For over 70 years I have embraced our national pastime, baseball, as my personal pastime. Back in the day, I played second base, but that day ended when I didn’t make the high school baseball team. Since then, I’ve had to content myself with rooting for the Red Sox who, in 1967, the “Impossible Dream” year, came from ninth place to first; and, in 2004, overcame the “Curse of the Bambino” and won it all. For fans like myself, loyalty paid off.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, my interest in baseball has waned, and I don’t feel very loyal. In times such as these, it’s hard to sympathize with players who are battling with management over whether their minimum yearly salary should be $600,000 or $750,000.

When the current troubles started early in 2020—two years seems like a lifetime ago—people speculated about how long it would take to create a vaccine, how many people would suffer, and when the virus would go away. As for how long, drug companies moved with warp speed. As for the other two, all we know is that the number is staggering, and no one knows when it will end.

Meanwhile, most people are washing their hands more often, some are reading more books, others are taking frequent walks, and nearly all of us have learned how to “get together” with others without being with them.

As for me, I have found refuge in the unlikeliest of places – the kitchen.

Where does someone whose cooking skills consist of using an outdoor grill begin? Unlike my grandmother, who seemed to make everything out of her head, I have no natural talent in this area.

I began by taking an inventory of our kitchen, where I found a measuring cup, spatula, bowls, and various other useful implements. Then I found a recipe for cornbread, which I thought I could manage. Various ingredients populated the cabinet, but no cornmeal. So off I went to the market and discovered that there is an entire aisle devoted to baking. Maybe, I thought, I’m biting off more than I can chew.

Here I am, nearly two years into this new and mysterious culinary world, and I can report modest progress. When I started, I knew about salt and pepper but not such aromatic spices as cardamom, cumin, and turmeric, which I now keep in my overcrowded “spice drawer.” I’ve moved from cornbread to other baked goods, and the occasional entrée, and have even ventured somewhat beyond the recipes’ four corners, though very gingerly.

One thing about cooking something from scratch is that it offers immediate results. You spend an hour or so getting everything just so, pop it in the preheated oven or on the burner, and the next thing you know you’ve smoked up the kitchen.

Well not always, and I am making progress, which is not to say that Rachael Ray or Gordon Ramsay have anything to worry about. Sometimes I think that Julia Child, whom I had the pleasure of knowing, is smiling down on me.

In other words, as a cook I’ve made it to first base. Fortunately, I have help from a sous-chef, formerly known as the Pianist. She doesn’t use recipes and rounded second base a long time ago.