Early on in the pandemic, when we’d just begun the lockdown with work places shutting down, restaurants closed, and schools closing, we were only just getting used to having the kids at home, shopping once a week, avoiding people as much as possible, including even our son who lived on his own, plus being in a constant low level state of anxiety, keeping ongoing lists in my head, living, breathing, reading, and writing everything I could about coronavirus 20/7 with four hours leftover for sleep. Often, I couldn’t get through that minimum of four hours. I tried watching the White House’s coronavirus briefings; I thought they would be useful and informative. I thought they would quell my anxiety of those early days of unknown. My priest called them “dark days of confusion,” and they truly were. We’re still in them sometimes now. Those briefings didn’t help; they left me with higher levels of anxiety.
I’ve put Friday in quotation marks since today is Wednesday and this Friday Food is a few weeks late. It didn’t seem appropriate to continue with business as usual last week. I’m slowly returning to writing and publishing.
I mentioned in my recent quarantine and baking piece that my daughter had some assignments from her FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences) class during the remote learning part of the school year. In my day, I say in my best Grandpa Walton voice, we had Home Economics and we cooked and sewed aprons. Same, she replied.
The recipe she wrote, shopped for and prepared was this delicious Summer Salad. She may have called it Strawberry Chicken Salad, but I can’t remember. It was easy and overall not too expensive. I let her get whatever she wanted for it since it was a school project and didn’t complain about the price. Besides, once she took her photos, she would be serving it to the rest of the family for lunch, much better than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or frozen waffles that we usually scrounge up during the week.
Ingredients and Directions:
1 pkg. boneless, skinless chicken tenders. Cook in a skillet with olive or peanut oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, no more than 1 tsp. of each.
1 head of lettuce or 1 bag of mixed greens
1 container of grape tomatoes
(You can add one cucumber, but I honestly can’t remember if we did. I happen to love cucumbers!)
1 lb. strawberries
1 pint blueberries
Freshly shaved parmesan cheese
Dressing – I chose honey mustard. (My daughter actually doesn’t use any dressing.)
Mix the salad together, add your favorite dressing and enjoy a light and satisfying lunch!
Back in April, I participated in a stay-at-home 24 hour scavenger hunt. We raised money for meals for kids who are out of school due to the covid-19 pandemic. At this moment, I am in the middle of a second stay-at-home mini hunt, this time for 25 hours. If you’re interested in joining the fun for our week long hunt in August, visit GISH and see what all the f
ussun is about.
These are the three items I completed. I also filled out an application for an absentee ballot for the June primary and November election.
About a week into quarantine, I told my kids that we’d make bread. They groaned. We had all the ingredients – at our first grocery run before isolation I got a bag each of flour and sugar. I don’t know why; it just felt like a staple I needed like milk, bread, and eggs. I just thought I should have it in the house as if I were Ma Ingalls and baked fresh bread every morning (which I do not).
The next week, I said it again. Hey kids, do either of you have any FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences) class assignments? Let’s bake bread. They groaned. We did not bake bread.
Another week went by and my daughter asked to go to the supermarket; she had an assignment that she needed to prepare and photograph and submit for FACS. I cheered. We’ll bake bread! No, she said after she groaned; I’m making a grilled chicken salad. Fine, I said, but you need to make enough for all of us to eat lunch. She groaned again.
I watched people all over Twitter and Facebook baking bread. Some used regular rising yeast, some used self-rising flour, some used starters, mostly sourdough starter, a lot made banana bread. A lot. Why were my kids immune to the call of the fresh smell of baking bread. Sure, I could have made it on my own, but we can buy bread. I didn’t need fresh bread. I hated the kneading, and my dough was never smooth like in the photos or on the Food Network, and I wanted it to be a family project. Me and the kids, measuring and watching the dough rising, kneading like we used to do with playdoh, and then baking it at three hundred fifty degrees for thirty to forty minutes. Why wouldn’t they cooperate?
Five years ago, I would have had them. They’d put on the too-big aprons and they’d get flour on their faces, and they’d burn their fingers trying to pull bits of bread right when it came out of the oven. Five years is a long time in kid ages. My two youngest are fourteen and fifteen, and they had no interest in baking bread with Mommy.
