Over the past few months, I've interviewed friends around the world—from Tokyo to France, and even Uruguay—to get a sense for what "home" looks like in the age of COVID-19. How people are coping with the confines of social distancing, what they're eating/reading/watching/listening to. Today, I'm bringing the journey back stateside by sharing a peek into my life at home in New York.
Although I usually live in Manhattan, I—along with many other backyard-less New Yorkers whose parents still live in the suburbs—fled the city in mid-March for my hometown of Briarcliff, which sits about 45 minutes by train outside of the city in Westchester Country. Open space was the primary draw, followed closely by the prospect of spending lots and lots of time with my childhood dog. Unsurprisingly, my siblings were on the same page, which means my parents went from blissful empty nester status to a chaotic full house with three fully-grown "children," 1 dog, and the occasional significant other.
A little over two months into our forced social experiment, and this is where things stand...
When I was in the city, I would start my day by walking around 40 minutes from my apartment on the east side of Manhattan to my office in Hudson Yards, which I loved for so many reasons. It was a way to gently get my body moving—and outside in the fresh air, no less (or however "fresh" air in the city can be). Depending on how fast I walked and what streets/avenues I decided to weave through, I would usually be able to make it through a podcast and a half also (more on that below). Sure, I probably could have saved some time by hopping on public transportation, but I found walking to be far more pleasurable—even with the occasional speeding cyclist and honking-happy truck driver.
Even though my commute has changed from cross-town walk to cross-bedroom three steps, I still try and get outside for a walk around the neighborhood by 7:30(ish) every morning. Briarcliff isn't known for much, but we can lay claim to Rockefeller State Park, which is home to Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The trails are spectacular, and if I wake up early enough (so as not to run into anybody), I sometimes venture there for a serene stroll—with a mask on hand just in case. It's the absolute best way for me to clear my mind, breathe, and avoid falling into the trap of starting my day by scanning headlines. (I've gone on so many walks in my time at home that I decided to log them by downloading the free app, MapMyWalk by Under Armour. It tracks your route, distance, duration, steps, elevation gain, and more.)
After my daily walk, I head back home to have breakfast, then work from around 9 to 6. After my work day is over, I try and fit in a virtual workout through Obé, a platform with live and on-demand yoga, cardio, barre, pilates, and strength classes. On occasion, I take advantage of all the free Jane Fonda workout videos on YouTube, too! One of these days I'm going to order myself a leotard to go full-80s.
Afterwards, I head downstairs to help cook dinner. We have always sat down as a family to eat, and we're still doing it now—every night around 7:15. In the evening, I either read, spend some time writing, or FaceTime a friend. I've never been a night owl, so 10:30/10:45 is usually bedtime for me...and repeat!
Foods we've stocked up on...
Stocking up on food for five people (and trying to only go to the grocery store every other week) is NOT an insignificant endeavor—especially when we all don't eat the same exact foods. Because both of my maternal and paternal grandparents were born in Italy, I was raised eating primarily Italian meals—and tend to gravitate towards Mediterranean-style food still to this day.
Here's what we usually have on hand:
In the pantry:
- Dried and canned beans / peas
- Nut butter (peanut and almond) and tahini
- Raw nuts / seeds (almonds, pecans, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
- Potatoes / Japanese sweet potatoes
- Canned fish (tuna, sardines, anchovies)
- Canned tomatoes and tomato paste
- Dried fruit (apricots, mango, and figs)
- Grains (oats, brown/white/red rice, farro, quinoa, barley)
- Oil (olive, extra-virgin olive, and avocado)
- Vinegar (apple cider, balsamic, white wine)
- Canned artichokes, roasted red peppers, and olives
- Raw cacao
- Flour (buckwheat, chickpea, spelt, whole wheat)
In the fridge:
We've primarily been stocking up on heartier fruits and vegetables that'll last longer, including...
- Romaine lettuce and kale (rather than spring mix/arugula, which has a shorter shelf life)
- Dandelion greens
- Broccoli rabe
- Cauliflower / broccoli
- Red Cabbage
- Onions / garlic
- Lemons / limes
- Fruit (clementines, naval oranges, apples)
In the freezer:
- Sourdough bread
- Protein (chicken, ground beef, pork, shrimp), which we order in bulk from Vincent's Meat Market on Arthur Avenue
- Frozen broccoli
- Hemp seeds, ground flax seeds, chia seeds
Oatmeal has always been my breakfast go-to, and when I add ground flax seeds, cinnamon, fruit, and a spoonful (or three) of nut butter, it keeps me satisfied through lunch with zero snack cravings. Highly recommend.
