Going Viral

I’m trying to organize my thoughts concerning the president’s Covid19 diagnosis and the explosion of cases in his wake.

Right now, my mind is a piece of poster board, with words cut out from magazines, pasted haphazardly all over it.

The words from my better angels are things like compassion, concern, worry, and sympathy.

But unfortunately, my better angels are being drowned out by another, not so angelic feeling.

I am furious with the president of the United States.

I am furious that on February 7th, during a phone conversation with journalist Bob Woodward, he stated that the coronavirus was airborne and “more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

Bob Woodward (R) and Carl Bernstein (L)-Two of my personal heroes.

On February 26, the president said, “Whatever happens, we’re totally prepared.” And, “In fact, we’ve ordered a lot of it (PPE) just in case we need it. We may not need it; you understand that. But in case—we’re looking at worst-case scenario. We’re going to be set very quickly.”

Months later, the Associated Press did an audit of contracting records and found that, “federal agencies largely waited until mid-March to begin placing bulk orders of (supplies).”

And although the White House had known for almost two months how serious this virus is, on February 28 he declares, “This is their new hoax” referring to Democrats who he says are “politicizing the coronavirus.”

Politicizing the coronavirus.

In what Trump later excuses as an attempt to not cause panic, on March 4, he states, “So if, you know, we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work—some of them go to work, but they get better.”  CDC and other scientists have consistently warned against going to work while ill.  He later denies downplaying the situation, and insists he “up-played” it.

Finally, on March 16, the president seems to admit the danger the nation is facing, “This is a bad one. This is a very bad one. This is bad in the sense that it’s so contagious. It’s just so contagious. Sort of, record-setting-type contagion.”

One week later, “We have to go back to work, much sooner than people thought.”    

But on April 4, he says, “During a national emergency, it’s just essential that the federal decision-makers cut through the fog of confusion in order to follow the facts and the science.”

Follow the facts and science.

On April 17, the president tweets, “Liberate Michigan!”.  He also urges Virginia and Minnesota to reopen.  All three states are helmed by Democratic governors.

He spends the next few months sidelining and belittling scientists and epidemiologists while promoting medical advice from a bedding salesman and an MD who believes in magic.

In early August during an interview for HBO, Trump states, in response to the shocking number of deaths, ‘They’re dying…it is what it is’

On October 2, after months of modeling disdain to American citizens for crucial mitigation advice, while simultaneously paying it phony lip service, the president announces he and the First Lady have Covid19.

So now, our president has it.  It’s unnerving that the nation’s leader has a potentially fatal infection.

I am grief-stricken and outraged at the path of death, destruction, and hate-filled division he has sown throughout this country.

I’ve written for newspapers for almost a decade and have never endorsed any causes except kindness, humor, and birthday cake.  But this country is in grave danger.  So, I am begging you Gentle Reader; while we still have a chance, vote this deceitful, narcissistic bully out of office. 

Four more years of this person will irreparably pervert the heart of what makes us, us.

Thanks for your time.

Contact me at d@bullcity.mom.

Healing Begins When The Hurt Is Acknowledged & Shared

*Warning: If you think Covid19 is a hoax, you use the term, “lamestream media”, or you think this virus is a plot to influence an election, stop reading now.  The remainder of this column will only upset you and reinforce any notion you have that I am a deluded fool.

You’ ve been warned.

I’ll tell you a secret.  After being married to a nurse for years, and being around many hospital workers, I have learned something.

Medical folk ain’t quite right.

Every single day, they put others’ well being above their own.

When most people are cocooning and withdrawing from the world, nurses, doctors, lab staff, respiratory therapists, and every other human that works to heal and ensure our health keep on going.

And many have family with high-risk factors so haven’t seen or touched their parents, or children, or spouses in months in order to avoid exposing loved ones to the virus.

There are workers who’ve had family members born or pass away, but because they are considered a possible carrier of infection weren’t able to say hellos or goodbyes.  

I have a friend who has just graduated as a Doctor Nurse.  She has a Ph.D. in nursing. 

Throughout her studies, she has continued to work full time as an intensive care nurse at a very large university hospital.  There’s not enough PPE.  Early on, Petey and I found a box of N95 masks from his own nursing days.  We gave them to her.

In intensive care, where the normal ratio is one or two patients per nurse, the new ratio is four patients for each nurse, due to drastic nursing shortages and also hiring freezes, because money is in even shorter supply than protective gear.

Until there is a steady supply of reliable tests, the true number of Covid19 positive patients won’t be known.  But what is known is that there are countless untested patients admitted with unmistakable symptoms of the virus. 

And before the news was talking about meat processing outbreaks, they were getting multiple admissions a day from the plants—many don’t speak English, had no contact information, and were too sick or frightened to give a medical history to staff.

