Real vs Fake

Alf came home this morning with a bagful of bagels.

“Were those bagels boiled and then baked, like the real thing?” I asked.

“I don’t know. They just looked good.”

“Now that you’ve eaten one, what do you think?” I said.

“It was light and crispy.”

“A dead giveaway. I fake bagel, it wasn’t boiled.”

“What’s the difference?”

“A real bagel is crunchy and shiny on the outside, chewy on the inside. There’s weight to it.”

“Since when have you become a connoisseur of bagels?” Alf said.

“Since my first trip to New York, years ago when I sunk my teeth into a pumpernickel bagel piled high with green olive cream cheese that oozed out with every bite. I’ve been spoiled ever since.”

“You’ve been spoiled by more than bagels my dear.”

Calvin says, “I’m soft on the outside and weighty on the inside. I wouldn’t pass for a real bagel, but you could make me one with lots of smoked salmon, thank you, please.”

 

Life on Wheels

During my escape from the house last weekend, I noticed what looked like a cooler on six wheels driving on the sidewalk in the center of town I was in. It was white and carried a golf-like flag to let people know it was coming toward them or behind them. It chirped and beeped. Clearly someone, hiding behind a tree, was navigating this contraption.

It turned out it came from the local market and it was their delivery system. Inside the cooler I’m sure there were cut-up veggies, a cluster of red grapes, gorgonzola cheese, sesame seed, gluten-free crackers, and of course lots of Chardonnay on ice. This made perfect sense in the middle of Silicon Valley. Where else would you find a robot delivering your dinner? Now if it cooks, serves and cleans-up, then I’m in.

Alf says, “It should also sort through old tech books and re-arrange the garage.”

I see the many uses it could have like getting the dog to the groomers, picking up the dry cleaning, going to the mall for that cute outfit that was on sale, walking your children home, mowing the lawn, and keeping you company if you’re desperate. I don’t know how many languages it speaks, but that could be an added feature. It should also play jazz and be able to read Shakespeare and Hebrew.

Calvin says, “No way you’d shove me into that thing. I’d look ridiculous with my ears flapping.”

 

A Pitiful Reality

Coming back from my two-mile walk in my backyard, not that my backyard is two miles long, it’s not, but I walk back and forth for two miles, I realized what a pitiful sight I am. If anyone were to see me in my sweatpants, T-shirt, no make-up – what for the birds? – they’d say I needed a respite in the local psyche ward. I have forgotten to dress normally, bathe daily, and wear something colorful. Is this what retirement looks like? No, this is what being cooped up at home without the possibility of parole looks like during the pandemic. When restrictions get lifted I will need training in how to be a human being again and a functioning member of society. I will have to wear a bra again! That thought revolts me. I will need to be pleasing, kind and thoughtful to others. I’ve had a vacation from that. And eight hours in an office again when I’ve enjoyed squirrels, birds and flowers as my office, I can’t bear the thought.

Not everything about the lockdown has been nasty as the media wants you to believe. It’s been peaceful. The air has never been fresher. The quiet of the streets allows me to hear the honking of overhead geese, the barking of dogs on a walk, the clamoring of the garbage truck on its pickup runs. We’re making more garbage than ever before. We’re buying and cooking and eating and throwing away. Just today I saw my neighbor throw out his prized flamingo.

Calvin says, “You’re nuts alright. Flamingo? That was a pink elephant.”

 

 

Pounding the Pavement for Flour

I wanted to make scones and went shopping for flour, but couldn’t find any. I traveled around the city only to discover the shelves were empty. Even at the Dollar Store. That’s what happens to women who are quarantined, they bake. Every day. There has been a rash of videos showcasing their pan dulce, nan, and challah.

While the shelves are well stocked at the stores with bread, buns and cookies, milled wheat is gone. Who knew that flour mills would be in such demand for their product. I will need to travel to the nearest one, a few hours away, park and plead for a trunkful of their best.

This got me thinking. Maybe I should grow my own wheat and mill it myself in the high-speed blender I’m making smoothies in. But the process would be so laborious that I would welcome a a fistful of animal crackers instead.

It’s fascinating to see the products that disappeared from stores in our lockdown situation. First it was toilet paper. Then disinfectant wipes. After that, hand sanitizer. Now we’ve gone from hygiene to food. Comfort food as in bagels, donuts and croissants. What is that telling us?

Calvin says, “It’s telling us we’ll have new bakeries in the neighborhood when we open up with doggie treats.”

