Dinner for One in the Cottageviertel

As my dear wife provides both remote tuition for her charges, and was looking after a select few who had parents working in essential jobs (more on that later!) on school premises subject to various social distancing rules, I have spent a lot of this week with my “trotters up” on the terrace as I bask in the spring sunshine on the terrace and catch up with reading and generally not being busy. In addition, when she was not on site at school, she has had a role as a “Seelsorgerin” for some of her charges – the lockdown has seen her having lots of Skype and phone calls with her fretting students. She has been helping with study plans for them, and trying to keep them calm and collected.

Fortunately the most recent bit of renovation work with friends was finished last week, and we had already heard faint rumblings that a lockdown was only just around the corner. With a lockdown that yesterday was extended until after Easter, since the gradient of the curve of Covid-19 infected is still climbing sharply, I have decided to channel my mental strength towards reading a lot of books, doing a lot of crossword puzzles, the more cryptic the better, and staying where I should. I do go to the supermarket, and buy staple rations for my elderly and infirm neighbours, not quite being so old and infirm myself. I’ve collected a couple of prescriptions, but have otherwise limited forays to mundane pleasures like taking the bins out. Theresa May was right, it is a man’s job.

My Stammtisch proposed “Skype Beers”, as my brother informed me that it was called for Thursday night, and so we had a chinwag with each other over a Stiegl or two. A few were muttering about whether their care home-based elderly relatives might soon become infected, and there have been some cases of Covid-19 infections at nursing homes in my district. One of the biggest concerns is about dwindling social contact, so we make sure that we give each other a vital sign (a Lebenszeichen) each day, and call each other up to check on each other. Tomorrow, Sunday, sees a computer-based conclave with my wife’s relatives spread across Vienna. My wife and her sister and my wife’s nephew (currently somewhat glum as his girlfriend is out of town for the foreseeable and his job looks shaky with co-working spaces hit with a “Verbot”) are likely to be the worker bees for the family “hives”.

With nights out having been cancelled for the foreseeable, my wife and I have taken to having an enjoyable and leisurely dinner. Last evening we had a hearty stew, and I hammed it up a bit, doing my own take on “Dinner for One” to try to amuse my wife, who is clearly missing her regular cabaret evenings around town – last night’s show that she had tickets for had clearly also fallen foul of cancellation. I think she appreciated my attempts at humour, but I am no cabarettist.

Dinner has become a focal point for us, and part of our daily routine – and we make sure we enjoy it. We raise a glass to another healthy day and enjoy the food that we cook and eat together. We’re drawing up a meal plan together, although we also have the luxury of a well stocked freezer. When we moved in and were buying a kitchen, the young whipper-snapper who was trying to draw up our kitchen plan on his computer seemed incredulous as to why given the otherwise modestly planned kitchen, why we insisted on a large freezer and separate fridge. Over the years it has done sterling service and we have come to appreciate knowing that in the case that we can’t be bothered to cook, there is the option to defrost any number of meals. Yes, I have come a long way since having a table top fridge with a freezer compartment only big enough for some ice cubes and a packet of beefburgers.

Last night over dinner, we also talked about how we will enjoy our regained freedom, as soon as the lockdown is lifted. Our trip to Poland will have to be mothballed, but there will be other times. But we have thought about having a few meals out, once it is safe to do so again. We decided to make a list of the restaurants, both local and slightly further away that we wish to go to. I’ll certainly head to the Schweizerhaus with the Stammtisch – some friends barely ever miss season opening there, but were forced to this year. Yes, there are better Stelze to get, and yes it is touristy, but part of it is also the occasion of celebrating the passing of winter. Although, that being said, there is a possibility of snow this coming week.

To my readers, stay safe, look after your nearest and dearest and treat yourself to a hearty meal! Mahlzeit!

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