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June 9, 2020

On Sunday evening our dear East German friend, Torsten and his son Max, a soon-to-be fourth grader, came over for dinner. Our first pandemic-era get together was outside on our front yard lawn. Torsten and Max had their own table and we had ours – six feet apart. Long-time friends, it was exciting to see them after communicating only by phone for the last two and a half months. In December, Torsten’s co-worker died of what was probably Covid-19 (she had all the horrible symptoms), but no one knew it at the time.

Earlier that day, I drove past a local restaurant as servers attended outdoor tables wearing face shields and gloves. And there I was, wearing my mask and gloves as I placed munchies on the tables.

And the issue of using regular plates and utensils versus disposables was a big question. As a practice, we use the real stuff, including linen napkins to avoid adding more trash to our exploding landfills. We didn’t have paper plates or plastic utensils in our cupboards.

But while shopping at Whole Foods for a few things, I walked to the aisle with paper towels (all gone). Then I looked across to the other shelves and spotted compostable plant-based plates, bowls and utensils. Different from biodegradable, compostable products decompose to a humus-like mush that is nutritious for plants. The decision was made.

Pre-Covid, our house guests used to mill around the kitchen as Louie cooked. This time, Chef Louie created his magic in solitude. He was calm as could be, I noticed – much different from the usual panic reminiscent of his family restaurant days working the chaotic kitchen with his father. Oy vey! I told Louie how wonderful it was to see him happily cooking and cool as a clam.

As Jacqueline and I hung out with Torsten and Max under the oak tree, Louie made 20 taquitos by himself. He shredded the short ribs he had slow cooked in the oven for several hours with rosemary, bay leaves, garlic, French herbs (delivered from Paris by my friend Jeannie on her last visit), salt and pepper, red wine, carrots and onions. In addition, he made Mexican rice, fresh guacamole and “nopales” salad made with fresh cactus from our garden. For Louie, this was a simple dinner. For dessert, we enjoyed scoops of organic chocolate and vanilla ice cream topped with (Jacqueline’s touch) cocoa nibs and a basil leaf freshly picked from our neighbor’s garden.

But completely preoccupied in the hosting-during-Covid-19 mindset, I forgot to take photos of the spread. When I spotted two leftover taquitos in the fridge yesterday morning, I immediately put them on a plate to photograph -- for posterity -- Louie’s gourmet take on a Mexican comfort dish. We just have to imagine a glass rectangular pan filled with crispy golden taquitos -- complete with toothpicks.

On a somber note, George Floyd will be laid to rest today in Houston, Texas. At memorial services around the country, thousands paid their respects to Mr. Floyd throughout the week. Today, the New York Stock Exchange will observe, and church bells will toll -- for 8 minutes and 46 seconds -- the length of time, that Derek Chauvin, former Minneapolis police officer, pressed his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck, eventually suffocating him. I was completely moved this morning when I saw an image of George Floyd’s golden casket – symbolic of the reverence the world will forever hold for him.

May he rest in peace.

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