This is the first of an essay series that will be published every Monday for as long as social distancing is necessary. All pieces written by Litchfield County residents. If you are interested in submitting an essay for consideration please email us at email@example.com
A Case for Glutens
By Anne McAndrew of Kent, CT.
On Saturday, my oldest son calls me. He and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19.
On Saturday, my middle son texts me. “Good times, haha, I am now unemployed.”
On Saturday, 793 people in Italy died from COVID-19. My youngest son lives in Italy.
Three for three. My heart is so heavy I can barely breathe.
The kitchen: my safe haven. I’ll make calzone. It’s always been a favorite. If I make calzone, they will be safe. Nonsensical maternal clucking. “A calzone does not save people from COVID-19,” says my brain. “Make calzone,” says my heart.
“Pantry cooking, we use what we have!” the YouTube influencer happily exclaims. I am angry at her for being so perky. I stand at my counter, scowling. To rebuke her perkiness, I leave the sugar out of my dough as she puts two teaspoons into hers.
“Time to get your hands dirty!” she gushes. I look down at my hands. Hands that have changed diapers, dried tears, and dragged drunken teenagers out of a party. “Its showtime again, hands,” I say.
The dough is shaggy, needs more flour. The world is reeling, needs more love.
The dough is still rough-looking, sticky. No one is staying at home. DAMMIT! STAY HOME!
The dough isn’t coming together. I am falling apart.
Time to knead. Kneading always makes me nervous, I don’t know why. It’s not complicated, but it is critical to the development of the dough. Kneading allows gluten strands to stretch and grow stronger, Press. Turn. Repeat. Press. Turn. Repeat. Fall down. Get up. Repeat. Fall down. Get up. Repeat. We get stronger, our experiences stretch our imagination and develop our maturity.
Shaggy to smooth. Boys to men.
Feel the dough; it feels good. Listen to the dough; it’s talking to me. Bread texture; develop it, nurture it. Hug those boys, feel their clumsy affection, hear their muffled voices say I love you.
Smooth, satin, elastic; I have myself a dough baby.
I cover it and put it in the oven to rise. “See you soon,” I whisper. But dough can’t hear me.
I pull the blankets over each of them. G’night guys, see you in the morning, I whisper. But they can’t hear me, they’re already asleep.
Despite the cold March weather, I sit on the back porch while I wait for my dough baby. I hear the crack of the bat. Loud voices too. Ahhh, baseball in the front yard. The maple tree is first base, the dip in the lawn is second and the apple tree is third. They run, they yell, they tromp through the kitchen with their muddy sneakers and ball gloves; clean kitchen floors are overrated. It’s Sunday and that means spaghetti & meatballs. Everyone is happy. They are still loud-talking about the game as they wash their hands for dinner.
An hour passed. Or was it a year. Or was it a decade. Slowly I get up from my chair to check on my dough baby.
Removing the dish towel, I see the success of my hard work. My dough baby has grown up. It’s now ready to become a calzone. Rolling pin ready, the dough gets punched down, and I carefully roll it into a circle. I have meatballs leftover from Sunday dinner (when the boys lived here there was no such thing as a leftover meatball). Cheese and meatballs fill the center. Love and discipline make the man.
Calzone into the oven. I listen to some Dylan.
The phone rings. “Hi Mom, I’m feeling better.”
Then a text, “Mom, please send your recipe for cornbread.”
Whatsapp sounds “Mom, I’m about to go to bed, how was your day?”
Three for three. My heart is so joyful I can barely breathe.