For weeks, I’d been dreading this: several days in Austin to clear out our remaining belongings — we’d sold the house in late March –, sell two cars, close our safe deposit box, and then drive 3-4 days back to Oregon.
Luckily, we were able to accomplish said tasks quickly, ship the boxes instead of loading them into our Titanic-sized, impossible-to-park rental car, and fly back instead. As I’ve often remarked, there is almost no problem that can’t be solved by throwing money at it. (Though, to digress, this apparently hasn’t worked for Bill and Melinda Gates.)
This allowed us time to visit with family and friends and reflect on some of the unexpected pleasures of dining out during a pandemic.
Pandemic Travel 2.0
Waitstaff no longer hover over your table, telling you their life story (“Hi, I’m Bruce and I’ll be your server tonight, although I’m really an actor and I’ve written this cool sci-fi script…”).
Table spacing makes for a much quieter experience. You might even be able to hear your own conversation.
Maybe it’s an illusion, but everything just seems cleaner.
Silverware arrives wrapped in a napkin, rather than having been sitting out on the table.
Many restaurants have streamlined their menus, so the choices are better thought-out and fresher.
People are too far away to eavesdrop.
As for air travel,
Fewer travelers = speedier security. They sure want you to keep moving.
Nobody seems to worry about liquids anymore.
Better filtration = less chance of catching a cold or flu, never mind COVID.
Even anti-maskers have to wear one.
A discreet cough or two (into your mask of course) and no one will attempt to ask what you’re reading or whether you live at your destination.
Fewer travelers = less luggage. For the first time in recent memory, our checked bags were already at the carousel by the time we arrived at baggage claim.
Woo hoo — home sweet (temporary) home in one day, not four. So what if we’ll have to load 17 boxes into our car and lug them to a new (also temporary) storage unit; the kids can sort out our crap when we cross the rainbow bridge!
NEW YORK — Will a bad choice at the bar sink your budding romance? Three in ten Americans say they’ve ended a date early because of what their date ordered to drink, a new study reveals.
The survey of 2,000 Americans over 21 who consume alcohol finds the first drink on a date makes a lasting first impression. Sixty percent of men in the poll agree a bad drink order would be a “deal-breaker” for them. Just 32 percent of women, however, said the same.
Top shelf dating advice
Want to win someone over right away? Take a page out of James Bond’s playbook. Three in five said a martini will make the ultimate good impression. The other drinks that leave potential partners impressed include gin and tonics (46%) and Manhattans (45%). Forty-two percent would look favorably on a date who orders a Cosmopolitan or a Whiskey Sour.
On the other hand, the drink most likely to make a bad first impression is a Long Island Iced Tea, with 22 percent saying that’s a dating deal-breaker. With so much pressure on that initial drink order, it’s no wonder over a third (37%) order a “fancy” drink while on a date.
The survey, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Jack Daniel’s, also reveals 62 percent think a person’s drink of choice says “a lot” about their personality. It’s for that reason two in three respondents (65%) think people should order their drink of choice on a first date to showcase who they “really are.”
The results also find four in five (79%) have a “go-to” drink that took them three years of experimenting on average to finally find.
With age comes (drinking) wisdom?
It’s not just about what goes in the drink, though, as 71 percent claim to be experts who know how to prepare their drink “the right way.”
Over half the poll actually consider themselves a “connoisseur” in their spirit of choice, but that wasn’t always the case. The average person “graduated” from low to top-shelf taste at 27 years-old and needed three years to become truly knowledgeable about their favorite spirit.
“Your drink of choice says a lot about your personality and it’s no surprise to us that classic whiskey cocktails have never gone out of style. However our friends choose to enjoy our Tennessee Whiskey, we want them to do so responsibly,” a spokesperson for Jack Daniel’s says in a statement.
The company commissioned this survey in honor of International Whiskey Day and wanted to find out just what Americans love about the spirit. Three in ten named whiskey as their favorite type of alcohol.
When it comes to whiskey-centric cocktails, drinkers say simple is better. Whiskey-colas come in as the top choice for a third of respondents. Whiskey Sours (31%), Irish Coffees (23%), and an Old Fashioned (23%) followed closely behind on the menu.
“Whiskey has always been a staple in any home bar. All of the classic whiskey cocktails that were identified by the respondents can easily be perfected at home and with the seasons changing it’s the ideal time to experiment with new recipes,” the spokesperson for Jack Daniel’s ads.
