The world is gripped with concern about COVID-19. From mandatory quarantines to overcrowded hospitals to rising death tolls, the news is grim. What makes it worse is the drip-drip-drip of information every day: we’re not in control of this, and it shows. The federal government, local governments, and you and I are feeling our respective ways through it all, with varying degrees of success. We know intellectually that this will be over one day, and that we’ll come back from it, stronger than ever. Of course we will. But until that special, magical day comes when our normal lives reassert themselves, we have to get through the now. And the now isn’t a feature film-style montage of families playing Jenga, fighting and making up, eating meals together, and having video chats with Meemaw and Papaw. The now is filled with days, and those days are filled with hours, and those hours are filled with minutes, and you have to live every one of them. When those minutes are tinged with worry, it’s difficult.
Staying occupied helps. Nothing makes time fly faster than staying occupied. You know this. Binge-watching television shows isn’t the same as being occupied, but you do what you have to if it gets you through the now. I love TV as much as anyone; a casual search through this site proves that. But these days I’m watching less television in the effort to do things that don’t involve just sitting around.
Praying is also good. Pray for your family, your country, and the people in your country. Businesses have closed because of this. Some of them permanently. Decent people who work hard every day to build something they’ve always wanted to create are going to lose it all, if they haven’t already. I wish it wasn’t the case. I wish a nice, fat check from the federal government would make everyone better. It won’t. Help who you can where you can how you can. The uncertainty is dreadful, yes. But worse is the certainty of personal financial ruin.
I’m writing this not because I have information that you haven’t already installed into your personal hard drive, but so I can read this a year from now to remember what it was like when we lived in the now of Coronavirus. My son’s school is closing for a month, if not longer. My wife’s working from home for at least that long. We’ve stocked up on food and essentials in the hope that we won’t need them; our Hurricane Kit already has vital stuff, so we simply topped it up. I’m praying that in May or June or even sooner we’ll all of us be standing in a sea of canned soup, beef stew, and tuna, exchanging cooking tips to punch up the flavor of Progresso Chickarina for a light summer appetizer before the neighborhood barbecue.
You want to support your local restaurants because they’re taking it in the shorts during this isolating time, but maybe you like to cook at home, too. So here’s a recipe for brisket that’s so good it should be illegal. I can’t believe it hasn’t been banned yet: Nach Waxman’s brisket recipe.
What’s amazing about this recipe is not just that it makes the best brisket you’ve ever had, but it requires no extra liquid: the onions and brisket do all the work. Tremendous beefy flavor, and the slices are fork-tender without disintegrating into little bits. You don’t even need to make it with brisket. We’ve tried it with chuck roast and it comes out just as good. Any tough slab of beef will do. To make it even better, you can add more carrots and whole cloves of garlic: they give it a little sweetness that really works. If you try this out, you won’t go back to the slow cooker version with onion soup mix and beef broth again. You won’t have to. Don’t wait until Hanukkah to make the tastiest brisket available: do this now.
For a Zen approach to cooking and baking, take a look at Apron’s YouTube channel. Minimal music, no talking: just a recipe performed with clear competence. All in close-up so it’s a Mr. Hands approach to instructional video, but it works. You don’t need to know who Apron is. You don’t want to. Don’t ruin the magic. Just watch. The yeasted banana bread is my favorite. There’s something to it that draws you in: the faint kitchen noises, the imperfect English subtitles, the little pat of her whisk against the egg yolks to break them before she mixes. You can’t look away. You want to make the same recipes that she does, but her simple perfection, the lack of any wasted motion, is entirely daunting. This is how an angel would make doughnuts, or french toast, or sandwich rolls in the kitchens of Heaven. To even think about eating her creations is to commit sacrilege.
Or maybe I’m just going stir-crazy.
As we work out the details of everyone being at home at once all day long, I try to find the time, concentration, and quiet needed to write anything but blog posts about food. I’ll get it sorted. My problems are insignificant compared to what’s actually going on.
My friend A.J. Powers showed me this brief passage from C.S. Lewis. I think you’ll appreciate it.
Take care, and God bless you and your family. I’ll talk to you next week.