Good morning. Long ago, when I was working in the newsroom and going out to eat roughly a dozen times each week, I’d sometimes grab my pal Gilbert and walk briskly through the Theater District to a not-very-good restaurant with big plate-glass windows onto the street. We’d sit on stools at the bar and eat not-very-good sandwiches, then run through the day and week and the months to come: our plans and schemes and worries and dreams.
My sandwiches now are better — Cheddar with cucumbers and marmalade, for instance, or radish with good butter and salt — but the company’s bunk. I’m all alone at my desk. And if the plans and schemes continue in phone and video calls, the worries are kaleidoscopic now. The dreams are limp.
I’m putting a lot of faith in the weather’s ability to change my mood — your mood, too, if the emails I receive are any indication. I thrill to the sun bringing up the daffodils and encouraging the cherry trees to bud, warming the waters for the chaotic mating dance of the eider ducks off the beach. Asparagus is coming in slowly now and soon in droves. That’s important, I think, if only because it makes me smile. It’s going to be another turning point for us, right there: the arrival of asparagus in Pandemic Season 5, and hopefully the final one.
So for dinner tonight, if you’re able? Stir-fried spicy asparagus, or this slightly more involved rendition of the very same dish, either one served with rice. Pasta primavera with asparagus and peas (above)? Baked asparagus with shiitake, prosciutto and couscous? Asparagus something, please. It’ll help, I promise.
But so, too, will these pork chops in cherry-pepper sauce, seasonless and delicious, and this artful quick lamb ragù. Soba noodles with chicken and snap peas might delight. I even love the idea of an April lemony carrot and cauliflower soup, to say goodbye to the winter pantry, to get ready for the warmth of May.
The idea’s just to keep cooking and in doing so maybe, for a moment, to bring joy to your life and to the life of those with whom you bunk. You needn’t make it complicated. You don’t need to make sourdough bread. This simple crusty loaf is a secret weapon well worth deploying this time of year. Maybe give that a try?
Or click your way over to NYT Cooking to see what else you find. A subscription’s required, it’s true, but we think you’ll find it worth the scratch: many thousands of recipes, along with the tools and features we’ve built to help you use them, and the notes of fellow subscribers beneath recipes to help you make your choice. Subscriptions are important. They support our work and allow it to continue. I hope, if you haven’t already, that you will subscribe today.
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Now, it’d take you as long as a drive from Winnipeg to Halifax to make it anything to do with food, but I think you should read Ava Kofman’s searing look at the toll the pandemic has taken on emergency medical workers, in ProPublica.
More reading: Min Jin Lee on how her lifetime of reading promiscuously taught her to write, in The Times.
Music now: Gotye, “Somebody That I Used to Know,” live on KCRW back in 2011.
Finally, in case you missed it, here’s our Jason Farago with another brilliant “Close Read,” this one of a portrait of Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor, “King of the World,” dated to 1627 or 1628. You’ll learn so much. That brings a kind of happiness too. Enjoy it, and I’ll be back on Wednesday.
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