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SUMMER RULES is a series where we ask people to share with us how they’re staying safe and sane during this very different summer season; from mask suggestions to soundtrack selections, we’ll take a peek into how others are making these challenging times work.

This afternoon we’re getting the summertime scoop from Chef Jesse Miller, co-owner and executive chef at forthcoming restaurant Pennyroyal Station (Mount Rainier, Maryland at 3310 Rhode Island Avenue); he’s been leaning into yoga and meditation, painting, flip-flops, face masks and more:

How do you usually feel about summer, as a season overall, and how do you feel about THIS summer, by comparison?

Summer is usually my favorite time of year. Not because of going on vacations necessarily, but just the weather that you get to enjoy outdoors. I’m usually working during summer, so this one is a little different. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still working, but I usually have 12-hours days, 6 days a week, so it’s a little different to have the freedom. It feels good to have more time, but it just sucks that we can’t do a whole lot with it, since we’re all a bit trapped. 

What is your summer shaping up to look like?-

Pretty boring, in all honesty. It’s been a routine: get up, go to the restaurant [upcoming Pennyroyal Station], do some work there, go home, make dinner, and take the dog out like ten times just as an excuse to get outside. 

It hasn’t been terrible by any means, but it’s not how I would spend a summer where I actually have time off. 

Is there anything in particular you’re actually looking forward to this summer?

My fiancé and I have been trying to do short trips every now and then just to have something to look forward to. This weekend, I’m cooking outdoors at a friend’s house for 7 or 8 people for a charity event,  so I’ve been preparing and getting excited for that all week. Last Sunday,  we had a little outdoor birthday party happy hour for a friend.

Having something fun planned every week that we can look forward to has been helpful. 

What are some of your tips for staying safe and sane right now?

Obviously wearing a mask and being smart and serious about your own health and the health and safety of others. I’ve been reading so much information on the virus. Maybe too much for my own sanity.

Go-to summer wellness practice advice? Any spots in particular that have been helping you on that front?

I’ve incorporated a lot of yoga and meditation into my routine as well as just getting outdoors as much as possible while staying safe. Painting has also always been a meditative practice for me. I’ve really leaned into that as my creative outlet, since I haven’t been able to be in a kitchen cooking. I’m working on a third painting [Miller has created two paintings for Pennyroyal already] for the restaurant that needs about 10 more hours of work. 

Where did you get your mask from? And what, aside from that, has been your more or less go-to summer uniform?

That’s funny. A few weeks before we were all told we should be wearing masks in public, I ordered a few after doing my obsessive reading on the virus (in this case, a good thing). We waited two months for them to arrive and they never did. But around that time, my fiance got tested for the virus so she could go visit her parents and they had a stockpile. So, they hooked us up.

Since then, I’ve gotten a few of the more “trendy ones” and the kinds you can wrap around your neck for when you don’t need to be wearing it, but still want to be prepared. 

My only steady uniform has been flip flops. This is the most I’ve worn flip flops in my life, for sure.

What (if anything) are you reading right now, and why do you recommend it? (Alternatively, just share a favorite book.)

I’ve been reading too much news. It’s taking me to some crazy places mentally- both positively and negatively. I just started reading The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross, a book about how psychedelics possibly had an influence on early religion and theology. It’s a bit heavy, but it’s been a good read so far.

Do you have a go-to summer hang-out recipe that still works for a socially distanced gathering? And/or just a favorite general summer recipe that’s still a go-to, even now?

We’ve been slow-roasting and smoking a lot of pork shoulder this summer, which has been great because it feeds us for 4 or 5 days or is perfect for if friends come over for a socially-distanced meal. Lately, we’ve been using it to make banh mi sandwiches or pairing it with pickled peaches for more of a southern-style dish or piling it up in tacos. It’s super versatile and great for summer cookouts – we use the smoker and then throw it on the grill for extra flavor.

What about great summer cocktail or mocktail recipe?

This one might be a little weird for some people but,  because I’m a tequila/mezcal person, I’ve been really into a cocktail using coconut water, ginger beer, a splash of lime and mezcal. It sounds strange, but it’s freaking good and super refreshing.

What’s on your summer playlist this year, or are there three songs that are permanent summer favorites for you?

I’ve been listening to the new Run the Jewels album. They dropped a new album about a month ago and I’ve been rocking that pretty harcore ever since.

Where do you wish you COULD GO this summer, if there were no restrictions or safety risks?

My mom has a spot right outside Ocean City, Maryland, so I’d go there because, of course, it would be just nice to see her. Sadly, we haven’t been able to get tested frequently enough to go up there as much as I would want. Usually, I would pretty much spend any two-day weekend I had shooting up there and spending time with her, so I’m really missing that. 

And is there anywhere you’ve been safely going that you could recommend for people who live nearby? Any day trips or local spots worth mentioning, for example?

We went canoeing a couple times at a spot just north of Georgetown. They have trails there as well, so we’ve been trying to do that once a weekend. It’s all outdoors and everyone is socially-distanced or wearing masks.

We did some shorter travel a few times. We rented a cabin- I guess you could call it glamping- three hours away in Virginia. We also went to North Carolina (before the cases spiked again) and rented a place a few miles away from everything, so the dog could run around and we could hang out.

Those were really nice and felt safe, because you’re mostly spending time outdoors, not to mention no one is really around anyways.


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