Right now, my friend is not working with current coronavirus patients.  She had worked four straight weeks without a break when her nurse manager made her rotate out.  The masks we gave her are currently being used because even when working with patients who have recovered from COVID and are still very sick, there are not enough masks for employees. 

And this devotion to caring for complete strangers at their own detriment is not new.  The very last day Petey ever worked before his career-ending illness, he was so sick, that after his shift, they had to bring him off his unit in a wheelchair.

Everybody knows frontline medical workers.  They’re the same kind that devoted their lives to their fellow man back when Petey was nursing, and it will be the same type of humans caring for us when Covid19 is just a horror story in our rearview.

So, give them some love.  Buy them some PPE.  Carry homemade dinner to their families.  Make a batch of cupcakes for them to take to work.  Or just stand six feet away, and say, “Thank you.  I am so grateful to you for your devoted service.”

“To do what nobody else will do, in a way that nobody else can do, in spite of all we go through…that is what it is to be a nurse.” – Rawsi Williams, Nurse and Attorney.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Murder: Not Most Foul, But Sweet & A Little Bit Spicy

Today, Gentle Reader, I have for you a tale of mayhem and murder, set in the gaslit streets of 1896.

But instead of ending under a tombstone, this story ends in cookies.  Plus a bonus quick bread recipe.

I am totally digging that many people who are stuck at home because the world is on fire have begun baking.  Folks are baking so much bread that yeast has become scarce.  So, enterprising, adaptable Americans are starting their own sourdough starter from naturally occurring free-floating yeast.

Honestly, I couldn’t be prouder or more pleased.  You go, American self-starters!

They’re also making quick breads.  These are easier and as the name says, quicker.  Last week I shared my favorite banana bread recipe, and if you’ve made it Gentle Reader, I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

This week, I have a quick bread recipe that started its online journey on Reddit.  It’s actually a depression-era recipe that doesn’t call for scarce, expensive ingredients.  It doesn’t even contain eggs.

If like me, you are trying to cook from your pantry, or if there are allergy issues at your house, I’ve given you some substitutions that will still turn out a loaf you can be proud of.

The cookie recipe also came from Reddit.  It was shared by a woman who was researching a murder that took place in her house in 1896.  This led the woman, as she called it, “down the rabbit hole”.  She eventually came upon this recipe that came from Cushman’s Bakery which was next door to her house when the crime occurred.

As for the murder, in Patterson, New Jersey a homeless man spent the night accosting women, continuously escalating his behavior until he bludgeoned Mary Sullivan to death.  An interesting side note: the coroner ordered a photograph made of the woman’s retina under the then-theory of optography; that the last thing seen (in this case her killer) by the dead is permanently engraved upon the eye.

I listed tons of different substitutions for these cookies so that no matter what’s in your own pantry, you’ll be able to make your personal version of “Murder Cookies”.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Murder Cookies

(Cushman’s Bakery Scotch Cookies)

1 1/2 cups sugar         

1 cup shortening

1/2 cup molasses

1 egg

3 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon mace

1/4 cup milk

Cream sugar. shortening, molasses, and egg.  Sift dry ingredients and beat in, along with the milk.

Drop by tablespoonful onto greased sheets.  Press down lightly with floured glass.

Bake, but do not overbake at 350° for 12-14 minutes.

Substitutions:

Sugar: brown sugar

Shortening: Softened butter, olive oil, coconut oil, lard, duck fat, or half the amount of apple sauce.

Molasses: equal amounts of liquid sweetener such as honey, corn syrup, agave, maple syrup, sorghum.

Cinnamon and mace: Mix and match a total of 2 teaspoons except where noted.  Ginger, allspice, clove (use no more than ¼ teaspoon), Chinese five-spice, nutmeg (pinch of freshly grated), cayenne (to taste), back or pink peppercorns (pinch of freshly grated), curry powder, smoked paprika, anise, caraway,  fennel,  sumac, or cardamom.

Milk: any fat level, or any plant-based milk.

1932 Peanut Butter Pandemic Bread

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups milk

2/3 cup peanut butter

Preheat oven to 325°.

Mix dry ingredients.  Mix in the milk, then the peanut butter.

Scrape into greased quick bread loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour.

*You can use any type of peanut butter, nut butters, sun butter, Nutella, or cookie butter.

You Might As Well…

Computers and the ensuing internet have been life-changing for humanity. 

People have found long-lost relatives, collaborated on medical breakthroughs, raised money for worthy charities, and had 1,500 ladybugs and uranium ore delivered to their front door in 24 hours. 

But there is a dark side, too.

Cyber-bullying, a whole new way for the nefarious to cheat people, and the rise of the Kardashians.

