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Mission Impossible

(by Claudine Quigley-Piechotta )

“I’m going to Giant,” I yell up the cluttered stairs of our Pennsylvania farmhouse that clearly haven’t seen a vacuum in at least a week. “God, I effing hate it,” I murmur under my breath.

The thought of mouth-breathing into my Covid-19 mask for the next hour sends

me into a minor state of panic. If I ever had any enthusiasm for grocery shopping before the pandemic, I have absolutely zero now. At least in the pre-Covid days, I could pause on aisle 7 and ponder the ingredients panel on the back of a cereal box, or even exchange pleasantries with a friend after Zumba class while bagging avocados with my gloveless hands. Now it’s like mission impossible. Get in, don’t make eye contact, grab your provisions, and get out.

Disgruntled with the task ahead that I alone seem to have inherited as the matriarch, I hit the landing and yell more deliberately up the stairs. “Hello, girls? I’m going to Giant. Do you want anything—anything specific?” "Specific" being the operative word here because I already know the answer to my question. My 18-year-old daughter’s response will be hopelessly vague: “I don’t know…food?” Clearly, we never have anything to eat in the house, despite the fact that my grocery excursions result in an “end of days”-like stock-up of all cupboards, fridges, and freezers, meticulously cleansed with disinfecting wipes. I sometimes wonder if these girls could have survived on bread and salt, like my mother-in-law did, growing up in Berlin during World War II.

I suppose we all rise to the occasion at hand. “Snacks, please,” comes the anticipated and enthusiastic response from my 14-year-old daughter. Well, that’s predictable. And because I don’t want to see the inside of Giant for at least another ten days, I will oblige, against my better judgment, and return with a plethora of chips, popcorn, and other useless and un-nutritious goodies.

“Can you just get some food…for lunch, you know, thanks,” exclaims my high school senior, through a cracked open bedroom door, before returning to her room and Physics Zoom call in her pajamas. These are indeed weird times. Who am I kidding? I’m wearing my pajama pants too. But I’ll be incognito in that mask and gloves, right? Maybe dark glasses are in order today. The kitchen clock reads 2:53 p.m. as I head out the door. How on earth did it get that late, what have I done all day, and what am I going to make for dinner tonight?

The vicious circle continues, and guilt overcomes me. With the extra time on my hands during this unprecedented pandemic, I should be dusting off one of the 18 cookbooks on my shelf and whipping up some culinary genius that I can post to Facebook later. Or maybe I should bake a cake. But it should be something daring, time-consuming, and exceptional. Or maybe we should revisit “pasta from scratch” night. That was educational and bonding, and the pasta was freaking fabulous—at least my husband and I concurred, slurping noodles at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night. But neither daughter was overwhelmed because the “texture was weird, and they felt like worms.”

Maybe tonight we will support our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, ordering some rice vermicelli with spring rolls, washing it down with a bottle of Bogle. Better still, maybe if I pull everything out of the liquor cabinet, I might find a forgotten bottle of cabernet hiding in there somewhere, and I can forgo the shopping expedition altogether. That’s the new plan, I decide as I hang my keys back on the rack and toss my mask thankfully back into my purse. Even better: I think the Vietnamese restaurant delivers.

Tomorrow I’ll go to Giant.


Claudine Quigley-Piechotta is a performer/director/writer and children/teen acting coach who lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She also plans private events at the historic Doylestown Inn. She can be found at Backstage.

Piechotta Family German Apple Cake

4 c. apples, peeled, cored, and diced (choose mix of sweet and tart varieties)

2 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. ground ginger

2 eggs

1/4 c. salted butter, melted

3/4 c. applesauce

1 1/2 c. granulated sugar

2 t. vanilla extract

2 c. flour

1 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1/4 t. pumpkin pie spice

1/4 t. nutmeg

Optional glaze:

1/2 c. butter

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/4 c. heavy whipping cream

Toss apples with 1/2 t. cinnamon and 1/4 t. ginger.

Refrigerate apples while preparing the rest of the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In an electric mixer, combine eggs, melted butter, and applesauce.

Mix on high for 5 minutes.

Add sugar and vanilla extract, and beat well. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, remaining cinnamon, remaining ginger, pumpkin pie spice, and nutmeg.

Slowly add flour mixture to egg mixture, and beat slowly, scraping sides of the bowl.

Fold in diced apples.

Pour batter into a greased and floured 9-inch springform pan.

Shake sides to make sure batter is evenly distributed.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

For optional glaze:

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, and heat until mixture starts to bubble.

Pour over cooled cake.


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