Category: The Pause

The Art Mob: Still Together

Art Mob meet-up
Central Park, safely spaced

We’re ecstatic to report that the Art Mob is still together. The group shows every sign of surviving the pandemic, despite being separated by miles, and by the high risk of choral singing in an age in which “aerosols” has become a four-letter word.

Monday night is Mob night.
Actual proof that Bree ate a bug.

We’re together every Monday night, in a virtual meeting. (I’ll call it a Zoom meeting. It’s not actually on Zoom.) Mostly, we chat, catching up on the state of each other’s relationships, health, hair, and knitting/sewing projects. Sometimes we have trivia contests, make up poems, or watch our newest and bravest member, Bree, eat freeze-dried bugs. (She’s a vegan; this was just a fling.) We can’t sing as a unit because of the limitations of the software, but we sometimes sing to each other. Music is, needless to say, a central element in the Mob’s existence, but the personal connections among our members are no less important. So we’ve been using the available technology to keep those in as good a state of repair as anyone could expect.

The biggest thing to happen recently, though, was that we got together in the flesh. Taking advantage of the (at least temporary) return of several singers who’d been hiding out from COVID in various far-flung regions, we met at Sheep Meadow in Central Park on the bright afternoon of October 10. We all wore masks, and we did a reasonable job of staying six feet apart, despite an impulse among many of us to hug the others and never let go.

Mob meet-up 1
A fair representation. More next time!

And we sang! You gotta say, singing with a mask on and standing no closer than six feet from anybody else isn’t exactly the aesthetic ideal, but it was emotionally thrilling. We sang some old favorites and some new favorites from our most recent concert: “Africa” (of course!), “Amazing Grace,” “David’s Lamentation,” “The Old Crossroads,” and “Dark as a Dungeon.” Nobody wanted to stop, so we sang them all two or three times.

Then, alas, we had to part. But it was a gladdening preview of things to come. When they’ll come is still up in the air, along with the infectious droplets, but we’ll be ready. See you then!

P.S. If you haven’t yet ordered your copy of “The Art Mob Tops 40,” the first and only Art Mob book, what’s the matter with you?

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The Heart of the Matter

Quarantine Cuisine, from Bass Richard H.

I regret to say that I did more experimenting when the lockdown started, and I didn’t photograph anything. I roasted a whole duck. I tried making doro wat, the fiery Ethiopian chicken stew, twice, using two different recipes. (Fortunately, I’d bought berbere spice at Kalyustan’s just before this whole mess started.) I modified a soup recipe I’d found that used broccoli stems as its base. I roasted a whole rabbit for our birthday*.

I did record the latest experiment. While shopping at my local Foodtown, I found whole beef hearts on sale. I had purchased sliced beef heart a couple of weeks previously and used them to make chili (along with regular beef, turkey, and bacon), but a whole heart made such a striking picture that I had to buy it and make something with it. The “something” turned out to be stew: I cut the heart into small pieces and simmered it with onions, garlic, poblano peppers, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, and fava beans (which went in because they were on the edge of going bad, and who wants to waste food?) Some instant beef broth was involved. The result was quite satisfying.

Which dish was my favorite? Hard to say. It’s probably a tie between the duck and the beef heart stew. Broccoli-stem soup is good but kind of lightweight, and rabbit suffers from too many small bones*. The doro wat was also really good; now I have to try segu wat (same basic recipe but with beef).

I’ll keep you posted on new culinary explorations.

—Richard Haas

*Richard and his wife, Christie Robbins, share the same birthday! (No birthday-forgetting in this marriage!)—Ed.


What the Food?

Quarantine Cuisine, from Tenor Frank

If you are like my husband Andrew and me, this quarantine has opened up the possibility of trying to make food you might not otherwise have made. Everything from homemade pasta to bagels, ice cream to biscuits, and of course, dessert! Below is a selection of the food we made during our enforced isolation. I’m willing to trade recipes if you’d like! —Frank Donno

