Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Tales of Sheltering in Place

(Did the Hamiltons own a cat? I doubt the relationship would have been as formal as that. In the 18th Century, cats lived mostly in barns and stables and the houses of the poor. Cats were déclassé. Dogs were, and still are, a more gentrified proposition. It just occurred that although I have cat characters in every book I've written, there are no prominent pussy-cats in A Master Passion.)  

Life for me and my husband has slowed to a crawl while we shelter in place. It's been five weeks for us, hiding out, around here. That is nowhere near as long as more urban areas nearby, so we're grateful for that. We are also grateful that we do not have to get up and go to work every day, risking our lives for a paycheck, like so many younger folks with small children at home are doing. The experience for us is like being under some form of 1%er house arrest. 

We try to keep to a routine, but it's not easy for me. I confess to liking senior classes at the gym and before this disaster movie became the new normal, those kept me to a schedule. Now going out is a fraught undertaking, while you suit up like you are going out an airlock. It's too much trouble--and if you don't have to, you find yourself inventing reasons not to go out at all. 

We're staying up later and sleeping later, too, rolling around in a warm bed until long after the sun comes up--for which I give deep, heartfelt thanks! I'm a senior who needs a great deal of sleep--the main difference between me today and when I was three is I don't fight naps.

For the last few weeks, just as I begin this delayed awakening, Tony materializes, conjuring himself out of thin air. He leaps onto my chest and then settles as a furry weight, purring loudly.  The Male of his Caretaker/Servants gives him too many treats, because he is such an adorable little beggar. Since the Quarantine, his once svelte gray body has blimped into a gray, overripe zucchini. Turns out, there even is a zucchini breed to supply the perfect new nickname for our newly tubby Anthony: "Grayzini." )

 There is stuff in this refrigerator that needs to be checked out.

His weight settles me. What's there to get up for? I'm supposed to stay home, after all and if I get up too early I'll find myself with no excuse not to clean. As soon as that idea crosses my mind, I have no strength to struggle. His purr is a nearby waterfall. Almost immediately I sink into the Dark Arms of Morpheus--or somewhere similar. REM sleep in the morning is very, very close. 

Tony's silver paws knead in time with those waves of sound. For several days this was nice and we'd go back to sleep together. Lately, though, he's got a new plan, and it isn't as nice as before. Sorry to report, he begins to knead my neck. I need to detach those claws quickly, before they can puncture me. I'm afraid that he'll go at it in the same heartfelt way he tears at the carpeted cat tree he's inexorably destroying downstairs. Apparently cuddly is so over! This week, he's jack the ripper.

Joining the crowd, I've been baking more than usual. My go-to comfort food is bread.  Unfortunately, flour and yeast are both in short supply. 

Horrors! This frightens me more than the t.p. shortage. My primary comfort food is buttered toast. Of course, that will quickly turn to pudge all over me because there are No Actions, Especially Involving the Ingestion of Gluten that does NOT have consequences for my metabolism. 

Despite that, I remain a reflexive bread baker.  It "looms large in me legend" as Ringo says in Hard Day's Night. When I got married, same year as that movie, I could cook burgers, boil potatoes and fry eggs, but that was the extent of my culinary skills. To show that I was in earnest about this new wife business, I read, cover to cover, The Joy of Cooking with which my in-laws had thoughtfully presented me.  Bread baking seemed to be the best Real Housewife Kitchen Activity I could adopt. Of course, my stern New England mother-in-law was pleased by this; she instructed me. She baked bread every week for her family, and for many, many years I followed her lead.

Now, faced with a lack I've never encountered before--yeast--I've been watching videos to discover methods of creating yeast via fermentation with dried fruit, flowers, potatoes, even from Yellow split peas. I hope yeast making(?) doesn't become a necessity, but it seems that in these perilous times of The Great Global Reality Check, it's time to learn some new-to-me but genuinely foundational cooking skills. If there is an "after," how-to knowledge is always grist for the historical novelist's mill.  

  ~~Juliet Waldron

All My Historical Novels


  1. Interesting bit here. Other than an occasional trip out like the drive-in bank and Once to COSTCo it's been nine weeks. Am catching up on many things but not baking. I decided this was the time to lose some weight. Keep writing

  2. Wow! Janet, you are doing nobly! And loosing weight is also one of those monastic virtues, I guess, so have at it, my friend. You write on too.

  3. So I am not the only one who has found their sleeping habits have changed. I may go to bed at 10 pm, but then I read until midnight. I sleep until whichever of the cats gets up first, feed them and go back to bed. If I wake before 9 am I am in no hurry to get out of bed but enjoy the relaxation of just lying there. Life is certainly different!


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