Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Re-Entry, and Biscuits

I haven't left the house much in the past two months, except to go to the doctor for my follow up surgery appointments. Oddly enough, as those have become less frequent, the world is simultaneously starting to open back up, and we're being asked what we want to make of it.

The weirdest part of it all is that I feel like there is no road map for this. Some call it a vacuum of leadership. Some call it regional discretion. Despite the ridiculous amount of reading I do, I just feel confused. I have a mask that someone made for me, which doesn't fit me particularly well. I have a few masks I bought, in different shapes and sizes, so I could try to figure out what DOES work, in the case that I have to go back to work with a mask on, which seems both likely and unlikely at the same time.

I've started to walk a little farther each day, most days anyway, just to get some exercise and make my foot remember what it's supposed to do. Generally speaking people seem to give each other a wide berth, which is nice. A lot of people wear masks around their chins, and yesterday I even saw someone wearing one around the back of his neck. I'm really not sure what he was planning to protect with that approach.

Today, S. and I went to get our wills signed. Sort of morbid, but honestly, a lot of the reading makes me worried because it seems like there are quite a lot of people who are healthy and on the cusp of middle age just like me who are fine one day and intubated the next. So I finally got around to making a phone call I'd been putting off, to a former student turned lawyer, someone I've always thought of as a genuinely nice human being.

We had our first appointment via zoom, and that was fine, but there are things like notaries involved in will-signing. So we pocketed our masks, and headed out.

Have you noticed that in a lot of parking lots, even the cars seems socially distanced? Admittedly, I don't get out much, but it's seemed that way to me. So it struck me as strange to see all of the cars huddled together in the parking lot of the law office when we pulled in.

It was probably an omen, though, because we masked up, walked in, and quickly discovered that we were the only people wearing masks in the building. I immediately felt both a little uncomfortable, and a lot conspicuous, but even more determined than before not to remove it. I thought about all of the people whose lives these people touch. I thought about the super-connectedness of the human race that thought of ourselves as individuals. And I confess, I was stunned and a little bit horrified by the dish full of Hershey kisses still out the for the taking.

My former student turned lawyer greeted us, and reassured us that we were welcome to wear masks, but they don't. I wondered what it would take for the office to mask up, like the articles I've been reading by health professionals suggest we should do to slow the spread, not just now, but for a long time.

I still like my former student. He's still a nice guy. I don't regret asking him to prepare our wills. He donated a huge amount of KN95 masks to nursing homes recently, where a lot of his clients and clients' parents live. The visit was friendly, and we made small talk about our favorite restaurants in my town, and agreed that the biscuits at one of them really just don't measure up. But the experience gave me a small taste of what life will be like for a while if it remains the case that there is no universal guidance, like we're all flying blind. And I confess, I was more than a little glad to be back home, with the door shut, and where I didn't have to worry about the choice any more.

How about you? How are you making sense of the choices before us right now, if you happen to have one where you live? How are you coping with the choices that other people get to make?

These biscuits are way better than the biscuits we both agreed were terrible at our local restaurant. I was feeling like we needed bread with soup one night, and it was too late to start something in the breadmaker, so this is what we ended up with. And best of all, we don't need yeast, which you can't find anyway. For best results, chill your butter in the freezer for 10-20 minutes before beginning this recipe. It's ideal that the butter is very cold for light, flaky, buttery biscuits.

Better Biscuits

2 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
1 T. granulated sugar
1 t. salt
6 T. unsalted butter very cold
3/4 c. whole milk

Preheat oven to 425F and line a cookie sheet with nonstick parchment paper.

Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Set aside.

Remove your butter from the refrigerator and either cut it into your flour mixture using a pastry cutter or use a box grater to shred the butter into small pieces and then add to the flour mixture and stir. Cut the butter or combine the grated butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add milk, use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir until combined (don't over-work the dough). Transfer your biscuit dough to a well-floured surface and use your hands to gently work the dough together. If the dough is too sticky, add flour until it is manageable.

Once the dough is cohesive, fold in half over itself and use your hands to gently flatten layers together. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and fold in half again, repeating this step 5-6 times but taking care to not overwork the dough. Use your hands (don't use a rolling pin) to flatten the dough to 1" thick and lightly dust a 2 3/4" round biscuit cutter with flour.

Making close cuts, press the biscuit cutter straight down into the dough and drop the biscuit onto your prepared baking sheet. Repeat until you've gotten as many biscuits as possible and place less than 1/2" apart on baking sheet. Once you've gotten as many biscuits as possible out of the dough, gently re-work the dough to get out another biscuit or two until you have at least 6 biscuits.

Bake for 12 minutes or until tops are beginning to just turn lightly golden brown. If desired, brush with melted salted butter immediately after removing from oven. Serve warm.
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