Feelings, Food, and Film

I watched a brief, animated video produced by BBC this morning. Entitled, “Is a Crisis a Chance to Reset the World?” It parallels what I’ve been thinking and hearing from others who want the COVID-19 pandemic to serve as a trigger for massive, positive social change. The video gives snippets of information about other global crises that sparked enormous social changes, everything from ending the 100-Year War between France and England to spurring the creation of Britain’s National Healthcare Service.  I hope society collectively sorts things out to create good from the very bad that is the pandemic. Give it ten years; that should be enough time (more than enough time) to determine whether we’re taking advantage of a bad situation or simply using the pandemic as a nail in humankind’s coffin. I have a feeling we might know within months, rather than years.


For the second time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we gathered last night at the home of friends who are members of our “world tour of wines” group. Some of them also are members of our church. Practicing social distance as much as possible, we gathered on the deck and enjoyed drinks, conversation, and a dinner of brats and potato salad and corn salad and various sides and desserts. Everyone brought something to share; we brought a dessert of coconut-topped brownies my wife prepared. I did not pay attention to who brought what, but while we were on the deck eating, I learned the source of a simple but delicious corn dish I want to make one day soon. One of my favorites was a fresh jalapeño salsa and chips;  I could have made a meal of that by itself. Everything was good, made even better by the presence of friends. Simple, face-to-face conversation is one of the things from “the way things used to be” that, apparently, I  miss the most.

During dinner, our conversation naturally turned to food. Among the myriad topics we discussed were sardines and steak tartar. One of the folks at the table loathes sardines, but her husband (seated elsewhere) loves them. Another of our table-mates loves them. The topics of our conversation included a dish my wife and I enjoy, named by Alton Brown, “Sardicado sandwich,” a concoction involving mixing together canned sardines, avocados, lemon zest and juice, and chopped parsley and served on dark bread. The outcome of that part of the conversation was to tentatively arrange for the sardine-loving husband and the table-mate sardine aficionado to visit us for a sardicado sandwich lunch sometime soon. The sardine-loathing table-mate asserted that steak tartar originated in France; I thought it was Germany. A quick look online this morning suggests it originated in some form or another in Central Asia as raw meat and was then adopted by the Russians, who exported the concept to Germany, where the additional garnishes (onions, capers, raw egg, seasonings) were added. This explanation came from frenchcountryfood.com, as well as Wikipedia. My assumption about the source has, therefore, been vindicated.

The hosts of last night’s dinner have a beautiful home, made all the more spectacular by her green thumb and his skills at design and building. Last night was our first time seeing a garden “wall” he built using wood and wine bottles (and a few colorful plates). He also built a walkway out of crushed stone, outlined with large stone blocks and hand-made concrete pads. Aside from the enormous amount of physical labor involved in the project, the planning and carpentry/building skills involved must have been quite significant. If I were ever to have such a feature in our yard, it would cost several thousand dollars more than I have at my disposal. My building skills would not do the trick; I would have to hire it done. Oh, well. Such is life.

When we returned home, I spent some time on the deck watching distant fireworks and listening to and feeling the concussions of their explosions. The moon was extremely bright, which made for a beautiful sight, especially when strips of dark clouds passed in front of it. A lunar eclipse occurred last night, but I became impatient waiting for it after viewing the fireworks, so I missed it and watched The Valhalla Murders, instead. The Valhalla Murders is an Icelandic-language (with subtitles, of course) Netflix police procedural drama series. I gather it is based, quite loosely, on a series of real-world events from the 1940s and adapted to modern-day Iceland. The series begins with a murder in Reykjavik harbor; I have watched only the first three episodes thus far; I am enjoying it quite a lot. We shall see how much I enjoy the remaining five episodes.

Most of my television viewing during the past several months has been Netflix-based. I think most of the series and movies I’ve watched since the beginning of the year have been thanks to Netflix.  I claim I do not watch much television. The list of things I’ve watched in recent months says otherwise. Here’s a sampling, off the top of my head (and with a little help from my tele-viewing notes and my Netflix viewing history):

  • After Life
  • Collateral
  • Pandemic
  • The Platform
  • Fauda
  • Unabomber: In His Own Words
  • Dead to Me
  • Ozark
  • Narcos: Mexico
  • Code 8
  • The Laundromat
  • The Stranger
  • American Odyssey
  • Happy Valley
  • Messiah
  • Occupied
  • Taken
  • Da Five Bloods
  • The Foreigner
  • Better Call Saul
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Of course, some of these are series I began watching last year (or even the year before). But, still. I am too entertained! My wife and I, though sharing similar taste in film to some extent, do not have the same viewing habits. So, I watch my television and she watches hers, nestled in her study with her television.


Today, I begin my service on the board of my church with a “board retreat” via Zoom. Having spent several hours watching Zoom-based sessions from the UUA General Assembly in the past week or so, I can say with certainty that participation via Zoom is more taxing than being physically present. I do not know why that it, but it’s true. For me, anyway. I have no idea how long the “retreat” will last today, but I hope it does not exceed two hours. We shall see.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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