A Journal of the Plague Year 2021–chapter 223

Friday, July 9

Years ago, Emily told me that her mother liked to eat radishes with butter. It then seemed to me just another excuse to add fat into the diet. Later, I learned that this is a typically French way of eating the spicy springtime morsels. And further investigation reveals that the combination goes a long ways back.

Among the friends of legendary 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys was the naturalist John Evelyn, author of the 1699 book Acetaria: A discourse on sallets [or salads]. Evelyn had been influenced by the French fashion for eating simpler things, including 82 different veggies including “Sparagus.”

As dressings for salad, Evelyn liked light oil, wine vinegar infused with cloves, mustard, and citrus peel. With radishes, you just rub one in butter, and then dip it in salt—nothing else is needed as it brings its own pepper with it, the naturalist observed.

Neanderthals had no butter, but it seems that the swollen upper part of the radish root has been eaten since prehistoric days, from Western Europe to Asia. The classical Greek historian Herodotus said that the slaves who built the Great Pyramid in Egypt ate so many radishes that they wrote an inscription about the vegetable on the side of the structure.

Radishes come in a range of shapes and sizes—including 18-inch long daikon and mooli—and in various colors. There are white, pink, purple, red, and black. One Chinese radish, Xin Li Mei, sometimes has internal crimson stripes.

You can get radishes, cheap, in every supermarket. But the best ones, and the greatest variety, are found at farm stands. Those pictured here came from the Water Mill organic veggie stand, Green Thumb.

Dinner tonight: sheet pan chicken with zucchini and basil, rice, and a green salad.

Entertainment: More old episodes of the British policier Morse.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 152

Our new twig fence, constructed while we were in NYC.

Thursday, September 24

We’re back in East Hampton, experiencing a mix of emotions. Once we unloaded the huge amount of stuff from the car, it felt good to be back. But there are several unnerving aspects: How long will we be confined here? The last time, we stayed for six months. A similar period now would take us into March of 2021. Moreover, during our last stay, in spite of fear and trembling over the coronavirus, there was one reason for cheer: The days were growing longer and warmer as we experienced late winter passing into spring. Now, days are getting shorter and winter is coming on. 

The city wasn’t as frightening as we expected, and, with a little trepidation, it was O.K. to go into a drugstore, the supermarket, or the greenmarket and get the few items you needed. That’s harder to do here—stores are fewer and farther away. So there must be more thought given to just what foodstuffs or other supplies are needed to cover a period of several days. 

What farm stands are still open? Should we go all the way over to one in Amagansett to get plums for that yummy plum graham cracker crumble?

Dare we try to make Korean-style bulgogi steak, which involves grilling outside in the 6 p.m. gloaming?

As for outings, before it gets too cold we might strap on our masks and go to a nearby park/sculpture garden such as Longhouse Reserve or Madoo Conservancy in Sagaponack.

I put out birdseed yesterday, and it usually takes the birds a day or so to discover new goodies. A few have already come today.

Also, we found that our old, dilapidated twig fence has been replaced with a new cedar fence while we were away. The distressed brick walkway was also repaired. And, miracle of miracles, Optimum has finally installed the internet cable—although they’ve overcharged for doing so. Speaking about that overcharge to a customer representative was just another exercise in maddening frustration.

Our daily bread, fresh from the machine.

The bread machine is beeping, signaling a new loaf is ready—only the second that we have made in the relatively new machine. The loaves come out pretty nice, although a bit square. They’re rising better than they did with the old machine, where I think the paddle had worn out and ingredients weren’t getting mixed very well.

As the election approaches, Trump is making ever-more-threatening noises. “Get rid of the ballots and we’ll have a very peaceful—there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.” OOOO-Kayyyy. If voters aren’t sick of all this—and there will have to be a very large majority against him to keep the Supreme Court from pulling another Bush v. Gore abomination—then the U.S.A. deserves what it’ll get. 

Dinner: wine-braised chicken with artichoke hearts, noodles, and a green salad.

Entertainment: more episodes of Netflix’ Ozark and Borgen.