By Isa Covo
Nine months ago our lives suddenly changed, and nobody seems to know how long it will continue this way.
In the short term it could be a good thing; we become better acquainted with our homes, we do some clearing out of our files long neglected, we dig out the articles we meant to read, unless we are tempted by a highly-recommended program on TV.
When it all started, New York was the hot spot of the virus, but since then things have improved somewhat, although I do miss the shows, the movies, the concerts… And even if the restaurants set up outdoor dining which animated the streets, few that I know are willing to dine indoors now that the weather becomes wintry.
As the schools are open, and as more people need to be present at work, many families who took shelter in country homes, are returning. And because there are few places one can go, or visit friends, the windows in the nieghborhood glow, but hide the mysteries behind them. I have also noticed that our landmark skyscrapers have toned down their lights, and now we can, on a clear sky, see the new moon and even some stars.
Because of reduced traffic, the streets are quieter, and at nightfall, even when there is a total night sky, I like to sit and look out the window at the skyline—the lights, the occasional stars—that calms and soothes me. It is, or was, one of the best moments of the day.
Next to our building is a beautiful Catholic church designed by the architect John Doran in the elegant and sober Greek Revival style, built 1834. The columns and the marble stairs at its front as well as the slanted slate roof add to the charm and character of the Village. Years ago, the bells were ringing at 8:00 am and 6:00 pm. I found it framed the day in a quaint and and pastoral way. They no longer do and I miss them.
There is a golden cross on the front of the roof, and when we moved here it was illuminated by a small light, and soon it was replaced by a stronger one that reflected into our home with an unpleasant glare. Then, after some restoration at the church, it was replaced by a more discrete one, no larger that a headlight. It was not intrusive and gave us peace.
A few months ago, they started another restoration with the addition of air conditioning and other mechanics. They also again changed the lights illuminating the cross. This is done by two lamps, one on each side of the cross. From the street they look the huge antennae of some malevolent insect. From the top, when they are lit, they look like two angry and aggressive eyes, that not only blind us and prevent us from looking down the street, but also invade our apartment as they throw an unpleasant patch of cold light on the ceiling and leave a ghostly glare around the room. Should unbidden invasive and disruptive actions be allowed to disturb other people’s homes and peaceful existences?
They are still working on the church, and for a few days the lights are off. It is such a relief, I so hope it lasts. Sadly the blinding lights are now back. To quote Thoreau, “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.” He wrote that in the nineteenth century, and it is still true.
On a cold day, one needs something warming and satisfying. Here is a soup with a complexity of flavors to please any palate. Its advantage is also that it tastes better the next day or the following, allowing the flavors to develop.
- ¾ pound carrots
- 3 stalks of celery
- 1 medium onion
- 4 large cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
- Salt and pepper
- 1 large navel orange
- 1 tablespoon garam masala or Curry powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ¼ cup Madeira
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Scrape and chop the carrots, chop the celery, peel and chop the onion, peel and chop the garlic.
- In a large saucepan, over medium heat, add the oil and the butter and heat until the butter foams. Add the chopped vegetables, stir to coat with the fat, and cook stirring occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the onion turns light brown and fragrant, for about eight to ten minutes.
- While the vegetables are cooking, zest and squeeze the orange. Set aside.
- To the saucepan with the vegetables, add the stock, the orange juice, zest and the spices. Raise the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low. Stir and cover the saucepan. Continue cooking for twenty to thirty minutes, stirring the mixture occasionally, until the vegetables have softened. Remove the bay leaf.
- In a blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender, puree the soup.
- When the soup is blended, return to the saucepan and beat in the Madeira and the heavy cream. Bring again to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer an additional two to three minutes and serve.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings