Stories from Seattle: How Baking Helps Kate McDermott Cope

"As long as I can smell the yeast blooming, and the pie baking, I know that I’m OK."

By Kate McDermott


April 7, 2020

This is part of a series of personal essays we’re calling Stories from Seattle, contributed by our community and designed to show how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting the lives of Seattleites. Want to share your story, coping mechanisms, wildest ideas? We’d love to hear. Please email:

This feels like something from an episode of The Jetsons, the cartoon series I used to watch on Saturday mornings when I was a little girl. So much of our current communication is via text, video chat and social media platforms. I’ve been joining friends, just a mile away, for weekly virtual happy hours. During the first, I learned how to make a darn good martini. We raise our glasses towards our laptop screens and talked, trying hard to steer the course of conversation away from the fears we have for our world, ourselves, our children. 

Of course, I worry about my financial future as I fall between the cracks in the food world—a pie teacher turned cookbook author. Will people have money to spend on books? Will online teaching become my new normal? Am I too late to that game?

On the positive side I have a roof over my head and family close by. I live fairly rurally so my larder is usually stocked with a month of staples to get me through “the big one,” and I have lots of fruit from last summer’s harvest in my freezer. I am already eating and sharing overwintered greens from my garden and cool weather crops are planted. I scan daily for the first tiny leaves of radishes and spinach to sprout between rows of hardened off lettuce starts. Planting seeds to grow into foodstuffs to be harvested weeks and months from now feels like an act of faith.

Image credit: Kate McDermott
The author’s Port Angeles cottage.

My dog and I walk a nearby alley above the bluff that overlooks the harbor in my little town. I see neighbors on porches, children in backyards, and people in cars. In this time of fragility and rapid change, our smiles and waves are forms of kindness and tenderness.

Yes, I see you. Yes, I am still here.

Recently I learn that loss of smell is one of the symptoms of the virus, so I bake; a loaf of bread, a pie to share. As long as I can smell the yeast blooming, and the pie baking, I know that I’m ok.

Kate McDermott is the author of Art of the Pie: Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings, and Life, Home Cooking with Kate McDermott, and Pie Camp: The Skills You Need to Make Any Pie You Want, which will be published in October 2020. You can reach her at 


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