For lunch, I usually throw together a salad with some variation of greens, grains, beans or canned fish, and leftover roasted veggies. But occasionally I relish the opportunity to prepare a hot meal in the middle of the day, which I wouldn't otherwise be able to do in an office—in which case I make a simple, 15-minute version of pasta e ceci (pasta with chickpeas).
Although I don't follow a specific recipe, it goes something like this...
Sauté a generous amount of minced garlic in olive oil. From there, add a squeeze of tomato paste. Let it cook for a few minutes, during which time you should put some water to boil in a tea kettle or small pot—probably around a cup to a cup and a half. Toss half a can of rinsed chickpeas into the pot with your garlic and tomato paste. Cook another 3-4 minutes. Then add some dried pasta (around 1/4 cup). Hopefully the water is boiling by this point, because now's the time to pour some in (enough to cover everything). Cook until your pasta is al dente. I like to fold in dandelion greens at the end, but you can also do spinach, Swiss chard, or no greens! Finish with some flaky Maldon sea salt, a hefty sprinkle of crushed red pepper, and some Parm.
Dinner varies. Sometimes, it's the protein/veggie/starch trifecta, occasionally tacos or stir-fry. Very often, pasta makes an appearance. And frittatas, too.
I've also been on a serious socca kick lately. Also known as farinata, torto di ceci, or cecina, socca is a thin, unleavened crêpe made from chickpea flour and water. Originally from Genoa, it's now a common street food along the Ligurian Sea in the south of France. All you have to do is combine 1 cup chickpea flour with 1 cup water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Lay a dish towel on top and let it sit overnight to ferment. When you're ready to cook, just ladle the batter into a crepe pan and cook over the stove for a few minutes on each side. Alternatively, use an oven-proof pan and pop it in the oven on broil. It's endlessly customizable, so you can top it with whatever you want—or eat alone with a drizzle of peppery extra-virgin olive oil and flaky sea salt.
What I'm reading...
Since I've been home, I've read...
- The Yellow House - A stunning memoir by Sarah Broom that recounts a hundred years of her family's history to their shotgun house in a neglected neighborhood of New Orleans—including its fate before and after Hurricane Katrina.
- The DaVinci Code - I know, I know...I'm only around 15 years behind on this one, but better late than never, right?
- Wine Girl - A memoir by Victoria James who, at 21, became the country's youngest sommelier.
- When In French - A memoir (noticing a theme here?) by Lauren Collins, a writer for The New Yorker who recounts her experience falling in love in a second language—and peppers the narrative with tidbits of historical linguistic theory that explores the intersection between language and identity.
- Day Of Honey - Yet another memoir, this time exploring the themes of history and cuisine under the backdrop of post-9/11 life for American journalist Annia Ciezadlo in the Middle East.
- Bag of Bones - A tried-and-true Stephen King page-turner that enters into the territory of horror fiction while also exploring powerful themes of grief, love, and remembering.
- The Sun Also Rises - Convinced I didn't get the most out of this Hemingway classic when I first read it earlier in high school, I decided to re-read the tale of Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley as they navigate life as expats in post World War I Europe—from the roaring nightlife of 1920s Paris to the bullfighting rings of Northern Spain.
What I'm watching...
- The Morning Show (Apple TV+) - A miniseries (only 10 episodes) that explores the cutthroat world of morning broadcast television. The star-studded cast includes Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carell.
- Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu) - Another miniseries (and also with Reese Witherspoon) based off the bestselling book by Celeste Ng of the same name—which, if you haven't already read, I suggest doing first before you watch!
- Unité 42 (Netflix) - To keep up with my French, I try and alternate between English-speaking and French-speaking TV shows. Over the past few weeks, I've been making my way through the first season of this Belgian series that follows a team of cybercrime police offers (including a former hacker) who hunt down tech-savvy criminals.
What I'm listening to...
Usually, on my way to work, I religiously listen to The New York Times podcast, The Daily. But lately, I've been craving something other than news on my walks. Here are the podcasts I've been turning to instead:
- Women Who Travel - Lale Arikoglu and Meredith Carey, both editors at Condé Nast Traveler, are behind the hit podcast that gets my mind daydreaming about where I want to travel once it's safe to do so. Past guests include everyone from Elizabeth Gilbert to Samin Nosrat.
- Duolingo French Podcast - A series of real-life stories told in intermediate French—with some English peppered in for context.
READ MORE: 7 Travel Podcasts To Spark Your Wanderlust
A small silver lining in all of this...
I can't remember the last time I played outside purely for the sake of unfettered fun, and being home with my siblings has allowed us the chance to do just that. Whiffle ball, basketball, mini tennis on the driveway, bike rides around the block...you name it. A stellar stress reliever if there ever was one. And if the weather doesn't permit us to play outside, Bananagrams is a go-to.