Pleasures of the Pandemic

Silverback SM

Guilty Pandemic Pleasures

Stephen Morris

The pandemic is one of those experiences that we’ll be telling our grandchildren about, but since both of my grandchildren are less than two years old, it probably won’t have much impact. The toilet paper shortage, people drinking bleach, flattening the curve, checking the daily scorecard … it’s all stuff of legend, and we will all be wearing our pandemic badges and telling personal tall tales for years to come.

Dreamin’ of a day when the Pandemic is yesterday’s news.

But there has been another side to the pandemic that has been unlike anything seen on the evening news. This is the story of guilty pleasures. We don’t like to talk about these, because they reveal our vulnerabilities, frailties, and foibles. We manage our personal brands carefully. Generally, we want the outside world to perceive us as confident, caring, healthy specimen, ready to take on any challenges that life lays on our doorsteps. Not me. The combination of the pandemic and our not-to-be named ex-President has proved me wrong on just about everything I thought I knew about life. I haven’t stepped inside a barber shop in over a year, eaten at a restaurant, or raised a glass with my friends, so I’m just going to let it all hang out and reveal (confess?) my guilty pandemic pleasures.

Coffee & Hazelnut Fudgesicles by sara_cornelius_ | Quick & Easy Recipe |  The Feedfeed

1. Fudgesicles. My wife’s and my Fudgesicle obsession started before anyone even knew that Wuhan was a city in China. She’s a clinical chocoholic and Fudgesicles are a way of controlling her dosage. I won’t hide behind any blustery rhetoric about them being healthy or reducing our carbon footprint. They are simply small pieces of sweet nostalgia that won’t kill you and harken back to summer days as a kid. Warning … not all Fudgesicles, fudge bars or pops are created equal. Little known Fudgesicle Fact … Fudgesicles are great when accompanied by a small bowl of potato chips! This is a pandemic Decadent Delight.

2. Weather. Weather happens every day here in Vermont. This is one obsession that cuts across race, ethnicity, gender, and the political spectrum. You can’t disagree about the weather. Say to someone “It’s really hot today,” and you’ll never be answered “No, it’s not.” What you can quibble about is the forecast. Our phones make us all little Sharon Meyers or Mark Breen (“Go-o-od Morning”). Ask what today’s weather is going to be and you’ll likely get answer along the line of “There’s a 20% chance of showers at 10 am, raising to 40% by 2 pm, but clearing by 5.” Sometime different phone use different forecast models. When this occurs, the only hope is to ask Alexa. WE Games Cabinet Cribbage Set - Solid Wood Continuous 3 Track  Board with Easy Grip Pegs, Cards and Storage Area: Toys & Games

3. Cribbage. This game was invented in the early 1600s by British courtier Sir John Suckling, and the rules have not changed in hundreds of years. Since the start of the pandemic it’s become almost a nightly ritual that provides a buffer between our work day and relaxation time. It’s competitive, but not fiercely so; it forces us to do arithmetic at a second grade level, and provides a perfect excuse for a glass of wine.

4. Travel. Like so many others, the pandemic caused the cancellation of a trip , in our case to see the spring tulips in Holland. But the travel itch has been scratched in some unanticipated and delightful ways. Shtisel (Netflix) exposed us to life within Jerusalem’s Orthodox Jewish community. Not only did we feel like we had traveled to a different place and culture, but also to a different century. Midnight Diner (Netflix) took us to Tokyo’s nether world of things that go bump in the night. An eclectic cast of characters is presided over by the diner’s owner, know only as Master, who cures all ills with custom-made comfort food. We also went to the grimy neighborhoods of Naples of the 1960s in My Brilliant Friend (HBO). Most recently we criss-crossed Canada with comedian Jonny Harris who visits small, struggling towns that become the basis for a humorous and touching performance at the end of each visit. Each episode of Still Standing (Amazon Prime Video) is a 22-minute voyage into what is best about the human species. We can’t wait for the border to re-open.

