2021.05.31

I am deep in Early Quarantine time again, when bedtimes are moot and meals make no sense. This morning, I ate garlic potato wedges for breakfast.

There are two grocery stores close to my office and my bus stop: the one that sells everything (Save-On-Foods) and the one that sells vegan food (Nature’s Fare).

(Please send me the names of your regional grocers. Every time I hear about a Giant Eagle or Food Lion, I can’t believe we exist in the same realm.)

There was a week or so last month when I didn’t have peanut butter in my house, and I just stopped eating oatmeal. I haven’t gone back, even though I have peanut butter again, and I even bought a big bag of trail mix to add in. Routines and habits never seem to last long for me. When I first moved into this house, I walked down to the beach waterfront (then back home up the 20% grade Buena Vista Avenue) every morning for months, and I haven’t done it since. 

My brain craves novelty as much as it craves structure. (If this sounds like ADHD to you, you’re correct! Except I tried all the meds, and they didn’t work, so that’s not my particular diagnosis.) I get bored of the things I love, and sometimes I’ll come back (weeks, years, decades later), but sometimes, it disappears forever.

While I’m not eating oatmeal for breakfast, here’s a pasta I made one morning, using up the last of what’s in my fridge: whole wheat penne rigate into salted water; add frozen peas after a few minutes of a hard boil; fry diced piccolo salami until the rendered fat coats the bottom of the pan; add the pasta and peas; add a forkful of mayonnaise; off the heat, stir in diced cashew cheese.

I’ve been making a lot of hamburgers at home recently, so I bought ketchup, mustard, relish, and mayo. I don’t keep them in my fridge year-round, but it makes sense as summer approaches. I ate those potato wedges dipped in mayonnaise–a combo I finally understand. Here’s hoping I’ll see my brother soon, and he’ll have some off-cut wieners for me. For the farmers market, I’ve even been thinking about making round and long buns.

Our first market was last last Sunday. The weather was overcast and chilly, but it never rained, which we consider a victory in the Pacific Northwest. I sold all but 2 of my ciabatta-like loaves; I sold all but 2 of last year’s sourdough starter. Between now and market Sunday #2 (June 27), I need to amp up production so I’ll have supply for the rest of the summer.

The starter kit remains my most popular product, the one that people notice as they walk past the booth. Even when they don’t stop, I hear their interest when they read the sign out loud to their companions. More than one person came over just to talk about their own sourdough. One woman–another vendor–stopped and asked if my starter was the one she bought two years ago. We discovered, yes, it is; yes, it’s still alive; and yes, the last year has felt like two. 

I’m less excited about the baking this year. Whether it’s my ancient oven (with only one rack!?) or me, my bread just isn’t as good as I know it can be. Something’s off, and I don’t know how to fix it. 

I’ve written you about burnout before, but we’re past that now. This is deeper. I don’t feel overbaked anymore; I don’t feel anything. This month, I got my first vaccine. I was nervous before, while I wended my way through the lines and waited in the doorway. I thought I might feel relief. But the relief I crave won’t come until it comes for us all.

Tomorrow, I’ll go back to work in my office-sized classroom with half a dozen unvaccinated kids. This summer, I won’t be celebrating the July holidays on an American road trip. I’m gonna turn 40 at the end of the year, and I don’t know if there’ll be anyone there.

But I can keep writing my book. I do some dishes every day, enough to stay on top of things. And if the sun comes out tomorrow, I think I’ll walk home from work. 

I can do that, at least. 

PS. I wrote this letter the Monday after my first market. Then I read it over and decided you didn’t need to read something dripping with my depression. It’s Monday again, and I feel just bad enough about not giving you an update that I’m sending this out because it’s true. And I imagine it’s how a lot of us feel right now. It’s certainly how I’m feeling this morning, under an overcast sky, still in my pjs, but contemplating a walk down to the beach.

On Saturday, I woke up raring to go out. I hadn’t felt that drive since 2019. I made myself a picnic. I packed a book and a pen. I walked to Davey Park (this park!) and I sat there for nearly two hours. In the sun. In the breeze. Under the clear blue sky. 

Here’s to the hope we’ll all feel this again.