The new coronavirus subvariant is the most contagious yet, making me feel more vulnerable than ever. School starts up in a few weeks, bringing students to campus from all over these not-so-United States and about 100 countries. Lynn University, where I am a librarian, is proud of their international students making up 17-20% of the student population, and the remarkable diversity of the campus, as am I. But with masks optional pretty much everywhere, it’s not looking good for a Covid-free semester. I’m hoping the new B.A.5 booster is ready this fall.
One of my favorite books is Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, and I am not alone. It was on my Best Books of 2018 list and has been on the bestseller list for three+ years. If you haven’t read it yet, please do: https://amzn.to/3uRD6QK Reese Witherspoon produced the film that opened in July, but it is being overshadowed by the back story.
Where the Crawdads Sing Author Wanted for Questioning in Murder: A televised 1990s killing in Zambia has striking similarities to Delia Owens’s best-selling book turned movie. By Jeffrey Goldberg (Includes links to Goldberg’s earlier New Yorker article as well.)
This is so cool! Some of the world’s most celebrated authors have written manuscripts that won’t be published for a century – why? Richard Fisher visits the Future Library in Oslo to find out. The Norwegian library with unreadable books
14 ways to get out of a reading slump: Rereading a beloved book is one of many strategies our readers shared for reversing a rut
Do you sous vide? I do, and highly recommend! The French phrase literally means “under vacuum,” which refers to a vacuum sealed bag. The cooking itself is basically under water with an “Immersion Circulator.”
Several years ago, my husband became interested in this cooking method that many restaurants use, but the machines were very expensive. When I started working at Lynn University, one of my co-workers was also a fan and had been using one for a while. Over the years, they’ve become much more affordable, and a few years ago, we finally purchased the Anova on a Black Friday sale or something; we paid about $75 or so. I didn’t purchase a specific container for it, although they are available and sometimes sold as kits. I have a tiny kitchen so I try to avoid any purchases that only have one use. The sous vide machine itself is fairly small, and I use it with my largest stockpot, about 16 quarts. It works amazingly well! I have made steaks, roasts, ham, and fish in there and every single time the food comes out perfect. It’s like having a secret weapon!
If you’ve ever splurged on something like a standing rib roast and then overcooked it (yes, I did that more than once!) you will begin to appreciate the way this works. It is pretty much impossible to overcook anything with sous vide cooking. There are tons of videos on YouTube, and Serious Eats has a beginner’s guide that I found very helpful.
It’s fairly straightforward. You put the machine in a large container of water, seal whatever you’re cooking in a Ziploc or “seal-a-meal” vacuum type bag, set the temperature to the ideal temp for your steak (or whatever), then set the timer (lots of charts with timing available online,) cover the pot or container, and wait. The most work for me is filling the damn pot! When the time is up, your food is at the proper temperature but be forewarned; it will not look very good. You still need to “finish,”, especially meat. You can grill as we did here, sear it in a cast iron pan, or broil it in the oven. Fish you can get away with not doing anything else. We made a Tomahawk-type steak and took some pictures – if you like your meat more well done, you just set the temperature to that. I used 125° for rare, and the internet told me to count on about an hour per inch of meat, so this took about 3 hours, completely unattended.
Today is my mother’s birthday, so please indulge me. She would have been 88, but I lost her fourteen years ago, way too young. She had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and a bout of throat cancer from over 40 years of smoking, and rheumatoid arthritis, both of which made her day-to-day life very difficult. It was years of her going downhill, and it was so hard watching her fade away, losing her joy in life. Eventually, she needed oxygen all the time and had one of those little tanks on wheels so she could leave the house. And my (step)dad made sure he always had a wheelchair at the ready for her, as much as she hated it, as it became a necessity. My brother stepped in to help so my dad could retire, and honestly, I don’t know what would have happened if he hadn’t (Alan, you’re the best!) With all that, she rarely left home, although she insisted on coming to my son’s college graduation, and she kvelled that whole weekend. The last picture I have of the two of them together was from that trip.
Towards the end, her only happiness was her husband and her family, especially her grandchildren. In fact, her last few weeks alive I attribute to my son, Daniel. He lived a few hours away, and I swear she waited for him to come home for a visit. He spent much of the weekend with her, he went home, and she died a few days later.
