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PERSEVERANCE IN A PANDEMIC

I feel like I'm failing, but I'm really learning perseverance and patience during a pandemic.

I’d like to think I’ve gotten off scot-free from the COVID-19 chaos. Instead, the pandemic has been testing my patience and perseverance in the most subtle ways. When lockdown began, I decided it was the perfect time to lose ten pounds and get back into my slim pants and pencil skirts. Also, with fewer distractions, I would complete my current manuscript and be ready to publish by summer! Then I would launch my first, ever, book promo with all the bells and whistles that guaranteed success, per the experts.

After achieving overnight fame, I would update my photo albums and personal history notes for my next book. (I’m writing a second memoir recounting the last two decades and revealing the best-kept secret in financial investing, Balanced Funds.)

But, Hark! Oh, Hark! ‘Twas not to be.

I did lose some weight, but gained it back. The manuscript is finished, but I’m not satisfied. I switched to working on my photo albums for my next memoir, but got bogged down in organizing my photos on my iMac (circa 2010) and realized it was too old and too slow. And you know the agony of upgrading to a new computer. Hours, nay, days of wasted time working through the kinks with tech support. OMG, have you tried calling technical support during COVID-19?

I chide myself daily for my lack of achievements, promising myself that my unfinished novel – like fine wine – will improve with age. Face-time and emails remind my friends that I care. A sticky-note at the bottom of my monitor reads “PERSEVERANCE” in capital letters.

And every day I hope the virus will fade away and life will return to normal.

While waiting, I salve my disappointment in my personal achievements by immersing myself in favorite authors like Mark Twain and Willkie Collins. It’s a delightful method of recharging my creative batteries. At my son’s suggestion, I read The Count of Monte Christo by Alexandre Dumas. Today I finished The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling. I’m starting Dracula next and have promised myself that as soon as I finish, I’ll get back on the treadmill, and I’ll resume writing.

Keeping safe during a pandemic, tests our perseverance and self-control.

My husband and I have been diligent about social distancing, strictly limiting our interaction with friends and family. We have cancelled Thanksgiving dinner, our family’s favorite holiday. But my husband and I did enjoy a lasagna dinner last night with two close friends. They follow protective recommendations thus preventing our social life from becoming a total wasteland.

At my friend’s request, I started leafing through my fifty-year recipe collection to find Lindy’s Famous Cheesecake. I’d used it in the early 1980s for my international gourmet food business. Like researching any topic on the internet, I went down the “rabbit-hole”. Two hours and two cappuccinos later, my perseverance was rewarded. I found the cheesecake recipe. In addition to pages and pages of recipes saved from magazines, newspapers and friends, I found folders of recipes I’d created for workshops.

During the early 1980s I’d taught at the local vocational school, the YMCA, and in my own kitchen in North Andover. In addition to detailed instructions on ingredients and technique, there were sketchy notes for spur-of-the moment dishes like the night my daughter came home from college, tired and hungry. Why not whip up a quick dish from leftovers? To sautéed garlic in butter, I added sliced, cooked artichoke hearts, cream, and fresh-grated parmesan cheese. I seasoned the sauce and blended it with reheated home-made pasta. Yes, I really had all of those leftover items in my refrigerator back then.

Speak of innovation, meet my inspiration, Madeleine Kamman:

Next to my notebooks I find a binder of recipes from her master classes I’d taken at her cooking school, Modern Gourmet Boston. It was the highlight of my cooking experience. That controversial and brilliant French woman was a genius in food chemistry and an encyclopedia of food history. She inspired my mid-western American culinary soul to bigger and better dishes. Why open a box of Prince linguini when you could mix flour and eggs on your counter, roll it by hand, and hang it over a broomstick between two chairbacks? Why bake an apple pie when you could make Tarte Normande Au Calvados? Madeleine Kamman was not just a chef, she was a teacher, demanding the utmost in effort, patience and perseverance.

Ms. Kamman’s reputation as harsh and forthright, was deserved, but there was so much more. During that twenty-six weeks, I’d experienced a family emergency forcing me to miss two classes. When I returned, she took me aside, expressed her empathy for my troubles, and hugged me tightly with those sturdy arms that could toss the front-quarter of a cow carcass across a kitchen. She was a beautiful, magnificent woman and though she is gone,

It lifts my spirits just to think of her.

My spirits are lifted by the pleasant evening with friends last night – limit four at a time, thank you. Reading old classic novels lifts my spirits. Fond memories linger in my heart as I thumb through two fat steno pads where I’ve recorded our family Thanksgivings for the past forty years. A favorite is 2004 when our tiny family was setting out plates and forks to test the pumpkin pie a day early, wishing our son wasn’t so far away. I had just declared the pie cool enough to cut when the back door opened and in walked our son, home from China. Surprise! What a lovely memory, indeed. What better way to share life and love?

Though the pandemic is testing our patience, we find ways to persevere and be happy.

To the above, I must add, the pleasure of Virtual Girls’ Night out on Thursday evenings over Zoom. One late summer evening I walked home filled with joy after a spontaneous driveway BBQ, neighbors standing six feet apart and chatting until the sun set and the stars came out to play. A photo from last spring reveals a little boy, standing in our driveway while we slept, helping his mother and father deliver our daily newspaper, every single morning, for months while the pandemic raged.

Will my perseverance and patience in a pandemic be rewarded? I hope and pray. My recent thoughts focus on the forced absence of my son (to protect us). I hate sitting “miles” away from my daughter on our deck for an afternoon chat. And it hurts my heart to see my grandson’s sadness because he cannot hug me “goodbye” after a socially-distanced visit. But I know there are others who have suffered far more than us, and my heart is filled with gratitude that all these people remain in my life. Someday soon, we will gather for food, and drinks, and we will hug each other again.

Cluck! Cluck!

RECIPE: Artichokes & Pasta for Laura

SEE: ONTOGENY – On Being Us

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