Need help following your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier food? Move to the UK, where apparently they will do this for you! (You might take this with a grain of salt, except it’s also on the watch list.)
On Monday, the U.K.’s Department of Health and Social Care announced a pack of new regulations that will be implemented in April 2022 to restrict junk food promotions.
In 2018, London implemented a ban of junk food advertising that was written so broadly that it forbid promotion of all sorts of normal foods (like butter, olive oil, and canned fruit) not because those items were unhealthy but because they had sugar, salt, or fat levels beyond government-approved thresholds.
The U.K. now plans a nationwide ban on television advertisements for what it calls “junk food” before 9 p.m. And that’s not the only new regulation. Also on the list:
Retailers will not be permitted to offer “buy one, get one free” promotions (or similar offers) for foods the government deems unhealthy.
Retails will not be permitted to display these unhealthy foods for promotioal purposes near checkout counters, near the front of the store, or on the ends of aisles.
Retailers will not be permitted to promote unhealthy foods on the entry or landing pages of their websites.
Free refills of sugary drinks will be banned at restaurants.
“We know families want to be presented with healthier choices,” said Public Health Minister Jo Churchill. “This is why we are restricting promotions and introducing a range of measures to make sure the healthy choice is the easy choice.” They’re going to make it the “easy choice” by deliberately bringing about economic harm to any competing choices!
The government claims that the British people have an obesity problem—more than 63 percent of adults and a third of elementary school children are overweight. Because the United Kingdom has socialized medicine through the National Health Service (NHS), this means the healthcare costs associated with obesity, which are estimated to be 6 billion pounds annually ($8 billion), are everybody’s problem.
The U.K. government can’t seem to acknowledge or accept the idea that people are voluntarily and willingly making bad choices. This Nanny State mentality means that the government must lay the blame on those who sell or advertise unhealthy food.
“Promotions often appear to help shoppers save money,” the agency explained in its press release. “However, data shows that these deals actually increase purchases of promoted products by almost 20%. They encourage people to buy more than they need or intended to buy in the first place.”
But people always need food. If you buy more food than you “need or intended to buy in the first place” you can usually save it for the future. That is what sales, promotions, and other low-pricing deals accomplish. They allow people to stock up and store food. That’s particularly important when governments everywhere are trying to discourage people from gathering in public places due to the pandemic.
Speaking of COVID-19, even though the U.K.’s food nannyism has been building for years, British officials can’t help but try to use the coronavirus as a justification for their actions: “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore the impact that obesity can have on people’s health and health outcomes.”
Snowdon notes that a ban on buy-one-get-one-free promotions could cost the average family more than 600 pounds (more than $800) a year by the government’s own estimate. That means that British officials are trying to deliberately force up the cost of unhealthy foods because they think this will force people to choose healthier alternatives.
WAGENINGEN, Netherlands — If you’ve ever snuck into your kitchen for a midnight snack, you probably know exactly where all the sweet and tasty treats are hidden with your eyes closed. Researchers in the Netherlands say this isn’t just about good memory, the human brain may actually be wired to hunt down high-calorie food. Their study finds humans are significantly better at remembering where junk foods are kept than they are with healthier options.
A team from Wageningen University & Research believes the human brain has evolved to focus on memorizing where high-calorie foods are located. Study authors theorize this allowed our hunter-gatherer ancestors to survive in tough environments with few food options.
The study tested 512 participants who were put through a sort of food-memory maze. Researchers had the group follow a fixed route through a room where eight foods or food-scented pads were strategically placed.
As each participant walked through the maze, they either tasted the food or smelled the pads. These tasty options ranged from apples and cucumbers to potato chips and chocolate brownies. The group was also asked to rate how much they like each food they encountered. Researchers then gave the volunteers a surprise quiz on where these snacks were located.
Junk food more appealing to our mind, too
The results reveal the group was 27 percent more accurate at picking the right locations of high-calorie foods than low-calorie options. Participants were even better with food scents, spotting high-calorie pads with 28 percent more accuracy than low-calorie ones.
Researchers report that the results weren’t affected by whether the high-calorie snack was sweet or savory. It also didn’t seem to matter if the participants liked the foods or not. Overall, people were 2.5 times (or 243 percent) better at memorizing where actual food was compared to food-scented pads.
Is there a downside to this skill?
While this ability likely served humans well in the distant past, the study suggests it could lead to problems today. Researchers hint that the memory bias towards high-calorie foods can create dieting issues for many people.
