Part 9 of
THE YEAR OF LIVING COVID-ANGEROUSLY

It was time to pick up our new car, our new electric car … the Volkswagen ID.3. It was announced for delivery in the spring, then the pandemic struck and production stopped. My friend Mark loves his EV. That’s how people with electric vehicles talk about EVs. The car of the future, he added. And in answer to my question, he said it drives like Autopia at Disneyland. Glad I’m tall enough [wink].

We had an appointment at the dealership for 11.00 on Monday. Matteo was the stand-in salesman … since our original salesman had tested positive [grimace] in October and wasn’t back yet.

We set the alarm, an event that so rarely happens, it always feels strange and disruptive. We took the train to Florence wearing gloves and double masks, but didn’t touch anything … glared at anyone who paused, looked at, thought about sitting in the facing seats … walked to the dealer.

Our ID.3 was sitting near the door … in all of its shiny turquoise newness.

We got our charge/re-charge gift card, a brief tutorial, the test drive … but the Wallbox (for fast home charging) was not there. Nobody in the warehouse answered the phone or emails, so we’d have to wait. Italy’s national pastime. But without peanuts or CrackerJack.

The EV is silent. The kitties will need to learn a different noise … the non-noise … along our gravel road, so they can come home when they don’t hear us approaching. One of us supervises while the other leaves our parking area … checking for kitties napping in the shade before starting.

The election made everyone anxious. I had a migraine/sinus headache … vertigo … nausea … no appetite. There’s TV watching and texting. Days.

Saturday, the election was called for Joseph Robinette Biden II. There was dancing in the streets … we opened a special bottle of wine. But I was still anxious.

As Italian cases go up, the restrictions are re-evaluated. It starts with a new color-coded Covid response. Rosso … arancio … giallo. Yellow allows shops to open, but prefers that you stay at home (don’t screw this up) … orange encourages staying home with only mandatory travel outside one’s comune (we’re watching you) … red is a lockdown “lite,” stay at home (we mean it!). Bars/restaurants … which had to close by 6.00 p.m. when the restrictions began in March … could have take-away or delivery only. Shops, theatres, gyms closed. 10.00 p.m curfew continues and one can’t leave their regione (state) unless it’s for work or something urgent.

I called it the Trix system … based on the childhood cereal we ate by the truck load. Raspberry red, lemon yellow, orange orange. Of course, we are the only people here who understood that reference … know your audience [wink].

Tuscany goes from yellow to orange in 3 days … to red, 2 days after that.

Per capita, the Italian case numbers were worse than the USA. Deaths, double. Is it the social distancing of 3 feet, rather than 6 … long-term exposure to air pollution … more smokers …? There was talk of better understanding, better treatments.

I’m embracing my inner agoraphobic.

Our motion light at the top of the stairs isn’t working, so I WhatsApp our electrician. He works locally and also in Florence, so it’s a matter of gentle nudging to get him to come over for a small job. He often tells me he’ll be in town on X-day, asking that I write to him when we’re at home. Our exchange:

ME: I’m home.
ELECTRICIAN: Until what time?
ME: February.

I used his time wisely … and had him install motion lights in our cantina (replacing a 60-watt bulb) and the shed (no more fumbling on a rainy, dark-at-5.00-p.m. winter evening).

One afternoon, we got a message about David’s dad. Dave … who celebrated his 90th birthday in September … was in the hospital. After not feeling well for a week or two, the doctors diagnosed that his replaced heart valve was leaking. Visitors were limited … even David’s sister Sharon couldn’t get in … only David’s step-brother (who has been caring for his own [unhealthy] mom and Dave) was allowed. A few days later, Dave was getting dialysis, his heart problems combined with the medicines having caused a kidney issue. The first step was for the doctors to determine if he can have the necessary heart surgery through his groin, since he is not strong enough for open-heart surgery. But as soon as the doctors said “yes,” they found that a second valve was leaking. Surgery was no longer an option. He was made comfortable … his days limited to a few. David called the hospital. The nurse said Dave was in a morphine-coma … and David asked her to put the phone by his dad’s ear. We said our good-byes. David added, “Go play Keno with Richard.” The next morning, I woke up to a message from Sharon … Dave was gone. When we talked with her, she told us he died at 3.48 a.m. David’s call … 3.30 a.m. RIP Dave.

Finally … Biden at 306. I’m momentarily less anxious, but I then decided to remain on edge and more-than-a-little nervous until the electors actually vote. And each state certifies those results. And Congress counts and confirms the election. And inauguration day.

I made an all-garden dish! Fennel sautéed in olive oil with garlic and capers, then drizzled with olive oil and a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Ok, ok … we bought the salt and pepper.

My friend Peggy wrote that November is the new March … I replied that it seems like Blursday.

Good vaccine news. Vaccinations will come available in the spring/summer. I’m hoping that when Italy says that, it means 2021.

On the cusp of Thanksgiving, I think about how few times I went to Florence this year. I got home March 5 … less than a week later, the lockdown started. Since then … 1/ pick up David at the airport, 2/ sign papers for our electric car, 3/ get a replacement satellite converter box, 4/ pick up our ID.3. We did go to Prato twice … for the Gerusalema flash mob! That hot evening … dancing in the moonlight in the courtyard of a medieval castle … was the highlight of this surreal summer.

On an ordinary Italian Thursday, we celebrated Thanksgiving. Home-grown pumpkin gnocchi in browned butter, with sage and walnuts, then sprinkled with parmigiano … roast duck with lemon and rosemary … garlic-sautéed celery root with parsley … pumpkin-ginger cheesecake … a lovely Brut spumante from Argillae, a winery we love in Umbria. Six things from the garden, something in every dish. Ok, ok … we bought the wine, because we only grow table grapes.

… and so it goes …

JAMOCA ALMOND FUDGE CAKE

What started out as a mishap with marble cake became something delicious … and I named it for my parents’ favorite flavor at Baskin-Robbins/31 Flavors, the ice cream scoop shop of my youth.

2–3/4 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 Tbl. almond extract
⅔ cup milk
1 oz. (2 Tbl.) coffee powder
¼ cup almonds, chopped
½ cup chocolate chips

- Butter and flour a 9-inch round false bottom pan. Preheat the oven to 325° F (160° C).
- In a large mixing bowl, whip eggs until they start to thicken … then slowly pour in sugar.
- When the mixture is thickened and pale yellow, whip in oil and almond extract.
- Using the paddle attachment, add the flour (in 3 additions) alternating with milk (in 2 additions).
- Fold in the melted chocolate and coffee powder until there are no more streaks, then mix in the almonds and chocolate chips.
- Pour into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 30–35 minutes until just done … the center should look a bit soft (that’s the eponymous fudge).
- Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan.
- Serve at any temperature.
Enjoy!

Life … and cooking … in the Tuscan countryside.