The Shabbat before Memorial Day is usually a time for celebration. Not this year.
This year, there will be no road trips. No days at the beach. No laying by the pool eating watermelon and chips. No fond farewell before camp. No graduation parties. There will be more of this terrible stillness. This suspended animation. Another holiday marked in the time of coronavirus
Memorial Day takes on new meaning this year. If current estimates hold, by the time we wake up on Tuesday 100,000 Americans will be dead. More Americans have died in the past two months than died in the Vietnam War. There are so many Americans this memorial day whose family’s are now forever incomplete. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are missing someone this year, wishing they could have stood vigil at a hospital instead of being kept out for safety. In perhaps the cruelest twist of fate, we cannot even mourn together. One of my closest friends buried two family members in a week. I wished for nothing more than to hold her hand.
On Memorial Day, we are supposed to be honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I have long wondered if we are honoring them by enjoying the long weekend and living the lives they fought to protect - or if we are simply too selfish to stand still in grief as a country, too individualistic and too separate to mourn collectively. I am no better. I still enjoyed my hot dog and beach day.
Many of us are making sacrifices for the common good in a way we never have before. I am staying at home. My husband and 3-year-old daughter are with me. It is a paltry sacrifice compared to those who lost their lives, but it is still meaningful. A recent report from Drexel found that social distancing has saved over 230,000 lives and stopped over a million hospitalizations.
I know you are tired. I know you want to go out. Me too, I promise. Please, keep going. We are saving lives together. The life you save may even be your own.
This weekend is Memorial Day. If you’re like me, you are missing family traditions you won’t be keeping. My big, loud, interrupting Jewish family normally begins summer with a pilgrimage to Cape Cod, where my parents now live. My parents put their boat in the water. We take trips to Washburn island, watching the tide so our little boat doesn’t get stuck in the cape cod marshes. We make s’mores and swim and grill and the whole thing is very Norman Rockwell-awitz. My parents make the best coffee and we all sit out on the back porch, surrounded by water on all sides, and drink coffee while the kids play. I look out at the water and feel the breeze through the pine trees. It’s the closest I ever get to being relaxed, just sitting with all my favorite people in my favorite place. I miss them.
Regardless of mourning, regardless of pain, Shabbat still comes, and with it, the question of what to cook. At first, I wanted to cook the opposite of what we might have eaten together. Maybe a Thai curry with peanuts my Mom is allergic to or Korean food or a slow-smoked brisket. I wanted to run away from the fact that its Memorial Day and we won’t be together and I don’t know when I’ll see my family again. I thought I could cook the day away. Maybe even make something wildly out of season like a chicken pot pie.
But that only made them feel further away. I want them to feel close.
I started thinking about what my Mom would make if we were there. Summer food, even though it’s barely summer in Massachusetts yet. They’d want to fire up the grill for sure. There would be BBQ chicken, there would be coleslaw, corn, pasta salad, vegetables from their garden with dill and mustard vinaigrette. A mixed fruit cobbler or sheet pan pie for a crowd. Somehow, just thinking about all of us on that back porch, they felt closer.
No need for a sheet pan pie or pounds and pounds of fruit. Just mini blueberry and blackberry cobblers this year. Just the three of us, trying to taste how it will feel when we are all together again.
Mini Blueberry and Blackberry Cobblers
Perfect for early summer, these cobblers taste creamy, fruity, lemony, and rich with biscuit topping. I’ve been trying to find the right cream substitute for years and I think I’ve finally cracked it with cream of coconut. You won’t taste coconut really, just rich creaminess. This recipe isn’t fussy, you can easily scale up or down. I will bake in ramekins, but you could just as easily toss in a pie pan.
2 pints of blueberries
1 pint of blackberries
¼ cup of sugar
A dash of cinnamon
1 ½ cups cream of coconut milk ( not coconut milk. Think what you put in a pina colada. )
6 tablespoons of margarine
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 ½ cups of flour + 1 tablespoons to go in fruit
Preheat the oven to 350. Mix together fruit, zest of one lemon, sugar, a dash of cinnamon, and a tablespoon of flour. Place in ramekins or pie pan. In a Cuisinart mix flour and baking powder for a few minutes. Next add cold margarine. Finally add in the coconut cream. Don’t overmix, mix till just combined. You could also mix by hand. You don’t want the mixture too liquidy, you want it thick.
Place mounds of cobbler mix on top of the fruit. If you like fruit to poke out, use a little less topping. Don’t feel obligated to use all the topping, some like it to cover the whole top like a pie, others prefer more of a mounded look. Place on top of cookie sheet before putting in the oven be
Bake until golden brown, about 30 to 45 minutes. Best served warm.This reheats well in the oven or microwave. If you are shomer shabbos, it still eats wonderfully at room temperature.
Carly Pildis writes and cooks in Washington, D.C. Read her #TweetYourShabbat every Friday in The Forward. And don’t forget to #TweetYourShabbat.