Closer to home, the world wide web has completely and totally demolished the idea that I am, in any way, an original thinker.

Every once in awhile I think I’ve had a world-shattering idea that’ll change the very fabric of civilization.  I have learned to check online before I call a press conference.     

Because, inevitably, not only am I not the first person to think up this great idea, folks have known about it since Moses was in kindergarten.

I gotta say, it’s pretty darn humbling.

Right now, computers are making life more bearable.

I still don’t Facebook or tweet or insta, but I do read lots of food and cooking websites.  And during this pandemic-imposed sequestration, there seem to be two kitchen projects that are happening in many, many homes all over the country.

The first is people are cultivating sourdough starter and baking bread.  Which makes sense, because folks have time on their hands and getting those hands on fresh bread has become more problematic every day.

I worship at the kitchen temple of Nigella.

And not many things make one feel more like a culinary goddess than baking bread with the wild yeast that you have grown out of literally, thin air.

I began growing sourdough when The Kid was in high school.  Each week I would make a loaf of pumpernickel so our little scholar could take a chicken sandwich on pump every day for lunch.

I baked this loaf last night, with my starter.

But bread baking can be an uncertain thing.  Yeast is alive and can be cranky and temperamental.  As much as it can make you feel god-like, it can turn around and make you feel an abject failure.  But once it gets inside you, you’re lost.

Once you go bread, you’ll bake ‘til you’re dead.

The other thing folks are making right now is banana bread.  It’s still bread, but much easier, takes almost no time, and the stakes are lower.  Plus it uses up wonky bananas.

I adapted this recipe years ago from a Betty Crocker cookbook.  It was one of the first baking projects that I really nailed.  For a super indulgent treat, schmear slices with butter and toast them in a 300° for about 20 minutes.  It’s like quick bread candy.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Country Banana Bread

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1 ½ cups mashed overripe bananas (3-4 medium)

1/3 cup water

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

12-15 gratings of fresh nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

½ cup chopped, toasted pecans

Heat oven to 350°.  Grease bottom only of loaf pan (8 ½ X 4 ½ X 2 ½ or 9 X 5 X 3).

Sift together dry ingredients.  Set aside.

Mix butter and sugar until it’s lighter in color and fluffy.  Add vanilla, then eggs one at a time and beat until they’re completely mixed in.  Add bananas and water, beat 30 seconds more.

Stir in dry ingredients until just mixed in.  If you still have streaks, that’s okay.  Do not overmix, or you’ll get a tough, rubbery product.

Stir in nuts until barely distributed.

Pour into pan.  Bake until toothpick comes out clean, but moist (55-75 minutes).  Set on cooling rack for five minutes in pan, then de-pan and let cool completely on rack. 

Retro House Party

It’s getting worrisome and weird out there folks.

For reliable information and updates, I strongly urge you to visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.  I also strongly urge you to double-check any information you get from other sources; scammers and trolls abound.  Even people of goodwill are unknowingly sharing material that’s useless at best, and harmful at worst.

I am unqualified to offer any sort of medical advice, but as someone who has lived through many periods of both forced and unforced house-bound-ness (is that a word?), I have plenty of thoughts about warding off cabin fever.

Yes, there will be WiFi and the internet.  You can stream, game, facetime, insta and tik tok.  And that’s just awesome, it’s crucial that everyone can entertain themselves during this odd and worrisome idyll.

But, here’s a completely radical and subversive idea—what about spending some time all together, as a family (or family of friends and/or housemates)?

Back before radios and TV, there used to be something called house parties (If you’re a fan of British historical fiction or the TV drama Downtown Abbey, you know from house parties).  For the uninitiated they were what we will all soon be experiencing—prolonged periods in one’s own home, with all occupants present.

Rather than virtual, the fun had by all was actual.  For us modern, tech-savvy humans, this can be novel, memorable fun.  But you’ve got to commit; turn off all the screens and put your phones in a drawer.

And as always, I have suggestions.

The first idea might be a bit much for some folks, but if you have smaller kids, I can almost guarantee they will love it; put on a show.  Write and perform your own skits, perform a family-friendly play, or have a talent show with everybody pitching in to create scenery and costumes.  As you put it together, the older kids will almost surely get on board.

Have a karaoke night, or even an old-fashioned singalong.  You’re a smoking singer in the shower, why not share your gifts in the living room?  You learn a lot about people when they reveal their favorite songs.  Of course, those with little kids run the very real risk of being subjected to that ear-worm from hell, Baby Shark (baby shark doo doo doo doo doo doo mommy shark doo doo…).

Sorry.