 

 

 

A Hornet With My Toast

The amount of people promoting their expertise online is staggering. From writing books, creating paintings, selling on social media, doing better business, to cooking shows now that everyone is home and needing to eat. I’m tempted to say yes to everything. But then I’d be up most nights watching their videos. I’d be making bagels at 2 am, pizza at 3, and marmalade at 4 am. So I decided to chuck it, and go to bed. I’ve lived with less than stellar meals for years. Beans and rice is a favorite dish of mine. Half the world lives on it, why not me? I’m a tea drinker and I discovered  several boxes of English tea in my pantry I forgot I had. I’m good for a few months. Fresh veggies and fruit are quarantined in my fridge. I’m well stocked.

I did try making lemon marmalade and it turned out better than my orange marmalade. It’s tart and sweet, a combination hard to beat. Of course I need lots of buttered toast for that, and my cup of English tea, and then I’ll eat and sip in my rose garden, dreaming of Scotland.

“Watch out for the hornets,” Alf said.

“They don’t like lemon marmalade,” I said.

“Yes, and much more. They’ll take a bite out of you if you’re sweet enough.”

“Should I put on my bee outfit?”

“Might be smart.”

“But then I can’t eat my toast or drink my tea,” I said.

“I can cut a window straight to your mouth,” Alf said.

“Don’t bother. I’ll just sit here admiring my roses and watch the ravens nose dive the squirrels.”

Calvin says, “No hornet will come near me, I smell, I haven’t had a bath in months.”

 

Adjusting

I’m learning to work online these days, and be proficient in video calls. All of a sudden I have to look good on camera. I need make-up, lipstick, good hair, and something colorful around my neck and shoulders. Much like news anchors, you never know what they’re really wearing underneath the desk. I could be wearing my pajama bottoms, the ones with the mermaids, and nobody would know. But they’d know because they’re doing the same.

Nobody has told the bees, the squirrels or the birds that all work must be conducted inside. They didn’t get the memo. Life goes on for them. The neighborhood cats keep coming by and checking who has left a scent. Not so with the dogs. They have been quarantined and I don’t even hear barking anymore. That’s because they’re wearing masks.

I used to smell garlic and curry in the neighborhood, but even that has gone. I don’t see my neighbors leave their houses and get into their cars. I wonder what they’re making for dinner. I suppose the freezer in the garage has been a go-to place for the past four weeks. It’s time for the frozen edamame and tamales to come out along with the ice cream and shredded cheese.

We just heard we might be in this until middle May. The date keeps getting pushed back almost daily. This is building character I tell myself. It’s okay if you’re an introvert. You can handle the quiet. It’s the extroverts I worry about. They’re talking to themselves in the mirror and to imaginary friends.

Calvin says, “I don’t like frozen kibble so don’t even think about it.”

 

 

 

Add a Heart

I hate it when a warehouse store moves its shelves around and I can’t find the items I typically buy. It’s torture. It adds extra minutes to my shopping. I walk my 10,000 steps just trying to find the peanut butter. They should pay me for confusing me and making me go around in circles.

Being the day before Valentine’s Day, vendors were parked at every aisle handing out chocolates, cheese, and ravioli bites. Perfect ingredients for your loved one. How come there’s never any samples of bagels, lox and cream cheese? Or champagne and lobster tails for that special someone? But there’s always the man with the high-powered blender ready to make you a green smoothie.

I’ve noticed the book aisle is now shoved by the back wall where you can’t find it. I guess books are not money makers even if you are James Patterson and Clive Custler.

The clerk at the check-out told me a story of a family with a six-year old daughter. It was the child’s birthday and nobody showed up to celebrate it. So the family scooped her up and brought her to the store for pizza and cake. I wondered how many miles they had to walk to find those items. They were moved to make way for buckets of roses and heart-shaped cookies.

Calvin says, “The stuff you fret over. What’s wrong with a bone and a snuggle?”

 

Not Even

Californians do not know how to make bagels. It’s strictly a New York talent. Unless you’re a transplanted New York bagel baker in California, you will never know what a real bagel tastes like.

It’s all in the method. You must boil the dough first. It’s what gives the bagel its shiny, chewy exterior. Steaming them won’t do it, neither will brushing the tops with egg wash.

