The Big Quarantine – Wednesday, April 28, 2020
The Day in Small Business: I ventured out before the rain started this morning to Woods Hardware to get a pack of KN95 masks for my Mom. The store employees were masked up and they’ve built a protective, clear plastic tents around the registers with a window cut out for customers to do the transaction. The KN95 masks are medical grade masks which the CDC is recommending for the people most vulnerable to contracting Covid. They are disposable but reusable (to a point). Hopefully the five-pack will last for a while.
The masks, by the way, are made in China. After we’re done with confinement we can meet up and talk about supply chain economics!
I planned my walk home to take me past one of Cincinnati’s oldest meat markets Avril Bleh, serving Cincinnati since 1894. I stopped by to see if they had ground beef for tonight’s dinner. They did! Their rule for shopping is that customers are not allowed inside. You call in your orders and the staff brings them out to you. I didn’t know that as I walked up. I pulled out my phone to place my order and one of the workers saw me. They unlocked the door, opened it a crack, and took my order. I had my mask on the whole time even though I was still outside.
The Day in Hope: While I was standing outside Avril Bleh an older man in a wheel chair slowly worked his way down the brick sidewalk of Court Street. I told him I hoped he got home before the rain started. He stopped and looked at me and said, “That’s just God’s water. I lived through Jim Crow. I lived through Vietnam. I lived through the penitentiary. I’m 68 years old and I’m still here. If the Corona gets me, it gets me…but I’m not scared.” Keep livin’ people!
The Day in Books: Last night my book club Zoomed for our monthly gathering to discuss Ghosts of Eden Park, by Karen Abbott. The book is a breezy telling of the life of legendary Cincinnati bootlegger George Remus and his tumultuous relationship with his wife Imogene, ending in him killing her in Eden Park and the ensuing trial. The book is long on characters and short on context and details, but is a quick and fascinating peek into one of Prohibition’s early legends. If you live in Cincinnati, it’s fun to try to place the historic landmark references to modern day spaces.
The Day in Little Things That Make Me Irrationally Happy: Reading a book based in Cincinnati made me think of two things in pop culture that make me irrationally happy.
- The thing about living in a smaller city and hearing your city mentioned in popular culture – Every now and then I’ll be sitting in a movie theater and a character will casually mention Cincinnati. Or maybe I’m reading a book and Cincinnati is mentioned out of the blue. I always feel like I should quietly clap, even if it’s not a pleasant reference. I feel like I’ve just shared an inside joke with the screenwriter/author.
- The thing about titles of projects being mentioned within the project – I get the same “aha” feeling when a character mentions the title of the movie I’m watching or I get to the part in the book where the title of the book is mentioned in the story. It really shouldn’t be a big deal, but I get a little weak in knees every time it happens.
The Day in Balls, Meatballs: A classic 1970’s budget-friendly, meat-stretching dish with roots in the Great Depression is Porcupine Balls. Not to be confused with a classic Italian meatball, these meatballs are made up of beef and rice that when cooked the rice sticks out like porcupine quills. It really is a stretch of imagination to say they look like little porcupines, but growing up, me and my brother really got a kick out saying Porcupine Balz! And they taste great. A true family favorite!
I looked up a lot of recipes online today to see about tweaking Mom’s recipe shown below. Besides eliminating the recipes that called for condensed tomato soup or instant rice, I had a choice between skillet balls or baked balls. The original recipe that we used was all cooked in the skillet. The advantage of the skillet over the baked recipe is that I can brown the meatballs and drain the fat. The main advantage of the baked recipe where everything is assembled in a baking dish is that it’s easier. Because I was doubling the recipe I split the difference, browning the meatballs in a skillet and putting them into a covered baking dish to finish.
To complete the recipe rehab, I looked at the flavor profile of the original recipe. It calls for 3 TBS of chopped onion 1/4 tsp of Worcestershire and 1/2 tsp of poultry seasoning, almost like the recipe writer is afraid of flavor. Poultry seasoning for a beef dish may seem odd, but essentially it’s just parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme which when combined makes me think of all-American, Thanksgiving Day flavors. The seasoning works here. Anyway, my tweaked recipe doubles down on these three ingredients. I made sure to salt the meatball mixture and thought, hey, this needs garlic powder! Done! Finally on the seasoning front, I kicked it up a notch by adding some crushed red pepper flakes to the sauce. #Flavor!!!
I’m glad Porcupine Balls popped into my head. Shaping meatballs is a soothing cooking technique leading toward a very comforting meal. And, bonus, you can’t beat the smell of childhood filling up the apartment. Awwww! Back in the day my Mom served the meatballs on mashed potatoes to really boost up the carb intake. It’s probable there were times we served that with corn. The 70’s were a spectacular time! All we were missing was cheese and we’d have practically invented the KFC Bowl. Tonight, I’m serving my P-Balls over cauliflower “rice” to bring the dish into the new millennium. I told Mom I was bringing Porcupines Balls to her tomorrow. She said I could keep the cauliflower rice, but she would take some frozen Birdseye Cauliflower pieces. Since I’m always trying to push vegetables into her diet, that’s a solid compromise.