By Isa Covo
More than in any other times in recent years, we depend on others: The entire hospital staff giving all their skills and effort to help all who need them, and the pain they suffer when they cannot succeed even as their own lives are at risk. The bus drivers and train conductors who with good reason, are at risk of contagion, the store clerks, the restaurant staff, the cleaners, police officers, firefighters and more, too many to list here. We must thank them all, as well as, we the public, protect them and us by taking very simple steps that are not even necessary to repeat here; following those directives because, like Blanche Dubois said, we “depend on the kindness of strangers.”
In my life many strangers showed me kindness that I should never forget:
- The gentleman who saw us, my husband and I, stranded in our disabled car in pouring rain trying to get help before the wide spread of mobile phones, who saw us from the opposite lane, exited the road to offer us assistance with his own.
- The gentleman who helped me up when I stumbled and fell on one of those uneven New York sidewalks, and walked beside me for some steps to see if I was OK.
- The well dressed gentleman noticing my distress as I was frantically searching through my purse for my misplaced MetroCard, offered his own, and waited patiently as I continued searching to see if I could find it. With profuse thanks, and for all our sakes, I accepted his offer.
- The lady who waited with me on a dark street until my wayward hired drive arrived. We had such a pleasant conversation.
- When my shopping cart, hitting a bump, overturned and some produce spilled, he came to my help to collect it while other pedestrians walked by indifferent.
- In Washington DC I was lost somewhere, under a blazing sun without any visible means of transportation and scant car traffic, when suddenly a car stopped and a lady popped her head out the window to ask me if I needed help. I accepted gratefully, and as she took me to my destination we chatted amiably as if we had known each other for years. We separated like sisters after a warm hug.
- The young woman who offered her seat in the subway who, as I was protesting, said to me firmly: “I insist.” I sat down.
There are many more instances of kindness too long to list, but there is one encounter that touched me particularly and I still remember the way I felt, which, happened a long time ago, as I was summoned as a juror. After the jury selection we were dismissed and told to return the next morning. Meanwhile I had chatted with some prospective jurors, among them two Black ladies.
The next morning, like most of the panel, I arrived before the courtroom opened. There was scant sitting space outside the courtroom, but the two ladies were sitting on a small bench. As I walked in they gestured me to join them: “Come, come,” one said, “we saved you a seat.” I was of course grateful for their kindness, but what I still keep in my heart is the fact that IT NEVER CROSSED THEIR MINDS THAT I WOULD REFUSE. I can’t remember their names, and probably they do not remember mine either, or even the story, but I shall never forget it.
Most of those strangers were Black.
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter melted to brush the tops (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Set the rack in the middle of the oven. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl sift the flour, baking powder salt and sugar.
- Cut the cold 5 tablespoons of butter into small cubes, and with a pastry blender or with fingertips blend it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cold cream and stir with a fork or a pastry blender until combined. Knead lightly until the mixture forms a dough.
- Pat the dough into an even circle, a half-inch thick.
- Cut rounds with a 2 ½-inch biscuit cutter. Gather the remaining dough and shape into a round and continue cutting the shortcakes until all the dough is used, while progressively arranging them on the lined baking sheet.
- Brush the tops with the melted butter, if used.
- Bake the shortcakes for 20 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
Yield: 6-8 shortcakes