Asparagus quiche—so delicious for brunch, or lunch the next day with a fresh salad. 
Flatbread pizza—Made with left over naan dough, this flatbread was crispy and delicious! 
Chicken Parmigiana (or “Chicky Chicky Parm Parm” for those Parks and Recreations fans)—Even though I am Italian, this is not something I have made before. It was therapeutic to tenderize the chicken with a rubber mallet first. 
Taralli (or biscotti scaldati) —My nonna and mom used to make these by the kilo! With all their imperfections, these were a close approximation of a southern Italian treat from my childhood. My sister wants more!!
Broccoli soufflé —Mistakenly, I ordered more broccoli than we would normally eat in a month. After a little research, I stumbled on the recipe for this soufflé. Wow!! What a great meal —and the leftovers were great the next day for breakfast!
Mexican fiesta —Pretty regularly, my husband Andrew makes a Mexican feast but this one surpasses anything he had made before. With chicken molè and all the trimmings—a taco Tuesday celebration for Cinco de Mayo! 
Olive loaf bread—Some friends mentioned that they love olive loaf bread and I happened to have some olive tapenade in the fridge … voila! Crunchy and salty and just a joy with some olive oil for dipping.
Carrot cake—My sweet tooth demanded satisfaction and we had an abundance of carrots in the fridge, so why not make a carrot cake. The cream cheese frosting was light and fluffy and utterly delicious.
Bagels—As a New Yorker, it felt like blasphemy to even consider making bagels at home. But my craving got the better of me so I thought I’d give them a try. I’ll definitely be making these treasures again. 
Apple cake with a cinnamon glaze—What can I say … it’s apple cake!! Yummy!! 
Dutch oven bread —I couldn’t get enough of this delicious loaf! Butter and strawberry preserves —YUM! 
Blueberry scones—I thought these would be difficult to make. They are not. And I’ll be making loads more of them in the future. 

I hope you enjoyed this brief tour of our culinary adventures. Please share your creations, and be warned—I will ask for a recipe!!


Jazzy Is Shear Joy!

There’s no pause on a farm.Not when the guinea fowl, the pea fowl, and the llamas demand attention. So Assistant Director, sous-chef, and first soprano deluxe Constance Beckley has her hands full every day

One springtime task that cannot be paused is Jazzy the llama’s annual haircut. To say that Jazzy is unwilling is an understatement: Jazzy jumps, Jazzy spits. Connie, through long experience, comes armed with sewing scissors and her least favorite shirt. Afterwards, she takes a big shower. Here’s Jazzy’s new style—the Barrel Cut. Here’s Connie’s old shirt, the Spit-Spot.


What the Heck?

Summer came in. Covid did not go out, but life goes on.

At Art Mob Central, we still meet, virtually, once a week on rehearsal night to have fun, check in and chat. But we don’t sing as a group. And that is tough on us. So, what the heck ARE we doing? In a quarantine food experiment, Dean (bass) and Leslie (goddess) cultivate their garden! Here’s what Dean says:

Leslie and I are not just doing a lot of cooking during quarantine. (Well, to be fair, it’s Leslie who’s doing all the cooking. One hundred percent.) We’re growing herbs and vegetables to eat as well.

Dean and Leslie's garden
Here’s our little garden, consisting of three raised 3’ x 6’ planting beds and a few plant pots. This year we get to watch it grow.

We’ve had a garden every summer since we bought the place in 2013. Each of the three raised beds was our building project over a separate winter. We’ve accrued the pots from a variety of sources, including our own NYC apartment, whence we salvaged them when the indoor plants in them died during our total absence of over two months, from mid-March to the end of May. (Luckily, a few plants survived.)

What’s different this year is that, thanks to the coronavirus, we’re here. Every other summer, we’ve been traveling while the plants we had put out were struggling to survive on their own. Now we’re constantly out there weeding and watering, and it turns out to make a huge difference! Who knew?

We’ve already harvested oregano, chives, and four kinds of mint, all of which wintered over from last year. We planted the other things mostly from seedlings that we bought at Northern Dutchess Botanical Gardens, a very nice outdoor plant nursery a few miles from here. Spring comes very late here, and we lack a greenhouse, so we have not had a lot of luck growing from seeds. This is the first time we’ve planted tomatoes, but not the first time we’ve had the plants: A multitude of volunteer tomatoes has sprouted every year from the compost soil that fills the beds.

This spring we’ve gotten volunteer oak tree seedlings. The tree that overhangs the beds dropped an uncountable number of acorns last fall, and this spring they’ve been sprouting up like mad. They especially like the rich soil in the beds, but they’re also growing on the lawn and everywhere else. Every morning we rid the garden of dozens of would-be oaks. 

We’ll be spending more time in the city now that the reopening has begun, but this, at last, is the year we will not abandon our garden to the ravages of nature. Wish us luck with, besides those plants already mentioned, our basil, zucchini, winter squash, tarragon, thyme, marjoram, lavender, arugula, sorrel, parsley, leeks, sage, bell peppers, shishitos, snow peas, pole beans, cilantro, cucumbers, radishes, radicchio, and whatever else comes up out of the ground, is edible, and is not devoured by the deer. Cheers!