News & Politics

The Quarantine Questionnaire: NPR’s Sam Sanders

The public-radio correspondent is working to be kind. "If I can come out of this without saying things I will regret to people I love, I’m good."

What’s the best thing you’ve streamed? Most useful thing in your freezer? Dream day when this is all over? In search of inspiration—and, let’s be honest, a bit of voyeurism—we’re asking Washingtonians (current and recently former) how they’re passing the time and getting through quarantine. Here’s Sam Sanders, host of NPR’s pop culture/news podcast It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders. Before moving to Los Angeles two years ago, Sanders covered the 2016 election for NPR and helped pioneer podcasting at the public-radio giant as a co-host of NPR’s Politics Podcast.


Photograph courtesy of Sam Sanders

Best book I’ve read: I’m really only reading for work right now; that’s all I can handle. I interviewed Sopan Deb, New York Times culture writer, about his new memoir, Missed Translations, and I really appreciated how it made me reconsider notions of family and connectedness. And I’m currently reading an advance copy of Sam Lansky’s upcoming book, Broken People, that has me nodding my head in agreement maybe every three pages.

Best thing I’ve streamed: Better Things, Season 4. The shows has ALWAYS been good, but this season Pamela Adlon really proves how GREAT she is at arthouse TV. It makes me really want kids and then never want kids at the same time. I also have an incredible urge to call my mother after every episode, which is a good thing I suppose!

Best podcast: Every episode of NPR’s two economics podcasts, The Indicator” and Planet Money.” Both shows have such a good sense of story structure and arc, and in this moment of uncertainty, I haven’t found anything else that is as good at getting to both the economics of all this as well as really heartfelt stories and testimonials explaining the human toll.

Best meme: Jeremy O. Harris’s Shameika thread!

Best virtual event I’ve attended: My nephew had his first birthday party via a combination of Facebook and FaceTime. It was such a lovely, wacky mess of love.

Most useful thing in my freezer: Four pints of Jeni’s ice cream. Brown Butter Almond Brittle. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever tasted in my life.

Least useful thing in my freezer: Whole wheat bread. NOT NOW, WHOLE WHEAT. NOT NOW.

Surprisingly useful household item: A good, sharp pair of scissors, both for cooking and for all the apartment improvement stuff I now have the time/motivation for.

Song/album on repeat: Emily King’s “Distance.” It’s a song all about how sometimes, relationships NEED distance, and like, that is honestly so timely for me right now.

Best purchase: Those four pints of Jeni’s ice cream.

Quarantine goal: Trying to stay kind in all of my interactions with folks. Just like, do no harm! Ya know? This is tough for everybody—best thing I can do is not be an asshole. Like, if I can come out of this without saying things I will regret to people I love, I’m good.

Favorite comfort food to make at home: Frittata. It’s easy, but it looks fancy and pretty, which makes me feel fancy. Which I need right now!

Go-to at-home cocktail: A rye Manhattan on the rocks.

Weight gain or loss: Gonna sound like a d-bag here but I’ve lost weight. I realized a few weeks in that I was holding a lot of coronavirus anxiety in my gut. And I had this like, low-grade, constant rona-nausea that just made me not hungry. Just saying that out loud helped me turn a corner though, and I am eating a MASSIVE burrito as I type this!

Worst part of the day: When the internet slows and my streaming shows freeze!

Best part of the day: Morning. When everything still feels the most normal. I’m still making the coffee the same way, doing the morning routine the same way, jogging the same paths, and ALL of that—in spite of all the crazy—hasn’t changed. The consistency of my morning patterns is REALLY helpful to me right now.

Zoom, Google hangout, or FaceTime—and why: Phone call. Seriously. I feel this pressure to perform visually when I am on anything Zoom-ish. Also, there is no such thing as a real conversation when you have more than like three people on a Zoom. Phone calls are BACK. Get into it.

Working out or not working out: I’m trying to keep at it. Elevated heart rate and intense physical activity release all kinds of feel-good emotions in the brain!

Person I’d most like to spend a day quarantined with: My mom

Person I’d least like to spend a day quarantined with: My mom

Most surprising self discovery: I talk for a living, but I’m actually not the best communicator in relationships with my family and friends.

Most memorable quarantine fail: I tried to make pasta carbonara the other week. Got lazy. Ended up with scrambled eggs in noodles, with some bacon sprinkles. It was maybe the most pathetic thing I’ve ever done. But I ate it all!

Best coping mechanism: Saying how you feel out loud. Either to yourself (seriously!) or someone you trust. But if you feel, you gotta say it. It always makes it better, imo.

Dream day once this all ends: A nice long run ON THE BEACH. Lunch at Cheesecake Factory. A cheesy Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson film, at an actual movie theater. A long sitdown at my favorite coffee shop. And I really, really, really wanna take my sad old Prius to my favorite carwash spot. Yes I have a favorite car wash spot. And I miss it so much.

Kristen Hinman
Articles Editor

Kristen Hinman has been editing Washingtonian’s features since 2014. She joined the magazine after editing politics & policy coverage for Bloomberg Businessweek and working as a staff writer for Voice Media Group/Riverfront Times.