Whether we are old or not so old, the pandemic has probably led us to think about our mortality. Adding to the stress of the pandemic has been the daily vitriol of the election and its aftermath. The news headlines have frayed our nerves and left us worrying about whether our democratic form of government will survive a would-be dictator and his band of sycophants.
Much has been written about pandemic baking, and we have joined that group. Sometimes there is comfort in making something sweet or familiar. Certainly the focus that is required to bake from scratch is a welcome distraction from the world around us. The holidays have given us an additional excuse to bake familiar cookies for family members. The grandkids that we can see came over last week to bake Steve’s family recipe for poppyseed cookies for Hanukkah. Then Steve baked two more batches to send to two of our children, one in Chicago and one in Nashville. We’d already sent the traditional box of See’s candy custom selected for each family (the milk chocolate butter is probably the most asked for, although the chocolate covered peanut brittle comes close) . We can’t all be together, but we can still have some familiar food memories together that we can talk about when we have our family Zoom on Saturday.
We’ve also become huge fans of Goldbelly, the website that ships restaurant and bakery goods from around the country. We’ve enjoyed the Momofuku Bo Ssam dinner, Marcus Samuelsson’s hot honey chicken & cornbread waffles, Xi’an Famous Foods’ hand-ripped noodles, and Hattie B’s hot fried chicken, to name a few. The first three are from New York, and Hattie B's is from Nashville, which we tried in person last year. The hand-ripped noodles from Xi’an were particularly enjoyable because you got to pull and tear the noodles yourself, and then whack them against the counter top. The ingredients were incredibly fresh and delicious, too. We’ve had so much fun with it that we gave all of the kids gift certificates to Goldbelly for their Christmas present this year. What could be better than a restaurant meal at home in these times?
We have found that indulging in good food is a way to assuage the feeling of deprivation from not being able to travel to see our children and grandchildren. By sharing the good food we can at least evoke memories of meals together.
At this point some of you must be thinking that this is not healthy. We have all been conditioned to worry about what we eat. There is, of course, some truth to being careful about what and how much we eat. Obesity is a major problem in our country. It is not healthy to overdo pastries and ice cream or anything else. But it is healthy to thoroughly enjoy a good meal or desert without guilt. Good tasting food is good for our mood and it is satisfying. Not skimping on ingredients is important. We use good quality butter and good chocolate in baking, because the final product tastes better. Food that tastes good is really satisfying. We end up eating less, but feeling better. Eating good foods is often equated with eating too much. But it is easier to control how much we eat when we feel satisfied.
One of the harder things to do during the pandemic is to engage in activities that we enjoy. Like good food, enjoyable activities are important for our daily mood. Almost everyone is interacting less in person with other people, and it is much harder or not possible to do things we used to enjoy—going to a movie or restaurant, shopping, even walking through a park. When we begin to feel the walls closing in on us, it has been helpful to start planning activities that we enjoy. It can be something simple, like finding a movie on demand that we want to see, or arranging a phone or video call with a friend. The key is having something enjoyable to look forward to on most days.
We also know how fortunate we are to be able to afford to indulge our food desires. So we have been supporting both the Greater Pittsburgh Area Food Bank and the Free Store in Braddock during the pandemic and plan to continue for the foreseeable future. And we continue to support local restaurants.
The photo shows Steve’s Poppy Seed Cookies. You may notice one is missing from the cookie sheet. Someone couldn't wait to try one of the cookies.
You can find the recipe in Judy’s food and baking blog, Tasty Treats, at
There are two minor additions to the recipe:
1.Put the butter and shortening in the freezer for about 10 minutes before cutting them into the dry ingredients.
2. When the cookies are on the cookie sheet and ready to go into the oven, put them in the freezer first for about 40 minutes.
Keeping the butter and shortening as cold as possible will lead to lighter and tastier cookies. Of course, they are even more addictive then.