Sunday, May 17 2020

bread success, grass seed, and quarantine anger




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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Happy Sunday. I hope you’re taking it easy and soaking up the last day of relaxation left in the weekend. By us, the skies are dark and grey, and the weather forecast promises a few days of rain.

Under normal circumstances, that might bum us out. But in this case, we couldn’t be happier to see so much rain. Not only am I sitting on a nice French vegetable soup recipe, but Rodney and I also spent most of the afternoon putting down new grass seed.

Sip. But more on that later. My Saturday yesterday started off with a tremendous bread success. Earlier this weekend, my banneton arrived in the mail, which rekindled my interest in chasing the perfect picturesque loaf of sourdough bread.

This batch, which proofed in the little wooden basket overnight in the fridge, worked. It wasn’t the prettiest looking loaf by any means, but it rose just a few inches, and compared to past attempts, that alone made this a milestone success.

first sourdough loaf success

The game changer this time around was my Dutch oven. “I bake the loaf in a Dutch oven,” wrote an anonymous commenter. “The heavy lid traps the steam in, and the warm up time gives the bread tremendous oven spring.”

“This turned out really good,” said Marissa while munching on an end piece. “And I like the little basket - it’s kind of adorable.”

“You know what this whole thing has made me realize?” I said. “Bread bowls are kind of a huge disrespect. Can you imagine baking a perfect loaf of sourdough bread, only for some idiot to eat soup out of it and just throw most of it in the garbage?”

After our celebratory bread sampling, Rodney and I threw on some ratty clothes and headed outside. Today was a yardwork day.

“I feel bad that I can’t help out,” said Marissa standing on the back porch, squinting at the bags of soil piled up against the fence.

“That’s OK,” I laughed. “You can Miles can just order us around. You’re still here for technical direction.”

The goal was to lay down grass seed on the numerous dead patches of dirt around the back yard. Rodney and I set up a simple system where we’d tussle one bag of dirt with one cup of grass seed, scoop it into a bucket, then spread the dirt where needed.

I never knew that I could enjoy yardwork. I used to hate it as a kid, and I never felt like I was good at it. But it turns out that when I know exactly what to do and what the end result should look like, I can get into a pretty effective and focused groove.

Rodney, on the other hand, is a natural at this kind of work. He picked up on what we were doing immediately, and apart from some superfluous involvement of his toy power tools and hockey equipment, he found a way to help without much direction.

“You guys are making good progress,” said Marissa, drifting onto the back porch, cradling Miles in her arms. “It’s so gratifying seeing the little blue grass seed peeking out of the ground. How is Rodney doing?”

“He was pretty focused at first,” I said, leaning on my shovel and wiping my face on my shirt. I looked over at Rodney, who was absent-mindedly burrying his hockey stick in a mound of dirt. “But I think he’s getting kind of tired now.”

Marissa congratulated Rodney on a job well done and led him inside to wash up. I finished the last few bags of dirt on my own, then rewarded my efforts with a cup of coffee and some buttered sourdough in the backyard.

After some pizza and a nap, we filled up the car and went for a drive. The last step of this weekend’s grass seed project was laying down some protective strips of burlap over the seed, and this burlap was waiting at the Home Depot for pickup on the other side of town. As Marissa rambled down the high way, Rodney and I marveled at how strange the city looked - especially a part of town that we hadn’t been to in a while.

“When was the last time we were over on the west side?” I asked. “I don’t recognize anything right now.”

“I’m glad you said something,” chimed in Marissa. “Because I’m feeling kind of anxious right now.”

“That’s understandable,” I replied. “I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed myself.”

We parked, and I ran into Home Depot, and even though I only had Marissa’s flowery head band around my face as a make shift mask, I still felt over dressed. Only half the customers at Home Depot were wearing masks and almost none of the employees. The woman who helped me with our online return coughed into her elbow two feet in front of me.

And even just walking around the store felt different. People didn’t make an attempt to keep six feet away from me, some even nearly brushing shoulders with me as we passed in the spacious concrete aisles.

“I’m feeling bitter,” I said climbing back into the car after chucking the rolls of burlap into the trunk. “Almost nobody had masks in there,” I said. “What the hell is going on?”

“I think people are just giving up,” said Marissa. “You know I’ve been seeing more people around the neighborhood mingling with each other too. I saw somebody get out of their car and hug someone in the driveway and I shuddered.”

As Marissa gently accelerated out of the parking lot, I stared out the window and sighed. “There are already too many people not participating to make a point, but the people who don’t seem to care anymore are really getting to me.”

Marissa nodded.

“What if this is how quarantine ends? People either think it’s not necessary, or they just stop caring?” I continued. “And I feel like we deserve better than that. We haven’t seen anyone in months. We’ve actually followed the rules, and kept most of the complaints to ourselves. We deserve to celebrate when this is all done, but I don’t want it to end like this.”

“I’m worried about the second wave,” said Marissa. “What if we have to quarantine again this winter?”

I shuddered. “I don’t want to think about that,” I said bleakly.

This pandemic has been difficult. I’ve been able to adapt to the new home-bound lifestyle, moving more relationships to regular remote calls, and learning to cook with ingredients that have a longer shelf life, but one thing that I have yet to get used to is how angry I feel all the time.

I guess that’s the big plot twist of this quarantine for me. After almost four months of making no physical contact with people outside the immediate members of my house, it’s not loneliness that’s getting to me. It’s anger. I’m angry at our president, protesters, conspiracy theorists, facebook trolls, cheery radio ads that overuse the phrases “unprecedented times” and “we’re in this together.” And meanwhile, an unmasked Home Depot employee coughs into her elbow while helping me with an online order two feet in front of me. Am I the only one still doing this whole social distancing thing?

How do you protect yourself from these things? How do you let go of this anger? Does anyone care about this anymore?

I have some thinking to do today. I guess that’s another reason I’m grateful for the rain. I think I’m going to make soup today. We’ll eat it with warm bread, and watch the rain soak the grass seed outside.

Thanks for stopping by this morning. Hope you have a nice Sunday.