A flourless chocolate cake surprise on the doorstep, Monday, April 13, 2020, in Kalifornsky, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

A flourless chocolate cake surprise on the doorstep, Monday, April 13, 2020, in Kalifornsky, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Kalifornsky Kitchen: Spread love in the era of COVID-19

Do you miss your friends and family? I do.

After a long Monday at work this week, I came home to find a sweet present on my doorstep. My friend Olivia baked a tiny flourless chocolate cake for us.

This is the second treat Olivia has left for us. A week ago she brought by a small loaf of banana bread with chocolate chips. A couple weeks before that I whipped up some butterscotch bread pudding, which I divided into four small baking tins. After the bread pudding was perfectly golden brown and the exposed sourdough crust was exceptionally crispy, we delivered the treats to friends’ houses, still warm from the oven.

Do you miss your friends and family? I do.

When my friends got together, we fed each other. This time of year we would be having bonfires on still snowy beaches or dusting off the grill for a springtime barbecue. Or maybe we would just be having dinner at our house, with people over.

Every spring for the last four years or so, my boyfriend and I have gathered with friends over a fire and a giant 22-inch cast iron pan filled with seafood paella, local fish, veggies, Arborio rice and saffron. It’s an entire evening’s process and an act of love. We don’t know when we will have a chance to kick off this summer with a paella cookout.

In the meantime, my anxiety about the future and the loneliness I feel seems best channelled into kneading bread — or rolling shortbread cookies, mixing up cream cheese for cheesecake or massaging pans of focaccia. All for my friends — and a little bit for us too.

Cooking and baking right now and sharing those treats with friends and family might be the most accessible of love we have right now. If not, it’s at least a worthy distraction from global pandemic headlines and the uncertainty many of us feel.

I have two suggestions for this.

Have a favorite recipe you want to make your friends? I’ve been wanting to make our friends Alison Roman’s shallot pasta. I’m gathering up some of the recipe’s key ingredients — like the bucatini pasta, shallots, tomato paste and anchovies. Once I have those ingredients, I can gather them up and deliver them to friends with the printed recipe. They can make it themselves and tell us what they think of it.

Do your friends hate cooking? Maybe just bring them something you made that’s ready to be eaten or popped in the oven at a later date.

Don’t like baking or cooking, but want to do something nice for your friends? There’s nothing wrong with a box of cake mix and some frosting.

Cupcakes are easy to transport and a batch makes enough to deliver to everyone you’re hoping to spread cheer to. A box of brownies cut into little squares is even easier.

Not interested in eating sweets or carby pasta dishes? Deliver some wine, beer or your favorite cocktail ingredients to your friend’s place, with an invitation to a Zoom or Skype conference and have a virtual cocktail hour with your crew.

No matter what it is, your friends and family are sure to appreciate the physical act of kindness of bringing something over. It will make you feel better and more connected to the people you love, too.

So turn off the TV, put your phone away and spread the love.

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