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Our Daily Breather: Gregory Porter On Learning Russian And Cooking Creatively

Gregory Porter.
Ami Sioux
Courtesy of the artist
Gregory Porter.

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Who: Gregory Porter

Where: Bakersfield, Calif.

Recommendation: Getting creative and learning something new

I am quarantined in my house in Bakersfield, Calif. with my wife Victoria and my son Demyan, and it's been really extraordinary, both up and down in several ways. I realize now that me and my wife are our son's teachers. Shortly after waking up, we have our breakfast and then we start in on the schoolwork. In addition to his school work, we're starting to do some extra things. My wife is a painter, and so she does a little bit of painting with him. My wife is Russian as well, so both he and I take Russian lessons. It's fun, working on my wife's native language — and I guess it's half of my son's language as well, because he goes to Russia every summer. It's nice, trying to speak Russian words with him, so...zdravstvuyte!

I try to go out of the house as little as possible; we go to the store once every two weeks. That means night after night, for breakfast, lunch and dinner I've had to try to become a creative cook. This is one thing that my mother was: With eight children, she was such a creative cook. So now I find myself doing the things that my mother would do: taking a can or a bag of frozen peas and rice and the little old block of Parmesan that may be in the refrigerator and finding some way to really use all of the things that are in your kitchen, all of the different spices. It's been quite fun, finding 17 different ways to make chicken. It's been fun trying to find ways to excite the palate of my family day after day with a limited palette but a completely wide imagination. This is what my mother had; we'd say to our mother when she got home from work, "Mom, mom! There's nothing in the house to eat" and in 45 minutes time she would have some amazing one-pot dish that all eight of us would eat from, and we were satisfied, and we were just amazed, like: Where did it come from? Three pieces of old, dried up bacon, a bag of peas, rice, and magic and mom!

I've been enjoying that. I've never been enjoying just the time on the ground; in my career I'm traveling 220-250 days a year, and so now to have this time — whether it's given by a pandemic or because I've chosen to take this time, it still is quality time and I'm thankful for it. I am broken-hearted about what is going on around the world, I'm thankful for this time.

Gregory Porter will release his latest album, All Rise, in August.

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    Gregory Porter