Board and card games.  Growing up, my family played tons of games around the kitchen table.  When we played Clue, it was like watching a movie; Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum, and Colonel Mustard were as real to me as our neighbors.  A couple of my favorites are Monopoly and Life, they take hours and even be played in installments over days.  For a shorter good time, Sorry and Parcheesi.

Try a card game like Uno, or Mille Bornes, a French card game based on a road trip.  And a regular deck of Hoyle’s can be hundreds of games, like hearts, gin rummy, double solitaire and canasta (a retro game that requires two decks, but is ridiculously fun—while growing up, Petey’s family played it often).

When you get tired of all this homemade fun, have a film festival.  Choose a category like 1930s monster movies, Cecil B DeMille bible epics, Beatles movies, or have a Sharknado marathon.

Gentle Reader, there isn’t a whole lot we can do about this situation except wash our hands and stay home—it’s enough to drive you to distraction.

But maybe, to keep everybody safe and sane, try some fun, old-fashioned, homemade, distraction.

Take care, and remember: every single one of us is stronger than we know, and we will get through this.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Looting Your Pantry

When my Uncle Bill died, my Aunt Polly decided to move from New Jersey to North Carolina.

After the funeral, we all pitched in to help her get ready for the move. My big brother Homer and I were assigned to go through her pantry and fridge in the basement.

We made a discovery.

When Aunt Polly shopped for groceries, she never actually checked to see if she was out or running low. It seemed as if every two weeks or so, she purchased the same list regardless of what she had on hand.

She had jar, after jar, after jar, after jar of mayonnaise. The front jar was recently purchased and good to use. But as the jars got older and older, they got decidedly more toxic looking. The stuff in the very back looked almost radioactive.

She had enough wonky mayo to kill every picnic-goer on the Eastern seaboard. 

I get it. I get really nervous if I am close to running out of something and don’t have a replacement. And I was less than conscientious about inventorying my supplies. I have gotten better, but at one point I had enough pasta to throw a spaghetti dinner for every church in North Carolina. Honestly, once I realized how much I had, I didn’t need to buy any for about a year and a half. 

I’m just grateful pasta’s non-perishable and I didn’t have a malignant mayonnaise situation on my hands.

But my point is that you probably have way more food on hand than you think. 

I’m sure you’ve been seeing the Bedlam that has been visited upon every food retailer as folks stock up, to hunker down. 

Shelves are getting so bare that Harris Teeter, Publix, and Walmart have announced they’re all closing early every day to clean and restock. It’s like an ice and snow storm is bearing down on us, riding on a hurricane. The shelves are empty and shoppers have that intense, almost frantic look in their eyes.

Before you rush out and buy another bag of desperation provisions, go through your kitchen and pantry, and take stock. I’ll bet you the first slice of my next birthday cake that you have a pretty impressive stockpile already.

Now isn’t that pretty and happy?

Everything is going to be cattywampus for the foreseeable future. If you’ve got kids, they’ll be home. You are probably going to be home a lot more than usual. So, get in the kitchen with your housemate, boo, or kids and make something that is usually too labor-intensive for a Tuesday night, or even the weekend.

Make your great grandmother’s special grape soda pot roast. Trot out crazy Uncle Seymour’s 9-alarm chili recipe.  Work on some sourdough starter and bake up some bread.

To get you started, I’ve included my recipe for Creamy pecan pralines—delicious and dangerous; moderation, Gentle Reader.  

My wish is that we’ll all get through this uncertain, anxious time safe and well.  And also that you’re able to have a good time making some good food.

But I’ve noticed something that’s been bothering me.

It’s a wonky time, everything seems precarious, and it’s easy to lose your composure in the supermarket.  It feels like readying for a weather event, but of course, it’s not. I totally get making sure you’ve got plenty of toilet paper. 

But why does everybody need all that bottled water y’all?

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Creamy Pecan Pralines

Ingredients:

3 cups chopped pecans

2 cups light brown sugar, packed

1 cup granulated sugar

1 ½ cups heavy cream

1/3 cup whole milk

6 tablespoons butter

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 vanilla bean, scraped

Preparation:

Toast pecans:

Heat oven to 350°. Spread chopped pecans out on large baking sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes, or until they’re lightly browned and aromatic.

In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, cream, milk, butter, empty vanilla pod, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, to 230°. Lower heat slightly if mixture threatens to boil over. Add toasted pecans and continue cooking, stirring constantly, to 236° F.

Remove from the heat; let stand for about 5 minutes.  Add vanilla beans and stir with wooden spoon until mixture is thickened and slightly creamy, about 1-1 ½ minutes. Using small cookie scoop, spoon pralines onto a sheet of parchment or waxed paper. If mixture becomes grainy, heat and stir over medium heat for a few seconds, or until it can be easily scooped and dropped.

Makes about 4 dozen.