As the New York City streets emptied and grew deserted, a lot of the streets carts disappeared. There wasn’t enough business to justify coming into Manhattan to set up for the day when you might only see a handful of customers. Lamb (and occasionally chicken) over rice one of my favorite city street cart treats. Even though lunch is delivered at the office I would often sneak out a couple of times a month to pick up an order to eat sneakily and guiltily at my desk. I missed it during quarantine. One of the many small comforts I clung to while sheltering in place were my attempts to debunk and recreate some of my favorite recipes from the restaurants I have visited over the years (see picture above). Here are a few of the other small comforts I have enjoyed over the past few months.
Cereal From My Childhood
I usually like really boring cereals if I have any at all. My breakfast du jour is a hardboiled egg on toast with a scraping of butter and jelly (heaven!). When it comes to cereal, look for me to be eating Grape-nuts, Cheerios and regular Cornflakes. However, all the colorful and sugary cereals from my childhood have been bringing me joy, lately. I try to indulge lightly, but it’s really, really hard. Quarantine has been all about Frosted Flakes, Fruit Loops and my favorite, Captain Crunch.
My Electric Kettle and Endless Cups of Tea
The first time I considered getting an electric kettle was when I traveled to England. They were ubiquitous in all the hotel rooms and I was too thrilled with the perceived ingenuity of a quickly boiled cup of water with the press of a button. I’m used to American hotel rooms and coffee makers whose hot water for tea is usually coffee flavored. Also, being able to walk away and not have to worry about turning the kettle off is a joy of which I have yet to become tired. I originally had this really simple Bonavita and when it died, I started using this Bella. Now that I have mastered the basic ones, I have my eye on this beauty. It heats the water to different temperatures depending on the type of tea being brewed. Talk about small joys.
The Return by Rachel Harrison
I was in serious reading slump in April and May. I have a hard time concentrating and reading when I am really stressed. My now Zoom book club chose Samantha Irby’s latest essay collection and I couldn’t read it. Couldn’t sit still, couldn’t concentrate. When I mentioned this to the group we chose a horror novel for our next meeting. Something intended to be fun, and maybe a little mindless. Enter Rachel Harrison’s The Return. It’s about the friendship between four college friends and how it evolves when one of them goes missing but mysteriously returns two years later.
Eager to reconnect the friends get together for a girls trip but something is seriously awry with the “returned” friend. This was not my usual literary fare. The characters were almost preposterously “inclusive” – one of them is a Texan-Chinese adoptee with white parents who is also a lesbian, another is a strong independent woman who has lost a leg to cancer and doesn’t let anyone get close enough to date her. I felt like the author did roll call to have ALL the tropes and the most diverse set of characters/friends ever(!). But still! It was a page-turner. I wanted to see what was going to happen next, and that was all that I needed to start recovering my reading muscle memory. There was also a pretty compelling through line examining friendship, loss and how difficult it can be to let go of situations and relationships that we’ve outgrown. The main thing is it got me back to reading.
Red, Red Wine
Yesterday I mentioned that I plan on joining an online wine club. In the meantime I have been wandering the aisles of the liquor store and randomly trying different bottles of red wine. Some of them have needed to “breathe”. A lot. But I have made a few good discoveries.
Embarrassing If Made Public Playlists
I have been leaning hard on the pop and r&b of the late nineties and aughts. I also veer hard between time periods, genres, “serious” artists and pop stars. Britney Spears and Randy Crawford have found themselves companions on the same list. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but they are perfect.