COVID 19 – Causes, Cures and Consequences

My article, “COVID 19 – Causes, Cures and Consequences” was published today in Yucatan Expat Life. I wrote the piece because I think we should be looking more closely at why we are in the midst of this pandemic. Corona viruses were first discovered in the 1960s, and in 1965 the first that effect humans were identified. If the scientific community and their governments have known since 1965 that Corona viruses can infect humans with mortal illnesses; why haven’t we been paying closer attention? Were economic resources and political interests more focused on the neoliberals’ push to favour profit-driven businesses over human security and well-being?

You can read the full article on Yucatan Expat Life’s website:

COVID-19’s causes, cures and consequences

The following slideshow shows the residents of a very poor community that Merida’s Episcopal Church is supporting to the best of their ability. “The families who come to the Good Shepherd Refuge need care and relief from desperate poverty,” says Father José V. Aruda, the pastor at St. Luke’s, the church that supports the facility. His congregation collects food, clothing, and household articles for this extremely marginalized group, but he feels the families’ pain and desire for a real home. “Most of the adults are street vendors who live day by day,” he says, “they have so little and now they face a pandemic and hunger they are not at all equipped to handle.”

The most necessary items right now are non-perishable food and money to buy medication. Cooked food is also greatly appreciated.

For me, one of the most difficult aspects of this crisis is feeling unable to do anything that actually helps the situation in a tangible way. Jorge and I are quarantined in our house – we are comfortable and we have all we need – the authorities assure us this is the best contribution we can make.

But when we learned that hot meals were needed, we realised that this was a way we could participate without any additional risk to our health. I am the “designated shopper”, and on Fridays, I buy our household provisions from a small market six blocks from our house. It is not any extra work to also get the ingredients for a big hearty stew. I put on my mask and gloves and drive to the market; and then, as quickly as I can, I gather everything up and go right back home. Jorge is waiting in our side garden with two plastic tubs full of water with bleach or vinegar. I empty all the fresh produce in there and place the non-perishables on the garden table – in the strong Yucatecan sun – apparently the virus does not thrive as well in heat. After half an hour soaking, I dry and store the fruits and vegetables; and three hours later, I wipe down everything that’s been in the sun, and put it all away. Today is Saturday and we’ll cook Sunday’s stew. We feel grateful for this opportunity to do SOMETHING that we know is of help. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to meet the people who are receiving the food.

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Next week one of my friends will be helping too; she’s going to bake cookies for everyone. If any readers would like to know how they can help, please contact Father Jose – he speaks English, French and Spanish – and he’ll give you all the information. His number is: 999-247-1519

Another excellent way to help is through Yucatan Giving Outreach. This organization is working with several more communities. You can contact them at their website:

And finally, helping out the local restaurants is yet another way to give a bit of relief to the small business community. This week we bought a meal from Hennessey’s; Sean himself delivered the food, hot and delicious, to our door. You can place your order (in English or Spanish) at : 999-509-7089. We also ordered French pastries from L’Escargot this morning; these freshly baked delights were also delivered to us by the owner, charismatic Antonio Serrain: 999-407-7852 or 999-331-5135. All businesses are hurting, so your patronage is important to all.

As I learn of other initiatives, I will post the details on my blog. I am quite sure this isolation will continue for quite a while, and of course the needs in our city will grow. From personal experience, I know that receiving help when I really needed it, meant everything to me. And also when I am on the giving end, the personal satisfaction of knowing I made a difference helps me to feel more optimistic.

Be well everybody!

A Chocolate Memory…

Joanna (standing with hands on Loretta’s shoulders at Christmas 2006 Christmas
Ken and Jorge at our home, Christmas 2006








My day began with a chocolate memory that made me smile; and as I reminisced, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for the years of a special friendship…

For about a decade, during the late 1990s and early 2000s, we spent a lot of time with Ken and Loretta. Their three bedroom home was on the third floor of a condo, maybe 30 meters from the sea. A bank of floor-to-ceiling glass windows ran along the front of the unit, and from about 2 o’clock onwards, wind gusts would rattle them with such force; I wondered how they didn’t shatter. But the eerie howling going on outside didn’t faze Ken and Loretta; not even when a worrisome pinging would start bouncing off the stressed panels.

Always, when the four of us were together, we listened to music, all kinds of music, played at high volume in order to compensate for the gale raging around us. Art they picked up on their travels, popped out from a bright orange accent wall, rattan chairs that Loretta made comfortable with pillows, a towering statue of a giraffe and tidy piles of books made their seaside apartment look like an artist’s studio. The aroma of Loretta’s fabulous food cooking on the stove, and the mellowing affect of Ken’s signature margaritas, melted away any cares I might have brought with me. We probably spent hundreds of afternoons together, and the memory of their home’s sounds, sights and smells wraps comfort around me, like a Mexican rebozo.

Loretta was always a stimulating conversationalist, and Ken, an unparalleled listener. Jorge and I never knew what the focus of our repartee would be, but without fail, it proved to be just what we wanted to talk about that day. Our opinion on most topics was sufficiently in sync with each others’ to be friendly, and opposing enough to be lively.

