The American Pandemic Cookbook
By Stanley Greene

Cheap and Delicious Tomato Soup With Sock

Dear reader

The idea for this book came to me in the middle of the night — Good Friday, which is either ironic or coincidental (I’ve never understood the difference, as my wife, a former English teacher likes to point out) — when I discovered that my wife was not in bed. I figured she was just in the family room, watching the Crown, or calling Alfredo, whom I suspect is not her long-lost half-sibling who recently appeared in her life and calls her all hours of the day, which sometimes causes her to forget to bring me my meds, food, and water, even though my doctor has asked her to be vigilant about these light duties because I am quite sick and not just too lazy to feed myself. But I digress, which I often do, so often, in fact, it seems my wife has finally left me. After checking the family room, the library, the second bedroom — which she recently soundproofed — and the garage, I called 911.

No one answered, so I left a courteous message, repeating my phone number slowly, as I always do when this happens. This morning, in the garage, where I had set up a makeshift bed with the laundry she seems to have forgotten to wash, I waited for her to enter with the red Jaguar convertible she recently bought with the remainder of my 401K (she explained, “we’re losing money in the market,” and reminded me we live in California, a community property state) but instead I got a call from the head of the psychiatry team at Stanford, who had been monitoring the situation remotely with a network of webcams that my wife purchased for my birthday earlier in the month even though I asked for something else. “Hello, doc.” “Hello,” she replied, with that voice she uses whenever she has bad news, like the time she had to inform me I’d need to take out a second mortgage to pay for all the hospital visits and middle-of-the-night ambulance rides because my wife was generally out with her friends from 10 pm -3 am. But for whatever reason, I am not sure which reason, I got the feeling this time would be different. Maybe good news about my liver, my kidneys, or the potassium in my diet which I had diligently worked to supplement with 11 bananas a day, even though it has made me so constipated and I haven’t pooped since Thursday morning.

“Yes! Good news?”
“Well, actually there’s good news and bad.”
“The bad news?”
“You’re fucked. You’re on your own now.”
“The good news?,” I asked, hopefully.
“Your potassium levels are up. Good work.”

Before I got the chance to explain that I was so backed up that I felt like I was in labour with a monstrously sized baby — a poop baby — she hung up. I thought maybe I should make some soup, to get things moving down there, so I entered the kitchen for the first time since New Year’s Eve 2012 when I had pulled a beer from the fridge three minutes before midnight, East Coast Time, because my wife had already fallen asleep even though Ryan Seacrest was the host of Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve and Pitbull was the main guest (what an amazing performer).

But back to the present, I looked in the fridge, the pantry, and the cupboard which is the secret place she usually stashes the liquor bottles marked, with a Sharpie, “MINE.” This is all I found in the kitchen: a dirty dishwasher, thirty packets of ketchup that my wife had stolen ten years ago after an all-night bender that ended at the Burger King in Chinatown, and a half bottle of expired Angostura bitters which was marked, “YOU CAN KEEP THIS ONE!” My heart fluttered. It was a sign. She would come back after I made the effort to learn to cook! Despite the lack of protein — of which I need at least 50 grams a day in order to stay alive, according to Stanford Medical Center — I concocted this special recipe which would keep me going for the five days Walmart estimates it needs to deliver me a large box of Fruity Pebbles and a gallon of chocolate milk.

Art by SAM MOrrison


Cheap and Delicious Tomato Soup With Sock


Ten packets of ketchup

One quart of water

Three shakes of expired Angostura bitters

One clean gym sock. If you can’t find one that’s clean, rinse in the bathroom sink for 10 minutes, scrubbing out the fungus and toenails with your toothbrush.


  1. Begin squeezing the ketchup packets into a small bowl. Remember to tear the packets open where they say, “open.” Otherwise, the packets are likely to explode. Based on real experience.
  2. While you are squeezing the ketchup out of the open packets, boil the water in a large pan. Google “pan” to see what one looks like. Lots of helpful images.
  3. With a pair of kitchen scissors, cut the sock into circles so they look like calamari, an excellent source of protein.
  4. When the water boils, lower the heat, and add (a) the expired Angostura bitters; (2) the ketchup (don’t worry if it smells rancid; the Red Dye 40 and preservatives are believed to kill most germs, I have read; and (3) the “calamari.” Stir gently with a coffee mug for five minutes — like the one I found in the dishwasher — or until the soup boils over because you forgot to lower the heat.
  5. Eat directly out of the pan, over the sink, where you can run cold water over your hands because I forgot to tell you to use oven mitts when you carry the pan to the sink.
  6. Enjoy! You’ve made your first meal.
  7. Call 999, just in case. Leave a message.

Giovanni Rodriguez

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