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The Zombie Apocalypse & Signs of Life

Most of yesterday and some of today was about the good things that can happen when we cook, bake, or share food with others in trying times.

Otherwise, we learned how to survive a zombie apocalypse.

A Friday at home with little to do and nowhere to go meant having the time to enjoy making challah with the kids. I'd meant to prep all the ingredients the night before, but since that didn't happen, I woke up late to an already-packed inbox of messages ("Stay positive!" "Here's how to stay positive during quarantine!" "Today's assignments!" "Make impossible art projects with your kids today!") hoping I could find the rapid-rising yeast in the pantry.

Any hands-on project for three kids (and me) meant dividing the recipe. There was less than ten minutes until the Facebook Live tutorial was to start.

Here's the math problem for my arithmetic-inclined friends:

1. In <10 minutes, locate the yeast packets. Shit: you don't have packets anymore. You have yeast in a jar. Google how many teaspoons two squares of active yeast is, and then divide that by two for separate bowls.

2. Find the bowls that aren't already waiting to be washed in sink or dishwasher.

3. Prepare the ingredients and divide each into two bowls on opposite sides of the kitchen table, far enough away from each other so that no one confuses whose is whose.

3. Get kids to stop fighting.

3. Wait--3? Whatever. Figure out if you can mix white and wheat flour with coconut flour and almond flour. Why do you have so many hot-damned types of flour? Clean out your pantry. Passover's coming. Divide the damn flour. HURRY THE EFF UP.

4. Notice that you cannot access FB Live from your phone. Find the laptop: prop it up on the kitchen table so that no single ingredient, no whiff of flour, no egg shell, can come near it. Assemble a fortress of some kind to protect it. You have a few minutes.

5. No, you don't. The live feed has started and you just missed the first steps. Yelling at the kids to be quieter is not going to help you catch up. Wing it.

What's really cool about a project like this is that it's about FOOD, which we all have a big stake in. So there was already impetus not to screw it up and go totally off

Kids mixing yeast and warm water, hoping something explodes, as in a science experiment.
Kids mixing yeast and warm water, hoping something blows up.

the rails. We went a little rogue, adding sprinkles and chocolate chips to two of the four loaves.

While we waited for dough to rise, we got some academic time in.

Which is when we learned what to do if there is, indeed, a zombie apocalypse-- which it sometimes seems we might be on the cusp of. (STAY POSITIVE! Right.)

My daughter's assignment involved reading an article about the World Central Kitchen, and what it really means to be in service to others during disasters.

But: Somewhere after (noon), the day, and I, unravelled.

Things were broken. Not such beloved things, but things that make messes of shards and sharp edges that somehow cut right under your fingernail where band-aids don't reach. Nerves were... frayed. My attempts to get the kids outside to work out their cabin fever were futile, thanks to frigid, high winds. They only place they could go was right on top of each other's nerves.

To calm myself, I sat at the table with the puzzle. Within seconds, a crash: a glass (!) of bright, red Gatorade (!!) next to the computer. (@!$#%!!!!) Expletives left my mouth. I am not proud of that. Nor am I proud of the variety of expletives I used; nor how I nominalized, denominalized, and morphically derived the expletives into verbs, adverbs, nouns, adjectives. It was Ugly.

When Heath came home ( because he is considered essential staff and is still working in an almost zombie-apocalyptic skeleton crew office), he made dinner. I took a (frigid, high-wind, and therefore short) walk. I apologized to each child for my gymnastic, explosive, expletive performance. All was forgiven.

We enjoyed a much quieter Shabbat--with delicious challah.


To make it up to the kids, I let them have waffles with whipped cream and chocolate chips and sprinkles for breakfast this morning. One child insisted there also be syrup in the mix. Sure. Why not. Because should the apocalypse really befall us, I'll be able to say that they once enjoyed a ridiculously sugary breakfast and called it "fun."

Today, we five took a long hike through Highland Park, known for its International Lilac Festival each May--which this year, has been postponed, possibly cancelled. Even though today was bone-chillingly cold, it was sunny, and we hiked our way up and down the length of the property, nodding and waving to other cabin-fevered Rochesterians. They, and tiny hints of Spring, were the signs of real--not virtual--life we'd so badly needed this week.

A notable landmark of the hike today included visiting a statue of the great Frederick Douglass (a one-time Rochester resident), who reminds us:

I'll remember this next time we bake challah. It's not about the bread. It's about the spirit of nourishing.

To donate to World Central Kitchen and support emergency relief efforts globally, click here.

To learn more about how you can make a difference with food shortage efforts in Rochester, visit Foodlink, and efforts in Monroe and surrounding counties, click here.

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