And then there was Loretta’s skill in the culinary arts. Oh my, some of the most superb meals I’ve had in my life floated from her little kitchen. She had worked as a food writer and restaurant critic at a big San Francisco daily; so she knew her stuff. While living here, she wrote a cookbook about Yucatecan cuisine. The current coffee table book by David Sterling is a work of art, but for content and authenticity, Loretta’s “Yucatecan Kitchen” certainly holds its own. (BTW it is available on Amazon)

Her teacher and mentor was “Adelita”, an accomplished cook from Chicxulub, the beach community where they lived. This lovely woman came every Wednesday to cook with Loretta, and she taught my friend about more than cooking. Adelita, a Mayan grandmother, used to say: Una comida sin frijol es muy triste – A meal without beans is very sad. I asked Loretta if she knew what that implied. “Oh I do,” she said, “Adelita knew terrible hunger during several periods of her life.” Indeed Loretta understood her teacher’s soulful respect and gratitude for food.

Although Loretta and Ken eventually moved away from Yucatan, our friendship remained intact. We visited each other and have shared some of our happiest and saddest experiences with them. Ken passed away several years ago and Loretta lives in Florida now; she has become an accomplished, prize-winning ceramicist. And why you may ask did I feel the need to share this particular story today?

Since the COVID-19 virus arrived into our lives like an army of storm troopers, I think we have all turned inward; we find refuge in memories. Quite frankly, mine are all that’s keeping me sane right now. This morning on facebook, Loretta wrote that in her isolation, she is pursuing old cookbooks; she had an amazing collection of both books and file cards with favourites passed on by friends and family.

Today she posted one from “Ruth”, a southern belle who knew a decadent rich dessert recipe when she saw it. Jorge had us doubled over with laughter when he described it as a “happy ending”. Later I asked if he’s understood his double entendre. He just smiled.

Baked Fudge or Lava Cake

Preheat oven 325 F.

You will need a baking pan for a Bain Marie and 8 to 10 baking cups

Beat four eggs with 2 cups sugar. Add one cup (2 sticks) of melted butter.
Sift together 1/2 cups flour and 1/2 cup cocoa and add to egg-sugar-butter mixture.
Stir in 1 tsp. Vanilla extract and 1 cup chopped nuts, if desired.
Pour. Mixture into 8-10 custard cups and set in a pan of hot water. Bake at 325 F. for one hour or un til it’s crusty on top. Serve warm with a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream or creme anglaise.


What’s up Buttercup?

Do you spend a lot of time on facebook or reading the blogs,? Normally I don’t have a lot of free time and so there are just a few sites I see regularly. However, these past few weeks I’ve definitely been more engaged, and I find it interesting to see how the contributors write about the pandemic from such diverse angles. Some reports are factual and measured; other writers use humour or introspection; and there are those who state their position with absolutely NO ambiguity.

Yucatan Expat Life reports on the many facets of the emergency in Yucatan. From them I have learned that some citizens in Izamal are ignoring social distancing; one jerk tried to incite looting at a supermarket in Merida; a cruise ship with stricken passengers was about to dock in Progreso; and more cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Motul .

Steven Fry has given me second thoughts about ever walking into a store again. His research warns that 1,500 highly-infectious, invisible aerosols blast-out from the respiratory tract with each cough or sneeze. Who knows how many are yet lurking in the aisles?

Chris Strickling’s descriptions of her early morning bike rides through her still-sleeping pueblo magico are simultaneously evocative and soothing.

Another contributor (whose name I wish I could remember) posted the floor plan of his apartment, and with tongue in cheek, he proceeded to describe the “appointments” of the 2 bedroom lair using a level of eloquence that’s usually reserved for the glossy pages of high-end Spa & Resort brochures.

Other media services are also getting more of my attention than they usually do. As I clean house and cook, I take full advantage of my Spotify subscription. Yesterday’s playlist featured an eclectic mix … Dixie Chicks, Leonard Cohen, the Stones, Joe Cocker, Juan Gabriel and La Ley. What will I choose today? Who knows; there’s no shortage of options. Any suggestions?

Netfix offers a film for every mood. Mind you, I haven’t been too selective about what I watch. “Joanna’s COVID-19 Film Festival” has (I confess) included three silly Adam Sandler movies, four true crime thrillers, a excess of romantic comedies… including Love Actually and Mama Mia for about the 100th time each. What are you watching?

I have visited some new culinary sites: , , and Today I’m going to bake a lemon-blueberry loaf using coconut flour.

I’ve also had time to catch up with many saved entries from Nathan Bransford’s writers’ blog I’ve followed Nathan for years, and am always impressed with his writing advice and publishing savvy.

Several yoga sites looked amazing, but I can’t say any were even half as cool as promised. I need the real group dynamic.

And thanks to the oldest communication device in our house, we keep in contact with all our friends and family who live near or far away. My Telmex plan is amazing; For a low flat rate, I can phone almost anywhere in the world 24-7. The ability to speak with our granddaughter in Norway, our daughter in the USA, and so many dear ones in Canada helps to keep fear from getting the upper hand. I am grateful to the communications industry for developing so many platforms that are helping me to stay connected during this stressful time.

Our enforced isolation – confinement – quarantine – or whatever we want to call it, sure could be worse, couldn’t it?