Bill Marchese Special to The Desert Sun

Harry Fialkov of Palm Springs said he used his bread-making machine about two times in the past two years. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the machine is a constant companion in his kitchen. He expanded his bread-making repertoire to include rye bread, sweet rolls, pizza dough and special combinations of almond-poppy seed bread.

“Covid compelled me to find something to do with my time,” he said. “It was like Groundhog day,” being shut in the house. So Fialkov not only baked bread, he completed a manuscript of his family’s history during the World War II.

“Bread baking is a challenge, very therapeutic and fun,” he said.
Marty Webster, owner of Aspen Mills Bakery and Café, noted that a lot of people like Fialkov are baking bread at home these days. “When COVID-19 began we had a fifty percent drop in business,” he said, mostly from commercial accounts like restaurants and the farmer’s market, which were shutting down.

With four locations in the Coachella Valley, sales at Aspen Mills remained strong during the pandemic. Webster has bakers employed in two shifts producing 30 varieties of bread all week, from sourdough and honey whole wheat to New York rye and pumpkin raisin bread, plus an assortment of cookies, muffins and brownies. “Some comfort food sales are higher than usual,” Webster said. The café offers more than a dozen sandwiches and salads and lunch boxes to go.

“When you make one loaf of bread from scratch, you appreciate the work that goes into it,” Webster said.

Bread therapy

Mixing, kneading and rolling dough has a calming quality, helping the baker focus on the moment instead of worrying about the pandemic, according to Dr. Barbara Pedalino of Palm Desert. Known as “Doctor Barb,” she is a clinical psychologist offering therapy services for anxiety, depression and stress management and a long list of issues.

Dr Barbara Pedalino Covid-19 Coping and Therapy

Dr Barbara Pedalino Clinical Psychologist Palm Desert

For a family, making bread together is a creative idea, Pedalino said. It’s a physical activity. It fills the house with a pleasant aroma, and it can involve several family members in making pizza dough or bread.

With time on your hands, “What a perfect time to learn to play the guitar, learn a new language or learn to bake bread,” she said. It’s also important to balance learning with “keeping physically active, like riding a bike or walking in your neighborhood. Focus on the things you can do rather than dwell on the disappointment of what we can’t do.”

While confined to our homes, “Virtual tours of museums are a way to bring the world in, allow us to explore various cultures, history, religions, science, technology and art,” she noted.

“Everyone who contacts me has something to say about COVID, from kids to seniors,” Pedalino said. You know you are suffering from the COVID blues if you feel unmotivated and overwhelmed. “These are the two words I hear most often from adults,” she said. “Children, also affected, show me that they are vegging out and are also not motivated.” It’s important for kids to stay active, she added, “to go outside (weather permitting) ride a bike, go skate boarding or swim if they have access to a pool.”

Reach out to others

People living alone, especially the elderly, can be hit hard during the pandemic because they are already isolated. Seniors can join support groups online and talk to neighbors. “If you know someone alone, you can reach out to him or her, stop by for a 10-minute conversation over the back fence, or offer to shop for them at the grocery store,” she said.

“Dog walkers have an advantage because they see other people outdoors,” she said.

Pedalino expects that some people will have lingering scars from this pandemic, “something like PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) because they are fearful of catching the deadly disease.”

“Keep elements of hope in your life,” she advises. “With positive self talk, we are going to get through this with the help of modern science. We have gotten through serious diseases like this one in the past.”

For more information about coping with the pandemic, Dr. Barbara Pedalino is available for in-person and telephone consultations at drbarbpsychologist.com and (760) 702-0878.

This article appeared in the Desert Sun on September 2, 2020.  See the full article.