Road Trip In The Time Of Corona

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Road Trip In The Time Of Corona

“That’s why I love road trips, dude. It’s like doing something without actually doing anything.” John Green

The world changed in March 2020, when the country — and the planet — shut down to help slow the spread of Covid 19. For most of us, the pandemic signaled the first time we were asked to shelter in place, maintain our distance from our friends and family, forgo handshakes and hugs, and cover our faces.  

Being at risk, I have been home for six months. The California wildfires changed all that for me because I am violently allergic to smoke and was getting sicker and sicker from the air. We decided to drive to Arizona.  Venturing outside brought up very mixed feelings. On one hand, I was excited to go on a trip to anywhere, have room service and eat in a restaurant.  On the other hand, I had adapted to being at home and felt safe there. The virus is still very active and it was scary to change what I was currently doing for fear this would lead to getting the illness. But I had no choice.

We jumped in the car the next day. When you’ve been inside for a long time, it feels strange to go out. Eventually we had to stop and get food and use our first public restroom in six months. We were armed with masks, gloves, alcohol spray and  hand sanitizer. As difficult as it was to get used to lockdown, it is just as difficult to come out of it. We drove by a crowded restaurant and decided no way.  We saw a Subway. It was not crowded and everyone wore masks and stood six feet apart. The bathroom was clean. I ordered my favorite-turkey on whole wheat with pickles lettuce and tomato and then I put potato chips in it to go. It tasted like the best sandwich I had eaten in six months.  I felt the sensory overload of being in a restaurant for the first time..The second rest stop was super crowded. Everyone wore masks and kept social distance. I felt so much anxiety about being around all those people. 

We got to the hotel in Arizona. The staff wore masks and gloves. Everyone had to wear a mask when indoors. There was an automatic temperature checker as you walked in.

Automatic hand sanitizers were everywhere.  We had our choice to carry our own luggage or  park our own car and a bellman came to the parking lot in a golf cart. We ordered room service.There are no checks to sign. 

The next day we hiked and we were shocked that no one wore masks.

We decided to venture out to the restaurant for lunch.

The tables were eight to ten feet apart and the restaurant was not crowded. There were individual ketchup packets and individual water bottles. I forgot how it felt to sit in a restaurant and have someone serve you. What a treat that I used to take for granted. (first waiter in six months!!!)

We were upgraded to a room with a small swimming pool and large outside area so I was totally fine to hang out there. (the view)

We went to the restaurant for the rest of our meals.

I changed clothes for every meal.

Being in sweatpants  for six months  has made me appreciate my clothes.

If you are like me, and worried about safety and the virus, The Four Seasons in Scottsdale is a great place to start going out again.I felt very safe and was able to relax and heal. 

There has been a lot of talk of a ‘new normal’ – but normal is changing and uncertainty, and managing risk, is going to be the reality for the foreseeable future. New normal’ for most of us will mean ‘what we need to get through today, or this week – it’s going to be very difficult to predict what the course of the rest of the year will look like.

Stay safe,

JAZ

Foods That I Grew Up Eating For Lunch In New York

Foods That I Grew Up Eating For Lunch In New York

“The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why, and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question ‘How can we eat?’ the second by the question ‘Why do we eat?’ and the third by the question ‘Where shall we have lunch?” Douglas Adams

When I was a kid, we did not have the lunch choices that are available to our children today. Lunch usually involved two pieces of bread. There were two or three small delis on a block. If you lived in an Italian or Chinese neighborhood, there were several of those restaurants on the block as well. New York’s wealth of immigrants honed our eating habits and favorite foods.