Bagels in California omit the boiling method so you end up with bready bagels that taste more like unsweetened donuts than genuine bagels.  FullSizeRender (21)

Speaking of which, bakeries are now fond of producing chocolate chip, cranberry and walnut, and other sweetened varieties of bagels for the undiscerning public. That’s unheard of in the real bagel world. It’s garlic, onion, poppy-seed, and pumpernickel in the genuine bagel environment.

I’ve noticed that most food stores are now making their own bagels. Don’t even. They’re terrible. So are the kind in those big warehouse food stores. Don’t waste your money.

I even tried importing a dozen bagels from my favorite New York shop except I couldn’t bring myself to pay $50 for the indulgence. It was the shipping costs that killed me.

I’m still on the lookout for a Jewish baker who is quietly boiling his bagels and doing all the right things to bring pleasure to his customers. I haven’t found him yet, but I know he exists somewhere in this vast state of mine.

Calvin says, “You’re dreaming. It’s like me hoping for brisket in my food dish.”

beagle

 

 

Caffeinated Technology

After all the mayhem over the elections, the city has finally returned to normal, whatever that means.

It is after all the hub for all things techie. Protests and riots don’t run in the same circles as coding and programming. The relative quiet has returned people to work.

Every morning I walk past Dolby, Twitter, Uber, and Square. Groups of back-packed techies, mostly young men, rush into the buildings to complete another round of focused futuristic thinking.  photo199

Later in the day packs of them take a break from their screens and go roaming Market Street in search of their favorite caffeinated drinks. They laugh and talk over each other with their latest, exciting ideas. They speak in another language, one only known to them. Market Street, once a dilapidated part of town, has sprouted more coffee shops and eateries than a downtown mall, all meant to lure them in to spend money. The idea is not to eat too far away from your computer, but to stay as close as you can to your office, with a group of work friends in toe so you never have to leave the building or each other.

While this means my technical future is in good hands, what is it doing to the health and future of these kids? They have no social skills, they don’t know how to talk to a woman, and they’re not prepared to handle the shocks of life. They’re inside a matrix they can’t see and have no thought of breaking out. This is life. Some of these companies have playrooms, lounge areas, entertainment, and cafeterias so their workforce doesn’t need to go out to breathe oxygen or get a real life.

I ask myself, what would these people do if there wasn’t such a thing as a computer industry? I’m not sure I have an answer, but one thing I do know, they’d have a chance to join the human race.

Calvin says, “In the beagle kingdom we’re not all the same. There are some who hate hunting and stay back reading recipes for foul smelling foods.”  beagle

 

 

 

Down the Hall

Things started off with a cliffhanger as I prepared to oversee a food event for 60 people.

The food distribution truck showed up two and a half hours late and parked a block away instead of in front of the house like they usually do. Then the driver came to the front gate, a Hispanic dude, and saw the six steps leading to the front door and announced, “I don’t do stairs.”
“What?” I said incredulously.
“I don’t do stairs,” he said a second time. “It’s against company policy.”
“Really? You guys have been doing stairs for 20 years with us.”
He whipped out his cell phone, took a picture of those nasty stairs, and said, “I’ve just sent this off to my supervisor for instructions.” Then he disappeared around the corner to sit in his truck. photo-4

I called my rep. “I’ll fix this and get back to you,” he said.
I waited.
No driver.
No rep.
No food.
No answers.

I called my rep again.

“I’ll call my manager,” he said.

The driver came back to the gate. “If we don’t solve this I’ll have to take the food back to the warehouse.”

By now the chef, two friends, a co-worker and I were on the street staring the dude down in a gunslinger showdown.

Suddenly my rep appeared out of the ether. “I was in the neighborhood,” he said out of breath. A short, wiry guy with consternation all over his face. I showed him the tables set and ready and the kitchen.

I showed him those nasty stairs.

Meanwhile the dude had disappeared and returned with his first load of boxes. About 25 of them. At street level.

We had no choice but to make an assembly line sandbag style and run boxes from the street, up the nasty stairs, down the long hall, and into the kitchen.

It took us almost an hour to check every box against the order sheet. The dude was now in the kitchen helping us identify the boxes. The rep stood there with  jaw open.

We finished checking the last item, signed the sheet, and the dude disappeared around the corner.

The rep said he’d make sure this wouldn’t happen again.

You bet. Because you’d just lost a customer of 20 years, dude.

Calvin says, “Cut the dude some slack. If you hauled boxes all day, everyday of the week, you’d be a dragon lady throwing your rights around, too.”  beagle