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What Now?

I am writing a lot these days; making a lot of cooking videos; and posting them. I love my work. I love connecting with all of you in any way I can. Our little community brings me a great deal of comfort and I hope it does the same for you during these oh, so interesting times.

But what I would really like to do right now? I’d like to be sitting in a sunny piazza somewhere in Firenze with the people I love the best, laughing over an espresso or cappuccino (soy, of course…). I’d wander the streets of Venice or the sun-bleached alleys that make up Ragusa Ibla in Sicily. I’d love to be having a Mediteranneo spritz, made up of Prosecco, limoncello and orange bitters while listening to the greatest mix of music. I’d be sharing pizza and pasta with our dear friends in Naples, Pompeii and RavelIo, enjoying the sun of southern Italy. I’d play on the beach of Gallipolli with our beloved babies.

I’d not be social distancing; I’d be kissing everyone I loved and hugging them tight.

Instead, I love my husband fiercely (the greatest isolation partner I could ask for…), cook, clean, work out, go into our little city garden for some fresh air, maybe take a walk. I’ll find yet more house chores to do. We often make a joke about not having enough time to rearrange our sock drawers. Doesn’t seem so funny now. I find that if I am idle for too long in a day, the low hum of fear that lives in my mind becomes a loud roar. I want to cry…a lot. And I do, at night, when it’s quiet and I let the fear take over. I know there is no ‘going back to our old lives.’ There’s only going forward into new lives, whatever they might look like for the foreseeable future.

I expect that we are all going through something similar. Dreaming of what we would be doing were there not a pandemic keeping us indoors and away from most everything and everyone we love. Trying not to let our nervous fear become an overwhelming terror.

We all remember the days of handshakes, hugs and kisses; the days of crowded restaurants, events and stadiums. We remember popping out to the market for that thing we forgot on our errands. We remember a time when people didn’t hoard toilet paper.

But we can’t let this virus steal more from us than it already has: loved ones, freedom, security. We can’t allow the idea of being freely outside our homes become foreign to us. We must hold onto the hope that we will get through this and once again experience free, sunny days filled with those we love.

Remember, too that wonder surrounds us, but we must look for it now as this pandemic drags on. So look for it. You may find it in the seedlings that begin sprouting in your garden, the tree outside your window, its tender green leaves shading the sidewalk, the perfume of the food you are cooking, even with a limited pantry…maybe especially with a limited pantry. I am in constant wonder that we are managing to pull off three meals a day, each day and they all seem different, even with the same ingredients in use over and over again.

We will see better days. None of us know when nor do we know what they will look like. We must look forward in hope and in strength.

But how do we hold on? How do we stay strong? It’s back to the kitchen once again where we will build strength, stamina and our bodies’ ability to fight infection.

By now, you have stocked your pantry with grains and beans to last a lifetime or so it seems. Your fridge is as stocked as circumstances will allow. I hope that you’re tapping into your creativity and using your kitchen skills to nourish and maybe even delight your loved ones…or just you.

Now is not the time to throw in the towel on cooking, but to renew our passion and wonder for this nourishing art. Now is the kind of time I have always dreamed of, in a way. Certainly I hadn’t dreamed of a pandemic, but of a time when we let go of recipes and just cook. I write recipes for a living and yet, I long for days when we can let go of the specifics of a recipe and cook with passion and intuition. Of course, there are techniques to use correctly, but to cook with abandon is a dream. It’s exhausting to stress over not having the cumin called for in a bean recipe. So what? Cook it anyway. When recipes become just guides, prompts, if you will, your road to delicious dishes grows and grows. I wish that creativity for each one of you. I always mourn what I call cooking with a trembling measuring spoon so that recipes are followed exactly. That sucks the joy from cooking like nothing else.

Now is the time to double down on our cooking so that our bodies remain strong with our essential ability to fight infection protecting us like never before. We need our strength and health like never before.

Let’s do this and have the vitality to be there for each other in any way we can.

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