The Shut-In's Guide To The Weekend

The Friday newsletter will not blink in the face of [waves hand] all this s***.

I want to give you a little insight into my process with these Friday emails. In order to bring you a solid and relatively cohesive slate of suggestions to improve your weekend, I map these out a few weeks in advance. It helps me shuffle things around for balance, and allows me to identify potential themes.

For instance, a month ago, I had identified this Friday as my pre-March Madness email, so I was going to string things loosely around that topic.

The, uh, situation has changed a bit.

Now, let me be clear: I in no way intend to make light or minimize the seriousness of the threat and challenge facing us all. This is something unlike any of us have encountered in our lifetimes, and we should all be taking the appropriate precautions — not just for our own sake, but for the sake of people more vulnerable than us. We should be practicing social distancing.

COVID-19 is very bad.

[extremely J-Kwon in the intro to “Tipsy” voice] yo I gotta make some content though

Fortunately, my whole conceit here on Fridays is “things you might enjoy in your free time”, right? And we’re all about to have a lot more free time, aren’t we? So let’s make a plan together. Because, hey — aren’t we already social distancing? We’re being social, from a distance! I mean, it’s mostly me socializing at you, but there is a comment section and I encourage you to use it. Point is, I’m here in Louisville, Kentucky, and you’re not. Or maybe you are, but you’re not in my house! Are you in my house? Please get out of my house.

We’ve been preparing for this moment all along. So, let’s work together and look at ways that we can spend our sudden self-quarantine productively.

7) Doomsday Prepper Cuisine

I went to Kroger several times this week, and while many of the shelves were well-stocked, we had the usual pre-snowstorm looting of the bread, eggs, milk and butter. That’s fine. You already know how to make French toast, and you might even know how to make a fried chicken sandwich using it.

We’re taking a longer view, though, and stocking up on shelf-stable items. Stuff that’ll hold in a pantry for a long time, and be there for us if we suddenly have to stay inside for a couple weeks. Dry rice, canned meat, that sort of thing. The kind of ingredients that are exactly what you need to make a beloved Hawaiian classic: SPAM MUSUBI.

There’s only a handful of ingredients needed, and they’ll all keep for a while:

  • SPAM

  • short-grain sushi rice

  • Nori sheets

  • Soy sauce

  • Sugar

  • Furikake seasoning (optional)

Now, you could jury-rig something out of the Spam can, but you will need a press to make this properly. I bought this one. I used this Serious Eats recipe, which goes roughly as follows: Cook the rice. Slice the Spam lengthwise into 6-8 slices and sear in a hot pan. Mix the soy sauce and sugar together to taste, and pour it over the Spam in the pan. Using the musubi press, squeeze a layer of rice, sprinkle furikake over it, layer on Spam, more furikake, more rice, and wrap it in the nori.

Oooh buddy. This thing is a delicious brick, hitting the same sweet, starchy and greasy notes as a cheeseburger. One was filling for dinner, and the recipe made a half-dozen. Results may vary (my wife’s review: “Oh, I do not like this at all”), but for me? It’s a trip to Hawaii without leaving my house. Which is good, because no one should be leaving their house right now. Except to buy Spam.

“But Scott, this isn’t terribly nutritious,” you say, “where will I get my important nutrients and vitamins?”

Oh, don’t you worry. I’ve got a plan for that, too.

6) Come take your medicine

Now, I’ve featured a wide range of cocktails here over the last seven months or so. There’s been fancy, artful ones, and there’s been clumsily delicious ones. Few of them, though, have offered significant nutritional benefits. That’s about to change.

I’ve devoted my significant scientific research budget to finding a cocktail that combines the most cutting-edge modern engineering with holistic traditional medicine. We’ve found a way to take a classic European recipe, thick with a proprietary blend of herbs and botanicals, and meld it with a vitamin-rich blend originally developed in Thailand.

Oh, yeah. Take a look at that. It may not cure that dickhead virus, but it’ll keep you fully fortified during your homebound weeks.

Wait, so what’s in it?”

Uh, well, see, what had happened was…

[takes sip] ahh crap this tastes like poorly-maintained off-campus college housing

ahhh why did I do this to myself


[composes self] You see, this drink tastes like my early 20s — and the thing about my early 20s is, I was invincible back then. Therefore, we can logically infer that this cocktail will make you invincible.

Plus, it’s got 50% of your recommended daily value of pantothenic acid. Whatever that is.

5) It’s time to sink into some deep cuts.

We have to look at this upcoming time where we’ll be home or teleworking or suddenly performing ad hoc childcare as an opportunity to expand our horizons. Is there a musical artist that you’ve always heard great things about, but their back catalog is so deep that you don’t even know where to start? Now’s the time!

You can re-emerge from isolation here in a couple of weeks or months and be one of those people who’s like oh yeah I love their whole catalog, you gotta listen to the live album from ‘87 they were really doing some great things in ‘87, it was wild back then (I was 5 in 1987.)