Coffee shops and luncheonettes were on every street. Coffee shops were what we now call casual dining restaurants. Despite that these places primarily sold sit-down meals and not just coffee, you were usually welcome to sit in one for hours while ordering nothing but coffee with free refills.They had a lunch counter in the front with round stools and small tables in the back. They served burgers, grilled cheese, BLTs, pancakes and scrambled eggs. No lattes, almond milk or farm to table eggs with a side of avocado and chicken sausage. If you wanted fresh fruit it was half a grapefruit or cantaloupe and cottage cheese. No smoothies or green juice.  Cottage cheese was the diet food of diners and luncheonettes.  If you didn’t want grease and carbs, the diet plates were cottage cheese and cantaloupe, cottage cheese and tuna or cottage cheese and a burger patty.No one there had ever heard of kale.The coffee shops were often owned by Greek immigrants and had Greek specialties on the menu.

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The egg cream is the iconic growing up in New York drink. Everyone has a best egg cream story from a lunch counter somewhere. There is no egg in it – only chocolate syrup, seltzer and milk. The seltzer should be fresh from a soda gun . The most important thing is the correct ratio of chocolate to seltzer to milk and the frothy head with flecks of chocolate syrup at the top of the glass. U- Bet is the chocolate syrup of choice for egg creams.

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The Hebrew National Deli in my neighborhood was part deli and part convenience/grocery store. I think it had a few tables in the back but we never sat there. We usually got  grilled frankfurters with mustard and sauerkraut to go and walked and ate them. Hot Dogs are the original street food in New York and sold out of carts on corners in Manhattan. I always found it odd to sit at a table in LA and eat a hot dog with my kids.

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The deli was located across the street from Mrs Stahls legendary, dingy knish store on Brighton Beach Avenue under the elevated train. A knish is baked dough with a filling. I remember cheese, kasha or potato. I’m not a knish fan. The smell would hit you when you got off the train and I would often find one in my hand from my mother who thought I should be eating more.

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Sometimes we rode our bikes on Sundays to Nathans in Coney Island. We had hot dogs and fries. The hot dog popped when you bit into it with a perfect blend of meat and spices. The fries were not thin but thick, crinkly cut and fried to perfection. Nathan’s was  located on the corner of Surf and Sillwell Avenues in a neighborhood where you stayed aware of your surroundings. My parents went as kids when the mobsters and film stars frequented the place. By the time we got there, Coney Island was a shabby version of its former splendor. We still rode the Cyclone and Ferris Wheel but it was before the hipsters and gentrification.

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New York had such a large Italian immigrant population that pizza places were everywhere. Everyone had their favorite but they were all good. A New York pizza is traditionally hand tossed and I have memories of some seriously skilled pizza tossers. High gluten flour and NY water are credited with giving the crust its unique taste. It is made with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese and traditionally cut into eight slices. The New York way to eat a slice of pizza is to pick it up and eat it flat to get the full flavor. You can fold it when it gets messy but a knife and fork will immediately peg you as an out of towner. The crust is not paper-thin. It’s not thick like Chicago. It is in between. There are no chicken and sweet sauce or pineapple toppings . It was sausage, pepperoni or red peppers.

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When I wasn’t having pizza for lunch, I would be eating a meatball hero sandwich. It was meatballs with tomato sauce topped with melted cheese between two slices of Italian bread. I have never seen meatballs served like that in Italy. It was a NY Italian American spaghetti joint meal. The Italian restaurants in my neighborhood were Sicilian. There was always a lot of red sauce, shellfish, pasta, bread, red wine and cannolis. We sat in restaurants with red and white checked tablecloths and posters of Italian tourist attractions eating those very messy sandwiches.

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Blimpies was the original submarine sandwich fast food chain. It was shredded lettuce with tomatoes on cold cuts with red wine vinegar and oil. A salad on a sandwich was unheard of in Brooklyn and people used to line up to get them.

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I still eat all these foods for lunch. Living in LA, it is more about turkey burgers and turkey hot dogs. I’m trying not to eat gluten – unless I’m eating pizza. I ate Subway sandwiches with my kids when they were young.  I wouldn’t attempt to find a good egg cream or cannoli in LA.  Your environment teaches you what comfort food is. Pizza is still my favorite food.  Every once in a while I will go to Carneys, wait on line at Pinks or order the meatballs at Jon and Vinnys for a taste of my childhood.

Fly safe,

JAZ