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The Column: Perils of pandemic extend into the kitchen

Honey, I baked my glasses!

It was our anniversary — 57 years, another distinguished service cross for my wife, Wink — and I had planned lemon cheesecake as a surprise.

But, wait. Let’s pause for an update.

Why was I making dessert?

Because — what else? — we are not eating out.

I wish every restaurateur the best, no kidding. We have bought online gift certificates and sent a few bucks to some of our beloved haunts.

Kitchen staff, bartenders, servers, owners — even with the economy opening, these are tough times for anyone in the food industry.

But if age puts you on the shoreline of Golden Pond, any risk may seem like one too many. Remaining under house arrest — that’s how I see social isolation now — is the pits. The only thing worse is the alternative.


Unless we froze ourselves — remember cryogenics? — with orders to “consult Dr. Anthony Fauci before thawing,” Wink and I could not be more prudent.

Elsewhere, people are frolicking — partying like it was 2019, as the joke goes. “BACKSLIDING ON SOCIAL DISTANCING,” scolded a recent Page One headline in Newsday.

Not us.

An old Brooklyn friend, now, astonishingly, living in the rural South, does endless research on the virus.

Fred — one of several Freds in our odd, little Lutheran social circle — reads academic papers, environmental surveys and epidemiological studies. Once he crunched numbers for a living. Now Fred writes endlessly to politicians and policymakers. Recently he told the big shots in his state they were crazy for failing to impose stiffer health restrictions.

“We can’t go back to the way it was — ever,” Fred said.

Ever? That sounds like longer than Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and maybe Valentine’s Day.

Already sick of squinting at Zoom and alarmed to see your own sagging self on screen?   This is life, revised standard edition. Things aren’t changing anytime soon. Settle in.

At least that’s the view from my particular quarantine zone.

Ordinarily, Wink and I would have stepped out for our anniversary — that cute place on the corner in Kings Park or over to Smithtown for paella at the sweet, family-owned Spanish restaurant or the tiny bistro in Sayville, still there from our happy, long-ago days on the South Shore, or the French cafe in Huntington where, pre-virus, the manager greeted us with hugs.

Can you imagine? Hugs?

Even if our favorite joints are operating, even if they’re serving guests on the sidewalk or at allowably separated tables inside, even if the staff is wearing welding visors and the customers have faces wrapped like mummies, we’re staying home.

The great existential philosopher Groucho Marx had the idea. “Getting older is no problem,” said Groucho. “You just have to live long enough.”

But why dwell on inscrutable matters of fate and mortality?

Let’s get back to the kitchen.

The lemon cheesecake was supposed to bake for 40 minutes, and it was time to check.

From the oven came the usual steamy cloud, and, as usual, I took off my befogged glasses.

No question, the cheesecake needed a few more minutes. Its center wobbled and a toothpick emerged shiny and wet.

I shut the oven door, set the timer and wandered off, something I have been doing a lot lately — just tour the house a bit, maybe step outside for a quick breather, get the lay of the land, you know, make sure I know where I am, that I’m still compos mentis and mainly in operating condition. After five months of lockup, I take nothing for granted.

OK. But where were my glasses?

Stumbling around, I searched everywhere. I brought in Wink, who is a bloodhound when it comes to finding lost articles. Upstairs, downstairs, bathroom, boiler room, every ledge, shelf and cabinet. Gone.

“Drat,” I grumbled, or maybe something worse. At that moment, the timer went off.

The cheesecake was done. And — you guessed it — so were my glasses.

I’d put them on the middle rack as if heating yesterday’s lasagna. To stop my glasses from fogging up, I melted them at 350 degrees.

“Once I had a guy who ran over his glasses with a lawn mower,” said the vision center fellow who hurried a replacement pair. “But baking? That’s new.”

I released a deep and meaningful sigh, testament to human frailty and unusual times.

Baking your bifocals. Yes, that’s new.

Isn’t everything?

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