They add that brains which can resist the urge to hunt down sweeter snacks will likely avoid these dieting problems. Researchers are now looking at how the high-calorie memory bias affects present day eating habits.
With all the cooking at home we’re doing, I was excited to pick up some great tips this week. It may not make sheltering in place any less stressful, but at least the kitchen will be cleaner!
First up, some dishwasher tricks:
For dishes that still look cloudy even after a full cycle, pour some white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe bowl and place it on the top rack. The vinegar cuts through hard water to help reduce stubborn residue.
Another dishwasher hint: To keep plastic containers from flipping over and filling with water, put them on the top rack and cover them with your plastic or metal dish drainer to weigh them down. (Odds are, it could use a good clean, too.)
The dishwasher’s also useful for cleaning your microwave’s turntable. Just put it in the bottom section with the plates and goodbye, anything sticky.
Finally — here’s my favorite hack to keep your eyes from tearing when you slice onions: Simply sprinkle some lemon juice on your cutting board as well as the onion. I have no idea why this works, but it’s kind of amazing!
Have you ever made a simple cooking mistake that rendered your masterpiece totally inedible? I did this yesterday.
I’d decided to make a mixed-grain bread using bread flour, whole wheat, and rye, adding caraway, chia and hemp seeds for texture and interest.
Except I grabbed fennel seeds instead of caraway, which is almost as bad as mixing up salt and sugar. YUCK.
Which got me thinking… wouldn’t it be great to have Universal Autocorrect every time we were about to do something dumb? Like a booming voice from above yelling “Stop!” when we’re walking down the aisle towards the wrong person. (TMI? Am I the only one who’s done this??) Or a quick rewind after we inadvertently send “reply all” bitching about a colleague. How about a time freeze before we sign the contract for a house that will prove to be a money pit?
Unlike my iPhone autocorrect, which turns typos into gibberish, our Life Autocorrect would be unfailingly wise and judicious, knowing what we meant to do, not what we actually did, and fixing it pronto.
Sigh. Back to the drawing board, a.k.a bread board. And like love, the results were lovelier — and tastier — the second time around.
I can’t remember the last time we ate at a restaurant. By which I mean inside, not grabbing takeout. I’m all for cooking at home but it’s begun to feel a little, well, punitive.
So I was happy to read that being forced to cook more during lockdown has an upside: developing healthier eating habits, according to preliminary results from a worldwide Corona Cooking Survey.
11,000 people in 11 countries have weighed in, reporting fewer purchases of microwave foods and sweet or salty snacks. At the same time, consumers say they’re eating more fruits and veggies, wasting less food, and eating more leftovers.
“Consumption of salty, fat and sweet products usually goes up when people are under stress, but during the pandemic this heightened craving has been fulfilled in many countries with home-baked delicacies,” said Charlotte De Backer, chairman of FOOMS, a research group on food and media at U. Antwerp.
She probably didn’t mean this as a license to go crazy making endless batches of cookies but hey, the very act of baking is a terrific stress reliever. One takes solace where one finds it.
De Backer expects some of these new eating habits to outlast the pandemic, because the lockdowns have been longer than the six weeks it takes to form a new habit.
Perhaps the only upside to what I call the “pandammit” is that I’m not shopping like a drunken socialite, to quote my friend S. Which doesn’t mean I’ve stopped shopping altogether; it’s more that I’m buying different things.
Big-ticket items flew out the window as life got simpler and our activities remain close to home. Meanwhile, entire categories (hello, hand sanitizer) became essentials. What a topsy-turvy world! (Google reports that the expression “may be an adaptation of the medieval verb ‘tirve’, meaning ‘to turn or to topple over’. It has also been suggested that ‘turvy’ is an allusion to ‘turf’ and that ‘topsy-turvy’ means ‘with one’s head on the turf’.”)
Amazon – miscellaneous household items, esp. hard to get stuff
Whole Foods delivery in the early months
Fresh fruits and veggies from farmers’ market and small specialty grocers
Wine and booze – do you even have to ask why?
TV streaming services
Vitamins, supplements, acetaminophen PM
Face masks — whoever predicted one would need a wardrobe of these?!
Fresh flowers to maintain sanity and illusion of elegant normalcy
Makeup, especially lipstick – kind of pointless when wearing a mask, no?
Hair salon – spreading out appointments and doing trimming/touch-ups myself until desperate