Last Friday, I set off for a week of solitude in the woods outside Wakefield. I had a lot on my mind and was really looking forward to a week by myself, during which I would work but also unwind, see friends, go for walks and even attend an in-person meeting in Ottawa.
In my first two days, I spent lots of time with my close friends, lay on the couch in front of the woodstove to read another Penelope Lively book (Spiderweb) and poured over a really great family court decision (okay, so that might not pass for unwinding or entertainment for everyone, but it did for me, and you can read my thoughts about the case here next week).
Late Saturday, my partner called to say he had a really bad headache, sore throat and dizziness. A rapid antigen test very early Sunday morning confirmed our suspicions: he had COVID. I tested myself: negative.
My partner sounded miserable and I had to isolate anyway, which kyboshed my social plans and in-person meeting, so I decided to return to Kingston.
Separate & apart under the same roof
So far, I remain symptom-free and have tested negative three times. My partner has felt truly lousy, but has had no breathing or gastrointestinal difficulties. His symptoms are beginning to abate, which means we can return to somewhat more normal relations within the house now and outside the house soon.
We have a comfortably sized house for two people, but it has been challenging to keep our distance from one another at times. I’ve moved into the spare bedroom, which has caused no end of upset for our cat as she ponders which of us she should honour with her company. She has taken to sitting at the top of the stairs looking mournfully from one bedroom to the other, unable to commit.
Fortunately, we have an eight-foot long dining room table, so we sit one at each end of it for dinner, each with our own set of condiments, feeling a bit like Charles and Emily Kane as we survey the expanse of mahogany between us.
Other than that, we pretty much keep to our corners: I spend the day in my office, and my partner spends a lot of time in the bedroom. When we’re on the move, we kind of skulk around the house trying to avoid one another as much as possible, whipping our masks on if we anticipate a close encounter.
After a day or two of trying to figure out how my partner got infected, we decided it didn’t really matter and abandoned the guessing game. We notified everyone either of us had direct contact with in the relevant time period and, happily, none of them has become sick.
Food, glorious food
As usual, I have turned to food for solace, figuring I needed to produce some really delicious meals to keep our spirits up. A couple of nights ago, we enjoyed lamb curry, made with lamb raised by my son, rice pilaf, a mango salad and my first effort at homemade naan. Here’s how I made the curry and the naan.
I used about 3 pounds of lamb shoulder, which I cubed, popping the bones into the freezer for a future pot of scotch broth.
Over medium-high heat, I melted about 1/3 cup ghee in a large, heavy pot, then added 3 cinnamon sticks, 10 smashed green cardamom pods and 6 whole cloves. I let those brown in the ghee for a couple of minutes, then added 2 chopped onions, 8 cloves grated garlic and 3 Tbsp. grated ginger, stirring them well and continuing to cook over medium-high heat until the onion was just starting to brown. Next into the pot: 1 cup tomato sauce and a large pinch salt.
Once this came to a simmer, I added the lamb and 4 cups stock, brought the mixture to a boil, then stirred in 4 Tbsp. smoked paprika, 3 Tbsp. each ground coriander and cumin, 1 Tbsp. each turmeric and garam masala and a few gratings nutmeg.
This simmered for a few hours, until the lamb was beginning to fall apart, and then I let it sit overnight to further blend the flavours.
The naan was easier to make than I had thought it might be. I used this recipe, with no modifications. My only tip is that you really need to roll the dough to no more than ¼-inch thick. I was a bit sloppy about this, and the naan that I did not roll vigorously enough were a bit too doughy for my taste.
I froze leftover curry and naan, so we are most of the way to at least three more delicious meals – or maybe just one big meal once we are out of isolation and can have more than two at our very long table.