Good morning. Memorial Day’s just around the corner and a strange and desolate one it’ll be, with so many locked down. Some will gather safely to barbecue and grill, others unsafely, still more on the dangerous precipice between the two, celebrating both the start of summer and the lives lost in service to our nation. Anger will swirl about all of this. We live in the new abnormal, where grace is in short supply.
But you can look for it. (It’s there in the smiles you’re beginning to be able to recognize in the eyes of strangers 10 feet away at the supermarket, in front of the liquor store, at the Post Office.) And you can make your own, with food.
Clare de Boer can help. Clare’s one of the chefs and owners of King, in the West Village of Manhattan, and a wickedly good home cook whose cleareyed instruction for grilling chicken arrived in The Times this week just in time for this coming holiday weekend. (That “holidays” and “weekends” don’t mean very much right now means you can put it to use right away.)
I don’t know that I can help much at all, but I’ll offer counsel, at least in the matter of finding solace in the kitchen. Our recipes are grand. But you don’t need recipes to cook well, and you may find it thrilling, at this point in the pandemic, to freestyle and experiment instead of following the rules.
I did that the other night. I had scallops and tofu. So I made General Tso’s scallops and tofu, frying the proteins and then tossing them with a sauce thickened with a cornstarch slurry just as if I were working at the takeout shop: soy sauce and white vinegar, a splash of maple syrup, chile crisp, lots of minced ginger and garlic. How much of each? More soy than vinegar, and the rest to taste. (You could even add a squeeze of ketchup, which’ll take it in the direction of the food court at the mall.)
Now, it has nothing to do with rock candy or lemon zest, but I think there’s something strangely comforting and deeply nostalgic about this video of Michael Musto, late of The Village Voice, taking the train to Coney Island in 1987.
Do read this piece by Susan Smillie in The Guardian, about trans-Atlantic sailors stranded in the Caribbean by the coronavirus. They need to get their boats home before hurricane season spins up.
Finally, please take a look at this strange and magical collection of cultural recommendations for pandemic living that we put together for At Home, The Times’s central clearinghouse for guidelines on how to live a full life during the lockdown and in the days to come. They’re raw and intimate glimpses into the lives of our critics, reporters and editors — and helpful, too. Will you let me know what you think? I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org. I read every letter sent.