Baked Ziti with Summer Vegetables
Credit: Alison Miksch

My mom would be the first to admit that she’s anything but tech-savvy. As a pre-school deaf education teacher, her day-to-day involves more toddler meltdowns than computer crashes. But, as we’ve entered our new normal, 250 miles away from each other and stuck inside due to social distancing, she was the first to suggest we up the tech ante on our daily talks.

“Ok, so where do I put this thing so you can see me?” she said, trying to balance her phone against a book on the counter, no PopSocket on the back of her phone to help keep things steady as we started FaceTiming. We were both in our respective kitchens–me in Birmingham, mom in Memphis–ready to cook dinner together.

We picked out a recipe beforehand–a simple baked ziti with vegetables–but we hadn’t consulted each other on much else. She’d bought too much squash; I’d bought too little pasta. Both of our grocery stores had been out of jarred pasta sauce, so we shopped in our pantries.

As we chopped and chatted, my dad popped onto the screen here and there. My pup made a cameo per my mom’s request, and my husband said a quick hello. Lost in chitchat, we touched base on which step we were on every now and then–I apparently cut veggies faster than mom, but she can layer a casserole dish better than me. We laughed when we realized I’d forgotten a step, which seemed impossible in such an easy recipe, and poured a glass of wine together when we popped our dishes into the oven.

homemade baked ziti casserole
Baked ziti casserole
Left: My baked ziti casserole.
Right: Mom's baked ziti casserole.

When the cheese started bubbling and we pulled our dinners out, it felt like we had accomplished something together, no matter how far away we were from each other or how simple the recipe. For an hour or so, we were able to put office closures, health scares, and general uncertainty out of our minds and just be together...or as close together as we can be these days.

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Even if it was virtual, it was exactly what we needed.