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Lee White cooked her way through a COVID-19 recovery

I've known Lee White, a food writer for The Day and its Times weeklies, for ages, from a time long before we ever dreamed a worldwide pandemic would swoop into eastern Connecticut, labeling both of us elderly and therefore vulnerable.

So the news that she had tested positive for COVID-19 sent a shiver down my spine. I've learned enough to know that this thing can creep up on you with a sledgehammer behind its back. White is 76.

The email to the newsroom announcing her positive test results included an encouraging report that she was fine, busy conjuring up some chicken soup for herself.

Readers of her food column might have seen a warning sign in late March, when she reported: "As I write this column, I am using Tylenol to tamp down my fever that spiked to 100.4 ... I feel much better now. I am quite sure what I have is just a little bug — no sore throat, no headache, no congestion."

And on she wrote, continuing columns through April, with recipes for Indian soup with peeled onion, tomato and creamed corn, pork chops with sour cream gravy and one I might have to try for my own pandemic comfort food, mashed potato bread.

When I caught up with her by phone last Friday, White said she felt great and rode through her two-week quarantine, after testing positive, by cooking and eating, exercising in her living room and reading on her Kindle. She has an enormous pantry and a 24-cubic-foot freezer in the garage.

She was chomping on the bit last week for bagels and was planning a Stop & Shop run for Sunday morning, when her 14 days finally expired.

"I feel absolutely terrific," she told me, adding that her first treat, when things start reopening, will be a lobster roll at Ford's in Noank, sitting outdoors of course.

A widow, White lives alone with her cat, Junie, in an apartment in Groton. Her children and grandchildren have been checking in. In addition to her age, she has underlying conditions that might make her especially vulnerable to COVID-19, so she decided on a test even though she felt OK.

"I am not a person who just gets a cold," she said. "I get pretty impressive diseases that a lot of other people don't get. I thought, 'It would be just like me to get this.'"

Still, she was surprised the test came back positive.

She appears to be a poster child for asymptomatic infection. The fever seemed to be the only clue.

White has no idea how she contracted it. She said she's been staying home for the last seven weeks, making occasional trips, wearing a mask and gloves, to grocery stores and once to the post office.

She did do takeout pickups before quarantine for three favorite restaurant meals, including hamburger salad, which sounds pretty tasty.

White says she would like to donate plasma, if she can, to help others who have COVID-19.

She thinks she is probably immune now but won't be taking any risks, since so little is known about the disease and how long antibodies might protect you from another infection.

With COVID-19 in the rearview mirror and a lobster roll on the Noank shoreline beckoning, White looks forward to many more meals and columns.

"My mom and dad each lived to be 98. I've got a few years to go," she said.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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