Anyways, my choice for this deep dive? Steve Earle.

He’s a pillar of Americana-rock, with 16 studio albums and a handful of live albums and compilations to boot. Plenty to keep you busy.

4) And now, doorstops.

Every week, I suggest a book here. Now, often my suggestions are fiction, because that’s generally my preference, and a good number of them are books you could get through in a day or two if you’re really committed to them.

That’s useless to us right now. We need something meaty. Something that’ll really eat away these days, and something that we’ve meant to finish for a long time.

The Power Broker, Robert Caro’s 1974 biography of Robert Moses, the man who shaped modern New York City for the better and worse, is a serious brick of a book. 1200 pages, it’s a sprawling picture of a man who understood the levers of power better than anyone and used them to craft a nearly-unchallenged hold over regional planning for decades. If you’re someone like me who’s fascinated by the geography of cities, it’s an essential read, and an understanding of the roots of power is somewhat topical right now, too.

It, uh, just takes a long time to get through. Heck, I’ll confess: I have owned this book for over a decade and I still haven’t completely finished it. I did, however, start wearing glasses partway through reading it. It’s a labor, and maybe I’ll finally finish it this month. Won’t you join me?

3) Please don’t give me apocalypse homework, Scott, I just want to watch TV.

Well, I hope it’s not sports that you want to watch.

No, to fill this time we’re going to have to go into full binge mode just like we have with music and books. We’ll need something that’ll last through more than just a day or two of the boredom. Perhaps a show that’s been running for years, and is both widely beloved and criminally underrated?

We take It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia for granted, but the gang has put out over 150 episodes of their wonderfully absurd and awful humor, a picture that I have come to believe is a wholly accurate portrayal of Philadelphians thanks to the several dozen that I follow on Twitter. I mean this with love.

With 154 episodes over 14 seasons, all of which are currently available on Hulu, there’s enough to keep you busy for weeks. And, wouldn’t you know, with that long of a run, they’ve covered every topic, haven’t they?

They sure have.

2) Okay let’s get real for a minute, though.

Hopefully, for your sake, you’re in a low-risk group for this outbreak, and hopefully you’re well-positioned to deal with the disruptions that we’re all going to face over the coming weeks and months. If that is in fact the case, there are things you can be doing to make a difference during this suspension of society.

  • Donate to non-profits such as food banks and animal shelters. The needs that these organizations face will only grow greater during the coming weeks, and they’re likely to face a drying-up of resources. Cash donations are the best, as they allow the organizations to utilize the money in the most effective way.

  • Support local restaurants. Do you have a restaurant that you love? They’re probably going to be facing a severe drop-off in sales, if not a total shutdown. If they sell gift cards, buy some now to use later, and help them ensure there is a “later”.

  • Support local arts organizations. I’m biased in this regard, as my wife is involved in arts administration, but arts organizations such as theater, dance and live music are going to suffer. Ones that rely on ticket sales for their budgets will be struggling, and many entities that seem like essential parts of your community were likely running on a razor-thin margin to begin with. Donations to these organizations could help them weather the storm.

  • Keep an eye on vulnerable populations near you. Do you have neighbors who are elderly, immunocomprised or otherwise more vulnerable to the effects of this outbreak? If possible, develop technological contacts with them — social media, messaging, phone, etc — so that you can help out with any needs they may develop without putting them at further risk through closer contact

  • Be kind to each other. We’re all going to be going through a lot here. Make someone laugh if you can.

On that last note, let’s hit what you’re really here for.

1) Guess who’s home.

There’s a raging debate as to whether or not your dogs will be happy to see you if you’re home a lot more. We come not to debate that today. We come to celebrate the furry friends who’ll help keep us sane in these trying times.

From reader @not_kenna:

By the way this good boy would love to see himself in a future edition. Gunner from Seattle loves to read your newsletter with his morning cup of Seattle


Next up, reader Michael M. has a shy fella:

I’d like to submit two photos of Walter. The first is Walter hiding behind the foot rest because I’m making too much noise in the kitchen attempting to recreate the Action Cookbook recipes:


The second is Walter demanding his morning walk, because that’s the price we pay for scaring him with my kitchen shenanigans:


Finally this week, @dbaltman shares:

This is Dozer. He’s very old (15 next month), but if you’ve got a minute, he’ll talk to you about the 2016 World Series.

DOZER. I do not wish to ever discuss the 2016 World Series, but this is an incredibly good boy and so I’ll talk about it if he wants to.

Thanks to everyone for sharing, and to everyone else whose very good dogs are still in my queue. And thank you to you for your continued support of The Action Cookbook Newsletter. I know I’ve written three straight newsletters tied into This Thing We’re All Going Through, and I think we’re all itching to talk about something else. Hopefully we’ll be able to do so soon.

Take care of yourselves, and each other.

Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)