A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 134

An end of summer must: ratatouille

Monday, August 17

At 3:30 p.m. on a mid-August afternoon, with dappled sunlight streaming through the trees, it feels like early fall. This wouldn’t be the first time for summer to depart prematurely from the East End. But is there more heat yet to come?

We’re largely being deprived of farm-fresh produce, since the sizable farm stands are some distance away and the best one nearby requires that you order several days ahead via the Internet. I guess that’s COVID protection for their workers and other customers, but it means you cannot simply show up and make a selection of the fruits and veggies that look best to you. So we’ll probably not be having much of the zucchini + squash+ eggplant+ tomato+ onion concoction known as ratatouille, nor are we likely to get our usual share of corn on the cob. Ironically, our best bet for farm-to-table veggies may come after our return to New York City and the Union Square Greenmarket. Even there, I gather, there’s regimentation and social distancing: Patrons must wait in line, single file, just to enter the market. You tell the vendors what you want—three corn and four zucchini, for example—and they hand you the stuff rather than allowing you to make your own selection from what’s displayed on a table.

There’s one large stand on Montauk Highway near Southampton where, during a typical October, drivers stop and whole families go in to select pumpkins. The same place has a playground usually crowded with kids. The stand is so popular that it regularly causes traffic jams. What will that scene be like this year? And what about the Water Mill pick-your-own apples stands? No picking without a mask this year, I suspect.

Today at lunchtime Emily and I split a mango, imported from Mexico. Local fruit in the coming season includes beach plums and Italian plums, both of which make very nice preserves and other sweet treats. So we can look forward to those. Also to pumpkin bread, which is super easy and always reminds me of New Mexico, where the B&Bs feature lots of it made with the local pignola nuts.

After lunch, we telephoned the doorman at our NYC apartment house, told him of our plans to return there in late August, and asked if there was anything we needed to know. We learned that everyone must wear a mask, that they prefer that there be only two people to an elevator, and that outsiders must have their temperature taken. Otherwise, there doesn’t seem to be much we need to know. We’re looking ahead with trepidation.

Dinner: two salads—more fresh mozzarella, Kalamata olives, celery, cucumber, and tomatoes with balsamic dressing; and penne with roasted red peppers, pea pods, red onion, and capers.

Entertainment: a little of the very canned Democratic convention…then nothing. We kept hoping to hear Bernie’s speech–but instead they kept showing one unwatchable, “real person” speech after another.