Category Archives: COVID-19

New York Peanut Butter Cookies

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York  I  Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Believe it or not, I hadn’t ever made peanut butter cookies until recently!

While I was isolating during COVID-19, I decided to give them a try and work on them until I thought they were perfect. During eight weeks of isolation, I tried variations of this recipe seven times!

It’s like this, folks. The isolation of COVID-19 left me a bit worried and lonely and sad. New York was the hotbed of virus cases in the United States, particularly New York City, which is only a few hours away.

Lots of people who live in the city also have weekend houses up in my county, and they came here to escape. I don’t blame them, but it also made me nervous.

There is a nursing home a mere two miles from me, and they had 30 cases of the virus, with 12 deaths. I was too cautious to even go to my favorite sandwich shop in town, because I knew the nurses and CNAs and other workers from this nursing home were passing through there.

So, I asked myself, what could I do at this frightening time that was positive, to try and take my mind off all this?

I’m not a nurse, or a doctor, or a scientist, and I can’t treat people, I can’t cure them. I can’t figure out what causes COVID.

I’m not a musician, and I can’t put on a Facebook Live concert every Friday night to entertain people, and help them forget about their worries for awhile. I’m not a famous singer who can record another version of a beloved song from my living room which will make people happy, and score a million YouTube views in the matter of a few days.

But what I can do, something positive, one of the things I’m good at, is baking cookies. My cookies always turn out. They make my house smell good. They make my son happy. They make me feel smiley and successful.

Baking makes me feel a bit more in control of this crazy world. I can usually predict how things will come out, and if it’s not quite right, then I can tweak a few things until I’m satisfied.

I love making cookies. Cookies are one of the ways I add a little bit of happiness and beauty back into a world which is sometimes full of sadness and ugly, unpredictable things.

So, when I first started researching peanut butter cookies, I looked up a bunch of different recipes and background information online. I wondered why peanut butter cookies always have a crisscross pattern made with a fork. Have you ever thought about it, or just taken it for granted?

I discovered the main reason is because the dough is so dense, it needs to be flattened out before it bakes, so the cookies will bake evenly.

I also suspect it’s to make peanut butter cookies easily identifiable. Without the crisscross, they might be mistaken for sugar cookies, right? People with peanut allergies need to be able to identify them at a bake sale.

Then, I found out something even more fascinating. The very first mention in print of peanut butter cookies having a crisscross pattern happened right here in New York state!

On July 1st, 1932, the Schenectady Gazette published a recipe calling for the fork crisscross. Schenectady (that’s pronounced Skeh-neck-tuh-dee) is a city just about an hour north of here!

So New York, this what I did, to try and stay positive during such a scary time. I made delicious peanut butter cookies, and I named them after you.

NEW YORK PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in peanut butter.

Add egg and vanilla and mix. Dump in flour and sprinkle baking soda across the top. Then stir again, until all ingredients are incorporated.

Roll into small balls and place on greased cookie sheet. Using a fork with long tines, make a crisscross pattern on each cookie. Bake 8 minutes. Enjoy!

Helpful Hints
Save the wrapper from your stick of butter and use it to grease the cookie sheets.

I hate cleaning peanut butter out of a measuring cup. I think it’s a waste, because it’s hard to get out. I just place a one-cup measuring cup near my mixing bowl, and use it to gauge the amount of peanut butter I put directly into the bowl.

Speaking of peanut butter, I don’t refrigerate mine. It’s much easier to spread on a sandwich or mix into cookie dough this way!

[RECOMMENDED READING]
http://www.newenglandrecipes.org/html/peanut-butter-cookies.html

[RECOMMENDED VIEWING]
Dennis DeYoung singing and playing “The Best of Times” from his home in April 2020. Viewing time is under three minutes.

Dennis DeYoung and the Music of Styx, performing live in Los Angeles in 2014. Viewing time is 1 hour, 40 minutes.

One of Dennis’s guitar players, August Zadra, put on Facebook Live acoustic guitar concerts every Friday night during COVID. At this writing, they’re still happening. Check out his Facebook page at August Zadra Music.

[RECIPE SOURCE]
I used this recipe from Fannie Farmer the first two times I made the cookies, then adapted it to be more to my own liking.

In order to get a softer cookie, I increased the amount of brown sugar and decreased the amount white sugar. I experimented with baking times of both 8 and 10 minutes, and decided 8 made for a much softer cookie.

Then I increased the amount of peanut butter, wanting a more peanut-buttery taste.

Here’s the recipe I started with:
https://www.food.com/recipe/fannie-farmer-peanut-butter-cookies-half-recipe-535344

 

Six Cans of Tuna

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York  I  Thursday, 30 April 2020

I went to the store on Saturday, 14 March, with shopping list in hand. One of the items on my list was tuna fish, and I wanted to get six cans. Usually, I have a decent stack of it in my pantry, but now I was low, because I’d been eating tuna sandwiches a lot lately.

I’d recently heard a lot of rumblings, and I knew COVID-19 was coming for us. I wanted to stock up a bit, thinking I might not want to (or be able to) go grocery shopping for awhile.

When I got to the store, they were out of toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins, but that was okay, because I was stocked up on all those things.

There were more empty spots on shelves than normal, no eggs, and definitely some bare spots in the meat case, the frozen section, and the pasta aisle.

I went to where the tuna was, to get my six cans, and there was none of the kind I normally buy, the kind packed in water. So I did what I usually do when a spot is bare, stand there and stare, hoping something will magically appear in its place.

And it did, kinda. Well, sorta. I noticed someone had discarded two cans of tuna in water in the back of one of the cases of tuna in oil, so I snatched those up.

It’s not like I hadn’t been to this store before and they’d been out of my kind of tuna. That’s happened to me a few times, but it’s usually not a big deal, because I always knew I’d be back again soon, and next time they’d have it.

But this time, I knew it was part of something larger, something longer-lasting which was coming, and I didn’t like it one little bit.

That night, my friend Patti posted a picture on Facebook which alarmed me. She’d gone to a different grocery store in town, a much larger one, in hopes of getting some chicken for next day’s Sunday dinner.

The picture she posted was of a long, empty meat case. I mean, there wasn’t one solitary package in it. Not even any of the weird stuff you would never buy, like chicken feet or cow tongue. Not even one $40 roast. Nothing. Empty.

In the next days, I began to see my friends all over the country post pictures of empty toilet paper shelves. It wasn’t just here, it was everywhere. I heard a lot of people talking about shortages of flour and yeast, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.

I have so many things to say about the scariness and shortages of this time, but my thoughts are so jumbled, I’m not sure I’ll ever make enough sense of it all to put my thoughts properly into words.

I’m not experienced enough to advise anyone about food storage, and certainly there are plenty of books, websites, and online groups devoted to the topic, so I won’t really attempt to go there. But I do know I have to start thinking a little differently about it.

Today marks the 39th day I’ve been in isolation. It’s been 45 days since Thing 2 has been to school.

I did eventually get four more cans of tuna, bringing my total to six. I know someday things will go back to normal, at least a new kind of normal. But I also know I will always remember the feeling of wanting to get six cans of tuna, and only being able to get two.