5. Ramen. It’s what broke college kids eat, right? Ramen noodles are cheap, tasty, and easy to prepare … to which I add, yes BUT they can be so much more. Beyond what you can find at the local super market or food co-op there’s a broad range of packages available, varying greatly in flavors, nutrition, and quality. Plus, the ramen is just the blank canvas; it’s what you add to it that make it a dish of infinite variety. Add fresh vegetables, shrimp, scallops, egg, shredded chicken, tofu, or you name it! The only limits on ramen are your imagination. (Two tips: use only half of the provided flavor packet to reduce salt and fat, and Laoganma Spicy Chili Crisp sauce, available from Asian specialty markets or online, makes anyone into a master chef.)

6. Boxed wine. Apologies to those of you who have always regarded moi as the personification of high fashion and haute couture, but in times like these fewer trips to both the store and the landfill trump (now, there’s a word that has taken on new nuances) good taste.

Best Boxed Wine to Drink in 2020

The past year has been an emotional roller coaster for all of us. Our experiences have varied widely and brought challenges that none of us anticipated. The biggest challenge of all is to find joy, and you’ll find it hiding in some unexpected nooks and crannies of your own home.

Solitary man fishing from an inner tube in a flooded field, Hubei province, China, 1996. Jon Chase photo

2 thoughts on “Pleasures of the Pandemic

  1. Our guilty pleasure—begun about the third month into the pandemic—is the Friday night dinner prepared weekly by Chef Yves Fournier at the French Oven Bakery in Scripps Ranch, San Diego. We order by phone or online on Wednesday, and then pick up the dinner on Friday, between 5 and 7, and bring it home.

    And this ritual makes our Friday evenings feel very special, like going to a little bistro in Paris, or to L’Express in Montreal. It’s “chef’s choice”—from beef bourguignon to roasted chicken with Mediterranean spices with couscous to shepherd’s pie with a Greek salad… Always delicious. And the wine we open and drink to accompany the dinner doesn’t hurt either.

    The dinners are only Friday night because, well, The French Oven Bakery is really a bakery. An authentic boulangerie and patisserie. Croissants, quiches, tarts, baguettes—you get the idea. Chef Yves is the real deal! He grew up in France, in a small village at the base of the French Alps called Veyrier du Lac. Baking was a Fournier family tradition; Chef Yves represents the 5th generation of bakers in his family. On the wall the shop, there’s an old family bakery sign from 1840. It belonged to his great, great grandfather, Jean-Baptiste Fournier.

    Chef Yves has been working in the baking and pastry industry for more than 30 years. He first learned the art of baking from his father, and later received his Certificate of Professional Application of Boulanger and Patissier Chocolatier Glacier Confiseur. He immigrated to San Diego in 1992 to work for the prestigious Le Meridien Hotel in Coronado. Since then he has worked for several 5-star hotels in San Diego, Palm Springs and San Francisco, and as the Executive Baking and Pastry Chef Instructor for the San Diego Culinary Institute.

    Then in the fall of 2016, he began a pop-up bakery business from his home in Scripps Ranch (inland north San Diego County), offering his croissants and other delicious treats to his neighbors. Word got out, business grew and grew…and with enthusiastic encouragement from friends and neighbors, he decided to open the boulangerie. So now we have a little slice of Veyrier du Lac here in San Diego, along with delicious croissants, baguettes, tarts—did I mention those already? And those wonderful Friday night dinners…

    Finally, since Stephen included some viewing suggestions, let me continue the trend: one of our favorite films, a documentary actually, is entitled “Kings of Pastry.” (See, there’s a theme going on here!) It’s available as a DVD from Netflix, and maybe elsewhere. Brilliant documentary made by the acclaimed filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker (who also made “Monterey Pop”).


    1. Peter–

      Thanks for this comment, BUT it’s so good, I’d like to make it a new post on its own. It will get much more attention that way. I will flesh it out with some visuals.

      OK with you?


      On Mon, May 3, 2021 at 3:16 PM The Silverback Digest wrote:


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