We have to, I said more than once. Everyone is baking bread. Everyone, I whispered. Is it really quarantine if we’re not baking bread? They looked at me in that way that teenagers look at their parents – the face that is partly pity and partly embarrassment; and not of you, but for you. I let them walk away.
We were cooking at least I thought with a shrug. We made pasta, Chef Jose Andres‘ Angel hair with tomato sauce (he called it pomodoro), chicken Alfredo, meatloaf, homemade meatballs, lasagna, roast chicken, pork in orange sauce, even my own leek and potato soup.
And still no bread.
I have a friend in Oklahoma who made a starter and offered it to her friends, like a chain letter. You get the starter, you grow it, and then, after ten days, you bake your bread, and you share the rest with your friends leaving one cup for you to continue the starter or freeze it for when you’re ready. for more Hmm, I thought, sure why not.
About two weeks later, a small postal box arrived at my doorstop. My starter was here! This was day one, and the directions couldn’t have been easier: do nothing.
I can do nothing.
For ten days, I mix the starter in the bag and I feed it twice. At the second feeding it’s ready to divide and use.
I put on my red apron, I got covered with flour because really what choice did I have – that stuff gets everywhere! One of the best parts of this type of bread is that apart from the starter, I already had every ingredient in my house.
I mixed it smooth. There is no kneading; it has a batter consistency and it poured into the loaf pan easily. I covered it with cinnamon sugar, although I feel as though in the end I should have mixed the sugar with butter to give it a streusel-style topping. I will try that when I make this the next time, and I will definitely add my results in here with an update (but not for awhile). I baked the bread on Wednesday, and I still have a full half of a loaf left. I think my family hasn’t figured out where the bread is or it would be gone already.
Apart from the community of what seems like the entire world baking bread simultaneously, the act of baking the bread is its own therapy. It brings out the homesteading, the nurturing, the nesting that just naturally happens in days of trauma, especially this shared trauma we’ve been facing. This feels different, though, maybe not as natural as other moments, and there is a level of stress and an undercurrent of fear sitting on the surface; the unknown that awaits. Like a rising tide lifts all boats, bread rising is an act of faith. You can follow the directions, mix all the ingredients, knead and rise, and it works or it doesn’t. Sweet breads are a little different, but there is still the wonder of making something from your hands and then sharing that with the people around you, whether that is physically with your family or here online with the people who make up our community.
I got the starter and I followed the directions. I added the ingredients. I mixed. I poured. I spread. I baked.
It hadn’t taken much for the house to smell like a bakery. A little cinnamon and vanilla goes a long way. The smells combined with each other – the cinnamon mixed in with the vanilla – and then it spread throughout the entire house until it was just there; it was consoling, comforting. It calmed. It’s quiet work reassured that things are okay and if they’re not okay right now, they will be. They will be.
Twenty-twenty’s been a year, hasn’t it? We’ll get through it in our own ways and yet still together.
It will take time, but we’ll be okay.
And there will always be bread.
For anyone who wants to make this bread, this is the link for the ingredients and directions as well as a few photos from my baking venture.
Now that most places across the country are asking people to wear masks when they go out, I thought that now would be a good time to share some information on making your own masks. The CDC does not want people wearing N95 or surgical masks; those are to be saved for medical and hospital staff. Out in the everyday world, we should be wearing cloth masks. I’ve been wearing one for a little more than a week. Last week, my husband went to Ocean State Job Lots where they were giving out free fabric/cloth in order to make your own masks. You can check their website to see if those are still available. At the time, there was a limit of 5 per person.
The instructions that I used to make my NO SEW mask can be found on YouTube.
Chef Jose Andres, immigrant, restauranteur, activist, and advocate started a hashtag on Twitter during this quarantine: #RecipesForThePeople. He’s been posting recipes along with videos of he and his daughters cooking, showing how easy cooking for your family can be. It can also be fun, and a way to get closer to your family. One of the first recipes that I saw was Angel Hair Pasta with Tomato Sauce. According to Chef Jose, it takes less than four minutes to make, and so I got the ingredients I was missing (we already had most of these basic ingredients in our pantry) when I went to the grocery store for my next scheduled trip, and had my son help me make it, along with help from Chef Jose himself (through Twitter-video!)