I saw her the day before she passed, two days before Valentine’s Day. I was at work in the library when my dad came in. My mother was too weak to walk into the library so she waited in the car. I went out there to say hello and she gave me a small, heart-shaped box of chocolates for my daughter, Ariel, who was going to save it for Valentine’s Day. Except she lost her Nana the next day, and that box sat on the kitchen counter under a little shelf that held the phone (remember when we had house phones and cell phones?) for a year, then she threw out the chocolates and kept the box.
My husband was away when she passed, on a multi-day hike out in the Everglades. When he got out of the woods and was ready to head home, he called me at work to let me know he was on his way. But I wasn’t at work and he immediately knew something must have happened – I never missed a day. He got hold of me at home but he was driving, still an hour or so away and I didn’t want to tell him while he was driving. I begged him to call me back when he stopped for gas or coffee or whatever, but he insisted. My husband, who I had only seen cry once in over thirty years together, when our son was born, started crying. No mother-in-law jokes here, as big a pain in the butt as my mother could be, they had a very special relationship – better than I had with my mother, to be honest.
Today I think about my mother and the legacy she left of putting those you love first, always. I always thought that when you lose a parent, you will miss them the most when something bad happens. For me, at least, I miss her the most when something good happens.
When my son got married a few years ago, I thought about her and my dad a lot. I knew that this would have been such a happy time for them. I knew they would have loved my daughter-in-law and her family. I knew they would have been beyond proud of Daniel. They were on my mind a lot, and the night before the wedding, we were on our way to the welcome dinner (instead of a rehearsal dinner) for all the guests, we passed this sign. I was so shocked I made my husband pull in so I could take this picture. She was my mom, but she was Daniel & Ariel’s Nana. Talk about signs – this was a literal sign, and it comforted me enormously. I knew she would be there for him and for all of us, as she always was.
In other personal news…
We lost my mother-in-law on Saturday. She was 96 years old, just a few weeks shy of her 97th birthday. She was a remarkable woman, the eldest of six children and she outlived them all. She had a long and healthy life, until just a few months ago. She was blessed with five great-grandchildren, and she got to meet her youngest in late April. Marie was a good mother-in-law; she never interfered, always had my back, and was always there for us when we needed her.
Before Larry and I married, his parents had invited us for dinner. But we had a fight that day, and I didn’t go. When he got there alone, my future MIL called me and asked me what he had done. She made me feel like she was on my side even back then.
When my son was born six weeks early, my husband had to leave on a long business trip, a month in China. It was supposed to be his last trip before the baby was born, but Daniel didn’t get the memo. I was panicky, a new mother home with a two-week-old baby on a heart monitor. I had a few friends, but none who had children, and they all worked. My mom worked, too, but my mother-in-law was retired. She had a lifelong fear of flying and had never flown anywhere, but she got herself on a plane and flew to Dallas. She stayed and helped me with the baby until Larry got home. I am forever grateful to her for that.
Marie was a fantastic cook and generously shared her recipes with me. She was also enormously talented; she knitted, crocheted, quilted, did needlepoint, cross stitch, macrame, ceramics, pretty much any craft you can think of. She also was an incredible seamstress – she made my sister-in-law’s wedding gown and all the bridesmaids’ dresses, too!
One of my favorite stories is when we told her we were naming my daughter, Ariel Marie, after her. She informed us her real name was Maria, but she didn’t like it so she changed it to Marie. We had no idea! But that’s how she was; she kept moving forward and didn’t dwell on life’s challenges or disappointments. When my father-in-law passed away after 60+ years of marriage, my husband took to stopping by to check on her every day after work. A few weeks into his new routine, she informed him that she was too busy for his constant visits and asked him to cut it back to once a week, which he did. He called her every day though.
In 2017, we had a small family reunion. It was the first time this group was together in many, many years and she was so happy. Marie, you will be missed. Rest in peace.
As always, thanks for reading and stay safe.
*Thanks to The New York Times and The Washington Post for allowing me to “gift” my readers with free access to these articles, a lovely perk for subscribers.