.
3) Use veggies, your choice.
4) Add sesame oil and oyster sauce to the fried rice. (I skipped the oyster sauce).
5) Stir fry on high heat.
6) Add extra soy sauce, to taste, at the end.
I added some cilantro, chopped green onions and sesame seeds to finish the rice. Chopped meat, like ham, chicken or pork can also be added and this also makes an excellent breakfast, with a fried egg over the top. See my latest post on how to make a perfect fried egg.
Zeke came down to the Keys Friday and we were on different wavelengths.
I was hungry for lunch, he wasn’t. He wanted to stay in and cook and I, after staying home all week, wanted to go out. We went to Lazy Lobster and sat outside, under a huge chikee hut. We’d been to Lazy Lobster (owned by the same people as Lazy Days) many times, but had never sat outside and were surprised to discover what a large and spacious space it was. Everything seemed very sanitary, tables were socially distanced, silverware in pre-wrapped plastic, paper menus and our waitress was great. We split Oysters Rockefeller and a bottle of wine and both got (what else?) a Lobster Dish. Zeke got the Lobster Lorenzo that came with a crab cake and hollandaise. I got the Lobster Islamorada, with shrimp, scallops, mushrooms, scallions in a a Key lime Butter Sauce. Thumbs up on Lazy Lobster and we had Banana Bread to take home for the next day.
Saturday the news was all about the Hurricane Isaias, but luckily, we were spared. In the Keys, it was just very windy, with white cap seas and intermittent rain. Saturday night Zeke grilled steaks, made baked potatoes and I made a salad of tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar. I was worried about our house in Miami, but we had Rachel there keeping an eye out, especially on our roof to make sure it wasn’t leaking. I did have a dream that the water from the Hurricane came up to the second story of our condo and there were fish, dolphin and sharks swimming all around in an aquarium type situation, while Wyatt and I just watched.
I’d promised the girls I’d come home to make my grandmother’s pasta sauce on Sunday, so that’s what I did. Here’s the thing about making my Grandmother’s sauce. It’s not even my favorite pasta sauce, but when I form the meatballs, sauté the salt pork with onions and sausage, pour in the the pureed tomatoes from the blender, add the sugar and bay leaf and let it simmer for a couple hours, it always reminds me of my grandmother and Spaghetti Sundays at her house. The funny thing is, it’s really the smell of it, more than the taste, that gets me. When we walked into her house as children, arriving with our parents in our 70’s brown station wagon, we were greeted by the smell of that sauce and my grandmother and aunts in the kitchen. They were always happy to see us, wanted to kiss us and feed us; we felt loved. Jeff Smith, aka The Frugal Gourmet, said on his show: “Sometimes we just need to cook the dishes of our childhood to remember.” I would venture to say, this is one of those times.
The memory of what we ate as a child forms a sort of patriotism that lasts throughout our life.Jeff Smith
Emma made an Eggplant Parmesan for our meal, which was very impressive as it is a labor of love; it turned out great. I made penne pasta, served with meatballs and sausage (spicy and sweet), salad with garbanzo beans and onions and Italian bread. For dessert, I tried out my new ice cream maker (a late-arriving Mother’s Day gift) and made Pistachio ice cream. It turned out great and I’m already dreaming up other kinds of ice creams to make. Lemon, Coffee, lavender ice cream, Mango or Cherry Sorbet? Emma said her boyfriend Guillermo said my sauce was the best he’d ever eaten and wants to know when the next Spaghetti Sunday is going to be.
On TV, I’ve been watching reruns of Frankie and Grace, with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin and also binge-watched a show called Catastrophe on Amazon Prime. I discovered it when listening to Desert Island Discs, when they interviewed the writer/actress of the series, whose name is Sharon Horgan. It’s about an English schoolteacher who has a fling with an American ad man visiting and she ends up pregnant. He moves to England and they start a life together and the series is about their adventures, which are less catastrophic than relatable. There are 4 seasons and Carrie Fisher makes a cameo as his mother. The two lead actors co-wrote the series and I found it to be a hysterical, if somewhat raunchy show. I need a good laugh right now and this one fits the bill for me.
I finished sending my photo cards with the Emily Dickinson quote about Hope to all the Active members in my Pinecrest Garden Club; there were about 100 members. Then I had to decide if I wanted to keep going and send them to the Associate members as well. Like Forest Gump, I decided “For no particular reason, to just keep on going.” Of course, I did actually have a particular reason and that was to uplift and encourage my fellow garden club members to stay hopeful. And some of the Associate Members are actually good friends, like Tami.
BLUE WITHOUT WYATT
After waiting for months, I finally got refunded for Disney tickets I’d purchased for A.J. Wyatt and I back in February. We were supposed to go in March, but those plans got scrapped into the junkyard of broken dreams. They’ve been gone in North Carolina more than a week and I miss them! Face Time is no replacement for Face to Face, but while in the car the other day he did tell me: “Guess what? I got monkeys today. Not just monkeys, but Sea Monkeys!” Oh man, is he going to be disappointed! They have been staying at his other grandmother’s (Lela’s) house in Banner Elk and he also whispered to me: “Where we’re staying is kind of like a castle.”
We also got refunded for our American Airline flight to D.C. I’d gotten “fully refundable tickets” but according to the person I talked to at American Airlines, hardly any tickets are actually “fully refundable” and the only reason I got refunded is because they changed the departure time by more than two hours. We’re now driving instead.
Lauren found out last week that her Fall classes at Georgetown Law are going to be entirely remote, a real bummer. It’s hard to move to a new town to start a new school, but then to have to classes remotely where you can’t meet fellow students, very hard. I’m now planning our Road Trip to the surrounding states and had a couple of my old Book Club friends give me some traveling tips on Baltimore and Delaware, which was helpful. Thanks Beth and Mireya! Luckily, none of the states we’re visiting have restrictions on visitors coming from our bright red state of Florida, branded like like the Scarlet F. I probably just won’t mention where I’m from on our travels.
Hampton’s designer Tom Samet posted on Instagram: “August. The Sunday of summer” and I like that idea. June is frantic with end-of-the-year programs and school coming to an end (normally), July you’re in the thick of it (with vacations normally), but August is relaxing, mellow and fully into summer mode, even in these abnormal times. Instead of the Days of Wine and Roses, I think August will be my summer of ice cream making (and eating). Luckily, even if I have to wear a bathing suit, it will be in my own back yard and no one will see me. And, truth to tell, I didn’t dispose of ALL my Sour Dough Starters. There was one I’d kept alive in the Key Largo fridge that I started feeding again and now it’s back in Miami.
So I guess I haven’t given up all hope. And as Martha would say:”It’s a good thing”.
I used to rule my world from a pay phone, Ships out on the sea But now times are rough and I’ve had enough, Can’t explain the likes of me. But there’s this one particular harbor, So far and yet so near Where I see the days, As they fade away and finally disappear.One Particular Harbor by Jimmy Buffet
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