It was amazing!
It was fast; it was easy.
The whole family loved it!
You can find the link (along with his and others’ recipes) as part of the Food, Isolation Style post, but I will also include the direct link to his Twitter here with a list of the ingredients.
1 box (16oz) angel hair pasta
1 bag fresh spinach
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
Salt, pepper, sugar to taste
A larger pan than I used initially – LOL
We’ve got our milk, bread, toilet paper, and kids home. It’s only been a few days, and we are in it for the long haul: two weeks, four weeks, six. We just don’t know right now. What can we do from the sanctity of our homes without risking our health or the health of others? Here are a few suggestions.
Imagineering in a Box – Free online course where you will “go behind the scenes with Disney Imagineers and complete project-based exercises to design a theme park of your very own.” (In collaboration with Khan Academy.)
Good Night with Dolly Dolly Parton will read weekly bedtime stories beginning on April 2 at 7pm ET. The first book will be The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper. The rest of the ten weeks of books will be: There’s a Hole in the Log on the Bottom of the Lake by Loren Long, Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney, I Am a Rainbow by Dolly Parton, Pass It On by Sophy Henn, Stand Tall Molly Lou Mellon by Patty Lovell, Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen, Max & The Tag-Along Moon by Floyd Cooper, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, and Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton
National Aquarium in Baltimore – Livestreams of The Blacktip Reef, Jellies Invasion, Pacific Coral Reef
New York Public Library – (for NYC residents with a library card) (CONTACT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY ABOUT THEIR E-BOOK PROGRAMS)
NASA makes their entire media library publicly accessible and COPYRIGHT FREE
15 Broadway Plays and Musicals You Can Watch on Stage from Home (best filmed and where to find them)
Virtual Field Trips – including San Diego Zoo, Yellowstone National Park, Mars!!!, Animal Cameras, Virtual Farm Tour, US Space and Rocket Museum in Hunsville AL, Discovery Education, The Louvre, The Great Wall of China, Boston’s Children’s Museum
12 Museums Offering Virtual Tours – including British Museum (London), Guggenheim Museum (NY), National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), Musee d’Orsay (Paris), National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Seoul), Pergamon Museum (Berlin), Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam), The J. Paul Getty Museum (L.A.), Uffizi Gallery (Florence), MASP (Sao Paulo), National Museum of Anthropology (Mexico City)
14 Beautiful, Dramatic Waterfalls in North Wales (this is primarily a travel article, but they’re still pretty to look at! And Wales!
Metropolitan Opera offering Nightly Met Opera Streams – see the link for details and limits.
Five Gardens You Can Virtually Visit – Waddesdon Manor (Waddesdon, England), Claude Monet’s Garden (Giverny, France), Chicago Botanic Garden (Chicago, IL), Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Garden (Papaikou, Hawai’i), Kew Gardens (Richmond, England).
How to Be Happier in Your Daily Life (popular Yale University course – ONLINE FREE (Source: Business Insider)
Tour New York State Parks (virtual)
Twitter for Voice Actors Read. There are many voice actors reading books aloud to you and your children.
Tour The Winchester Mystery House (virtual tour)
Tour the Paris Catacombs (virtual tour)
The Parents’ Guide to Google Classroom
Outdoor Scavenger Hunts from Buttonwood Park Library
Easy Toilet Paper Roll Crafts (when you use up your stash of toilet paper!)
Outdoor and Indoor Scavenger Hunts from Leicester Library
Miniature Bookshop DIY – cost $36.99
Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY (Safe at Home Program)
On this International Women’s Day, let me tell you about The Mooncatcher Project. They make and donate menstrual kits so girls can go to school. In some of these countries, underwear is a luxury, let alone disposable pads. This kit includes a carrier that can be written without underwear and comes with three reusable, washable absorbent pads plus a way to carry the used one home and wash it. I only learned about this earlier this week and I’m so excited by this project. Each kit costs $5 to make and cost nothing for the girls who receive them. Check them out and help if you can either by making kits or by donating money.