Spring and Summer with Covid

Many times during the past six months, we, here at the magazine, have contemplated and discussed just how can substantive content be produced and shared. We want to deliver Information that is pertinent and makes readers feel good about embracing the kitchen again. We wonder how to be creative when one cannot travel, as readers deserve a mind shift toward pleasure and relaxation. There are so many complex emotions involved.

Like many, I have numerous friends, clients and acquaintances who already have had to shutter businesses…. increasingly so, permanently. Thousands upon thousands of individuals and families have been affected by the near cessation of the restaurant industry – the community I have worked in and loved my entire life. 

I am long past school aged children but have loving nephews, grandnephews and grandnieces and a fabulous granddaughter, all of whom I can seldom see. I wonder how this Covid experience, hug less, distant, and play less, affects their development and ongoing opportunities to feel joy. 

I so miss dining.  I miss every fine culinary adventure: a bottle of newly discovered cabernet, the sushi chefs who know my favorite rolls, even the occasional greasy spoons, 

Sure, we do curbside to support local businesses (certainly the ones who follow Covid guidelines). But, those special feelings of gathering at a familiar table, with a welcoming and friendly staff, glancing throughout at the third generation pizza-maker, who spins the dough and gets the porcinis out just for me, are lost and so longed for.

I spent March and April mostly on the couch with an exorbitant amount of dry cereal and Klondike Bars. Finally rising off the couch, I was able to drive down to Yoder’s Amish Produce Stand, where sweet plump blueberries and raspberries and Granny Smith apples were awaiting.

I am on a mission to perfect pies. The apple one is there (thanks to my son and an assistant from the Midwest, both of whom shared dream-like recipes). I wear masks and gloves, so I can safely share the sweet goodness with many neighbors, and our frontline nurses and aides. 

Other than adding 19 lbs (in honor of Covid, I guess), gained from obsessive baking with brown sugar, butter, and good old King Arthur Flour. I found myself with seemingly too much time on my hands.  So, we packed up the Honda Pilot, mapped out three different routes to Colorado, packed coolers with charcuterie, and PB and J sandwiches on Brioche as we set forth on a journey to visit our younger son, just in time for his birthday. For two nights I entered the hotel rooms like a HazMat worker, armed with Lysol wipes, bleach and more hand sanitizer than Big Lots. My sister in law loaned me her silk sleeping pod; a thin layer of fabric that you can zip into a nice cocoon. Up as early as possible and with a Starbucks in hand, we drove without the usual stays at comfy resorts or time-tested B and B’s. Stops were limited, as historic tours and out of the way towns, with their intriguing cafes, were not visited. For those travel days, life seemed to consist of peanut butter sandwiches on brioches…and endless windmills along the winding roads of Kansas. 

The Colorado mountains were our saving grace — countless hikes, scenic drives, riverside walks and picturesque picnics were our mantra. The world was calm and often breathtaking, with people respecting other people along the trails. I even had a chance to sit for hours in a gently flowing brook, as I was introduced to our newest grandnephew, Elliot Alexander Cooper. Six weeks later we journeyed back.     

Now I have two apple pies in the oven, as I sit in my Florida office, relishing the sweet smells of cinnamon, melting butter, shortening, and, yes, a little lard. Perhaps one baked good at a time can provide us with patience and kindness and resilience during these Covid-days.

I have compiled multiple recipes that have helped get me through these waning months. I hope that by sharing these you too can venture into serenity and comfort. Escape through the love of food!

A graduate of Johnson & Wales, Judi has managed restaurants and owned restaurants in the northeast and was the founder of a successful dessert company. Today, she is a sought-after restaurant consultant, TV cook on the ABC affiliate in her hometown, and culinary editor of a city magazine. Her personal passions are culinary travel to exotic places and holiday cooking in her home for huge gatherings of friends and relatives. Her guilty pleasure? Bruce Springsteen concerts. “I follow him around the country and have for years,” she admits. “But, in every city where Bruce sings, I do check out new restaurants and talk to up and coming chefs. I want all the food news I can get.”

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