Part 10 of
THE YEAR OF LIVING COVID-ANGEROUSLY

I meant this sarcastically, of course. Because, well, nobody.

Tuscany was now an orange zone. Semantics. For us. Orange and red are almost the same, having to do with who can and cannot work … we still needed at least one good reason to leave our town to go grocery shopping. A doctor appointment gave us an all access pass. And everyone always needs the official form.

We celebrated our 26th anniversary. There is only 1 package of sushi at the market … we bought it, plus Norwegian salmon filets. Salmon eating meant pinot nero drinking. I gave David a look, and he understood … he opened a bottle from Ken Brown Winery, this one from the Santa Rita Hills appellation … one of the few California wines I still enjoy. Dinner was cut rolls of “crab” and ahi, plus aged goat cheese … roasted pumpkin risotto … grilled salmon … sautéed chard topped with Cantabrico anchovies … almond macaroons and toasted walnut-dark chocolate chip macaroons.

The Electoral College voted.

The first vaccine was granted emergency authorization … the following week, the second. Pfizer … Moderna.

A story I heard on CNN several weeks ago was still in my mind. A mother (who lost her good-paying job in March) and her 3 young daughters are now living, in her words, “food box to food box.” I kept Googling … until I found her name. I mention it to cousin Gail, who suggests I see if there’s a GoFundMe page. There is … I donate, happy to see she is well over the amount she had originally requested.

I periodically check for others, some I find and donate, others (sadly) have no page. Evicted … high-priced meds … homeless and hungry … first time at a food bank. I can only hope, pray they found help with their unique-yet-too-common problems

It felt weird to watch movies and TV shows where a bunch of people are in the same room … shaking hands … hugging! … eating in restaurants. Even on “Monk.” But he was prescient enough to ask for a wipe [wink]. I knew these were filmed years ago, but it seemed foreign and strange. When will we return, re-emerge, re-enter, and be able to do these things?

How beauteous mankind is! / O brave new world / That has such people in ‘t.

I baked Christmas cookies. Sugar-butter (using the same Betty Crocker recipe, same cutters, same spatula that I’ve used since I was a little girl) … Lebkuchen (a recipe I re-created to bring back the flavor of the cookies I loved growing up, and which I’ve never been able to find in stores since Beneš stopped making them) … ricciarelli (almond macaroons from Siena shaped into ovals, and which I draped in chocolate to be more festive) … vanillekipfel (my dad’s favorite, today made with hazelnuts) … bussolai (a Venetian speciality, buttery and lemon-scented, and made with the 2 egg yolks left from the macaroons) … cavalucci (filled with walnuts, citron, candied orange peel, and traditional Sienese spices). Some will go to friends.

The “Trix” zones have lots of overlap. I thought Italy was red from December 24 through January 6. Called Epiphany or Twelfth Night in the rest of the world, Befana is another naughty/nice gift-and-candy celebration that marks the end of the holiday season. But Petra tells me it’s a complex schedule. Mostly red, with a smattering of orange … so shops and eateries can try to salvage a bit of their business and so families can see one another on a very limited basis. Golf courses are only open to Federation members, but David didn’t sign up this year, since he was in Southern California for 5 months.

We stayed home as much as possible.

The Coop only permitted one family member to shop at a time, though I know I’ve seen couples clutching the cart handle together. I do the main shopping, but I let our resident sommelier make the executive decisions about adult beverages. David and I have long had a “rendezvous point,” and now benefit from that system. I go inside while David plugs in the EV, then he comes in and heads directly, discreetly to the wine department. When I’m at the end of my geographically-arranged list, I head to that area. He hands me any bottles he’s picked … exchanging few words … then leaves. Don’t hate me. I think it’s less breaking-the-rules than wearing a mask below your nose.

All the holiday songs make it seem more festive. I mouth the words, rather than sing … not that anyone would see behind the mask.

A new variant … one that spreads faster … haunted England. It must be in California, too, as I watched the numbers, the hospitalizations, the ambulance waiting times, rising. Increments in the death toll of 5,000 take only a couple of days. I fear for my friends. They say that variant must be in European continent, too.

We start wearing double masks … one surgical, one cloth.

Christmas Eve dinner was linguine with sautéed leeks, lemon, and capers (all from our garden!), followed by baked branzino. Not sure what vegetable I made or what wine we drank, but Christmas cookies were dessert.

Christmas dinner was a fan favorite, roast duck, and to brighten the plate with holiday colors, red rice with the green and white parts of home-grown leeks. Not sure what vegetable I made or what wine we drank, but Christmas cookies are dessert.

I always save the duck fat … and use it to cook potatoes. Julia Child said that duck fat makes irresistibly good potatoes. Julia was right! It’s part of the French paradox, so I enjoy every fat-infused bite. Duck fat rules [wink].

New Year’s Eve dinner included lamb chops, grilled rare … grilled bread that we anoint with Our. Olive. Oil. … salad. For dessert, I bake a linzer torte, the crust filled with finely-ground hazelnuts and topped (untraditionally) with homemade, so-sweet-there’s-NO-added-sugar fig jam.

We were actually awake at midnight on the 31st. We say Happy New Year, and David dozed off … it’s well past his bedtime. I got messages from Peggy in Texas … Gail in Michigan … Marla in Florida … who have several hours before they celebrate. Italians send images of fireworks or champagne glasses clinking … emojis of kissing and hearts.

… and so it goes …

NUTELLA TRUFFLE COOKIES

I use the organic brand Rigoni di Asiago, which uses raw sugar.

1–¼ cup nutella
2 oz. butter, at room temperature
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ cup white chocolate chips

- Preheat the oven to 375° F (190° C). Line a cookie sheet with a silpat.
- Cream nutella and butter, then add egg. Combine well.
- Stir in flour and baking powder, mixing to form a dough. It will be a bit crumbly, but will hold together when they are shaped.
- Fold in the chocolate chips.
- With your hands, shape walnut-size pieces of dough into balls. Place on cookie sheet.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until lightly set … do not overbake. (They do not get brown.)
Makes approximately 30 cookies.
Enjoy!

Life … and cooking … in the Tuscan countryside.