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The Joy of Still Cooking

Ah, the pandemic. 2020 has been such a delight (she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm). As the weeks and months of COVID life drag on, I find solace where I usually do: in the kitchen, at the gym (for hot, sweaty outdoor workouts) and in the love and companionship of my husband.

But it’s different now. In the beginning (does that sound too..Biblical?), I found peace in small pleasures like baking a special treat for us or making a traditional dish we love. Those nurturing acts pulled me through a lot of hard days. As we look at six months of this pandemic life, there’s not much that feels special enough to motivate me to create.

It’s a bunch of things that have accumulated, like for all of us. My oldest and dearest friend has moved from the suburbs of New Jersey to life in the city, buying a home about a mile from my house. We had visions of weekly coffee visits, cooking together, doing what dear friends do. I have seen her twice since the pandemic, distanced from each other and in masks. I have been in her new home once, right before her family and she moved in.

You know that things are far from normal when the highlight of a day is a hot, sweaty outdoor workout at the gym.

When this all began, I don’t think any of us dreamed we’d summer in a sea of masks and restrictions of movement and interaction with people we love.

And yet, here we are. The week before Labor Day is often tinged with jubilation and sadness at the same time. It’s summer’s last big hurrah and it’s summer’s last big hurrah. Time to get serious again about work and life, school and obligations.

Most of us missed out on the parties of summer, opting for small intimate gatherings of masked faces finding joy in small moments together.

Usually, Labor Day means feeling super lazy, soaking in the last of summer’s leisure but at the same time, it’s crazy busy getting ready for school, work and all the thing we associate with autumn’s return to reality.

This Labor Day feels especially nostalgic, don’t you think? We look back longingly on life as it was before.

I don’t know about you but I needed inspiration; I needed a new project to pursue, to fuel my passion. I wanted to feel excited about something new. A new recipe. It came in the unlikeliest of places. I did an Instagram Live event with an olive oil company from Calabria, Italy. (@exau) During the session, a vineyard we love in Pompeii joined in the event. Afterwards, Margherita (from the vineyard) sent me a message that read, “Can we do one of these together?” A series of emails, recipe exchanges and a box of gorgeous Italian wine and food later, we decided on a date. The event was fun and we are planning more.

It doesn’t end there. For the event, I wanted to cook with wine. I wanted to do something inspiring with wine. So I looked at my vegan pound cake recipe and made it with the sparkling rose’ wine from Bosco de Medici vineyard. I prayed while it baked because I didn’t want to have wasted this most delicious wine.

The cake was a success and birthed in me a new passion (well, a re-birth actually) in cake baking. I had become so crazed with cookies for my online bakery that I forgot how delicious my cakes were and how much I loved making them. I talked to my beloved Robert and the decision was made.

Bambino Bundt cakes will join the line up in my little web bakery in September. So stay tuned for more news.

It proved something to me. I still get so excited over new recipes! I still find peace and passion in my kitchen where I create both joy and life. I hope that my deeply held conviction that recipes (or no recipes, just cooking) can comfort and cheer you as well.

And if you find you’re not up to cooking? Try this. It works and I have no idea why. If you can’t think of anything to cook, put a pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. By the time it boils, you’ll know what to cook.

Try it. And let me know.

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