What I Learned This Week: #145

Monday, May 18 – Sunday, May 24

The Week in Reopening – Food and Drink: By and large, most restaurants in the downtown/OTR area are open, at least for carry-out. Dining in is still spotty, but many places have created new outdoor street dining. Bar bars (that is, bars that don’t serve food) are taking longer to figure out how to reopen. Some places, especially those with outdoor patios tend to be open with limited seating capacity. Others are doing whatever they can do. A few bars, even some with small food menus, are still totally shuttered. Liberty on Main is only open Friday and Saturday afternoon for package liquor sales. The Drinkery on Main, normally a very busy dance bar on the weekends, is open but they placed picnic tables on their dance floor. I’m willing to bet dancing will take place ON the tables at some point! (The Fireball shots are no match for social distancing!) I took a walk around town on Saturday night around 6. It was way too early for the bar crowd and a little early for the normal dinner crowd but people were out. The vibe was low key and hesitant, but upbeat.

The Week in Reopening – Retail: I work part time at TJ Maxx and my store reopened this week to Christmas levels of business. People were willing to wait 45 minutes in line to get the deals. Though not required, a little over half of the customers were wearing masks during the shifts I worked. Associates are required to wear masks and get temperature readings before clocking in. There is a lot of wiping. Customers are as safe as they can be given the mask situation. The associates though are on shakier ground. The space behind the cash registers is not designed for distancing. All the registers are not being used, but there is still limited space and associates can’t help but encroach on each other. Same with the break room. Precautions are in place, but it is a smallish area where people need to take off their masks to get a drink or eat. Everyone knows to stay 6 ft apart, but human nature and the nature of the work that needs to be done closes that gap often.

The Week in Reopening – We’re all Trying:

Example One – Wiping: At the grocery store, there are times when a team member stands at the door wiping down cart handles as customers enter. At other times, customers have access to paper towels and a spray bottle of what we would assume is an approved virus killing cleaner. (I mean, I can’t question every single thing!) Customers pick up the bottle to wipe down the cart, cleaning off the last person’s germs. Perfect. Except…No one wipes the spray bottle that every customer picks up with their dirty (potentially) Covid hands. See? We try to to the right thing, but it’s damn tricky.

Example Two – Weather: A sudden rainstorm swept in moments after I stepped back into my apartment on Saturday evening. I could only guess how restaurants and diners handled it. Naturally those diners already seated outside had to rush inside for weather protection but that move hampered the social distancing efforts set in place for Covid protection. I’m sure a bunch of people looked at each other and asked, “Now what?” Now what, indeed.

100,000 Dead…A Second Wave in the Future?: My big point is that I can’t make heads or tales out of the torrents of information available about Covid. I am reasonably sure there aren’t definitive answers on how it spreads, who is susceptible, how it lives inside and outside our bodies, and many more basic questions. It is my hope that all the people who went out without masks and without concern for social distancing not to mention all the people who just went out and tried to do their best don’t cause a huge second wave. Seeing people in action firsthand and seeing news reports from around the country, I fear for the next few months of the pandemic.

The Week in Moving Past Confinement:  As the pandemic situation gained momentum in March, I knew I had to take some preventative action. Just a couple days before the Governor of Ohio announced the statewide shutdown, I got my ass to the store and created a Pandemic stockpile of supplies and food. I shopped just ahead of the masses. 

The grocery store that morning was busy and starting to run out of what we now know as Pandemic basics – toilet paper, pasta, dried beans, flour and yeast, etc. But I got what I needed, including (and especially) Original Flavor Doritos. Filling my freezer and buying long lasting pantry items, I loaded up. I have never had that much food in my house at one time. I had to create a space for it, so I cleared off a shelf of my book shelves in the living room. My stockpile became part of my decor during confinement.

Here at the 9-ish week mark, I disassembled what was left of my Pandemic pantry. There wasn’t much – a box of pasta, one bag of rice, two bags of dried beans, and a loaf of bread I forgot about and pushed to the back of the fridge. I did not foresee the neighborhood bakery remaining open, nor that the quality of my toast would be such a mood booster in the early days of confinement. 

I did, however, keep my “sick” supplies at Pandemic levels. I’m still flush on Gatorade, generic Advil, crackers, and chicken noodle soup. When we leave the house, our chances of getting any sickness increase, of course. I’m not terribly worried about getting Covid because survival rates are high and I’m prepared to ride it out if my symptoms allow it. I’m worried about getting it with more complex symptoms at the peak of a second wave (should that happen) and not being able to access appropriate care. Again, I don’t know shit, but I am thinking ahead as best I can.

The Week in Can We Just Talk About Something Else?: The last of my freezer stock up for the thing I’m not talking about in this paragraph, was a beautiful Rump Roast from Eckerlin’s in Findlay Market. Buying a cut like this from the butcher, they tend to leave the layer of fat as is. Cooking the roast fat side up, allows some of the fat to melt into the roast, a natural flavor additive. I cooked the meat with a collection of odd root vegetables, the ones that don’t get enough love – parsnips, turnips, and rutabaga – plus I added a couple potatoes for familiarity. I’ll eat roast and veges together for a couple meals until all that’s left is a small hunk of meat. I’ll slice that down for sandwiches. #Frugal

Cooking the roast I got to use my new 2020 technique of salting meat early and profusely. I learned this from Samin Nosrat’s immensely popular cookbook, Salt Fat Acid Heat. In the salt chapter she talks about salting big cuts of meat hours or even a day before cooking it. By doing this, the salt works its way into the meat, enhancing the flavor through and through. (It’s science, so I get some of you won’t believe it.) Early salting is by far the best technique I’ve learned in a long time, and for something so easy (if you can remember to do it), the results are noticeable.

The Week in Kitchen Matches: How mundane is this? But, this is where I am today. Let me ask you this…Where in a grocery store would you expect to find kitchen matches? Near charcoal? Next to toothpicks? In the household tool aisle? I’m asking because I still don’t know. I checked those places, asked two staff members and still came up empty handed. At some point in the Covid era, you have to get out of the grocery store. If my Mom burns her house down because she was trying to light a candle using a secondary method (flint? magnifier and sunlight?), I will have words with the Kroger stockers.

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