Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Service of Rituals

Monday, October 17th, 2022

This doesn’t fit precisely in the “Little Things Mean A Lot” series on this blog nor is it just the same as the more recent Service of Rituals and Traditions, but it’s related. I thought I’d add some of my own to the ones readers sent and The New York Times published recently in “The Little Rituals That Keep Us Going.”

The Times article’s subhead went: “Reading Nancy Drew. Watching the birds every day. Counting yellow doors. Thousands of Times readers shared their wellness ‘non-negotiables.’” Dani Blum wrote the article.

Mine aren’t charming or creative however they give structure and happiness to my life.

My newest ritual is a quick game of Wordle. I came late to the game. At this writing I’ve played 57 times. I find I do best when I play early in the day.

WMNR’s classical music entertains me all day. I listen live through my laptop. Almost no talk.

I will miss the Australian drama, “A Place to Call Home,” that for 67 weeks made me look forward to Friday pm on PBS. A friend showed me where else I could watch the program if I had a conflict causing me to miss an episode.

I take advantage of long phone calls by watering or tending to plants. I have a bunch and now that they’ve moved indoors it’s easier to do.

I eat waffles or pancakes every Sunday morning.

Now that I work at home, I like to officially end the workday between 5:30 p.m. and 7:00 with a glass of wine and some cashew nuts. I’ve read that cashews are healthy—I ate peanuts before.

By 10:00 a.m., I’ve completed a list of chores as I used to when I left for an office. I don’t want to see an unmade bed or a dish in the sink after that.

To close the night, I like to watch an episode of a funny series on Netflix such as Seinfeld or Schitt’s Creek.

What are some of the rituals that keep you on track, make you happy and that you look forward to?

Service of Watch Your Menu & Words

Thursday, July 28th, 2022

When meal planning for guests we’ve learned to deal with gluten free, vegetarian and vegan requirements as well as allergies to citrus, a range of vegetables [for those with diverticulitis], and avoidance of garlic, onions or cilantro, on top of countless other foods distasteful to some.

Over the last few decades if you didn’t ask a first time dinner guest if there were things they didn’t eat it was at your peril if you wanted to be a considerate host. The focus on special food needs has exploded to the point at which it is a chore to mix friends. Some eat no meat; others only eat meat and dislike fish. Still others won’t eat plant-based concoctions or cheese and eggs and I haven’t touched on victuals on the NO list due to religious rulings. Yikes.

Now that we’ve learned to cope with food issues–meet at a restaurant might be easiest–words are today’s hottest minefield. We must filter them to get along. Here’s what I mean: I referred to another person’s son. You mean “child” I was corrected. The offspring in question is a they. And around atheists, watch yourself if you hear a sneeze. It has nothing to do with Covid-19. Never say “God bless you.” You’ll offend.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I’m so old fashioned or some would say without spine or principles because I welcome any greeting that’s said to please.

I wrote in March 2021 about the private NYC school whose guidelines admonished parents to use grown-ups, folks, family or guardians instead of mom and dad and caregiver instead of babysitter or nanny. That was just the start of their list of alternative words so as not to upset others.

A freshman dorm, “Big Haus,” at SUNY Purchase, a college in Westchester, N.Y., will change its name to “Central” because the original moniker, voted on by students in 1989, reminded some of prison.

I recently heard of an employee who quit after two days because she claimed those training her were disrespectful. She felt that in showing her the ropes they were speaking down to her. She said, “I am a college grad.” So are the two who were training her. Her leaving was a good move for all concerned as she wasn’t in a business that welcomed overly sensitive employees who expected to be able to do their own thing without direction.

How, when entertaining at home, do you handle menus when you’ve invited people with a range of food preferences? Have you learned to watch your words? Do you feel sometimes that you’ve lost phrases that represent your tradition? Do these requirements or demands to be super sensitive to others have the opposite effect and rather than bringing us together do they feed and/or set the stage for our seemingly insurmountable political divides?

Service of How to Get Out of This One

Tuesday, May 31st, 2022


Sea urchin. Image by Take-it from Pixabay

Decades ago a Turkish friend asked me if I liked ice cream. I said I LOVE it. Turns out that in the day the local ice cream–we were stationed in southern Turkey–was not reminiscent of the kind I liked. It may have been made with goat’s milk leaving an unfamiliar aftertaste. Fruit sorbets, especially strawberry, on the other hand, were divine. Anyway, I ate it when at her house and never admitted the truth.

Years before, as a teen, a family I lived with in Switzerland for a month in summer went on lunch picnics most days. My first day my friend’s mother asked me if I liked yogurt. I said “yes” because I wanted to fit in and be no trouble. I’d never tried it and it turned out I didn’t care for the texture or taste. They ate theirs plain. I couldn’t backtrack so I stayed quiet. I love yogurt now but at the time I suffered in silence.

Today I would be honest and admit I’d never eaten sea urchin, for example, giving myself the flexibility of saying, after a taste, that it wasn’t my favorite. And I learned from my ice cream experience to waffle when asked if I like something: “Some I do; some I don’t.” And that is true. Häagen-Dazs, once delicious, has lost favor–or flavor–with and for me. However in a foreign country, not wanting to displease, I might smile and say, after trying something I disliked: “Delish but unfortunately I’m not supposed to eat too much dairy.” A 20-something, trying to duck the Ugly American image, didn’t have that option.

Have you had to eat your words? How have you expressed a change of mind once you’ve said you liked to eat something–but not the version on your plate–or have you let it go and suffered through?


Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Service of Rituals and Traditions

Thursday, May 26th, 2022

We eat hot dogs, homemade potato salad and all the trimmings on Memorial Weekend and turkey at Thanksgiving–although not all of us love the bird and these days some avoid real franks. [Ersatz foods not my favorite–I’ve not once found any I like from ice cream and sodas to cake.] I enjoy seeing the fresh faces of sailors in NYC for Fleet Week from today through May 31.

I get ashes on Ash Wednesday and don’t eat meat on Fridays during lent: it’s a tradition. Others fast or don’t drink alcohol during their religious holidays to maintain their customs.

What do you think about a bride wearing a white gown to her second wedding? My friends are split yea or nay.

Do rituals give you comfort? Are there any you follow religiously?


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Service of Some Still Don’t Believe Americans Go Hungry

Monday, May 9th, 2022

Miche at Bien Cuit bakery, $15.00

I was at a gathering, tables groaning with delicious goodies, at which I heard: “I don’t believe there is hunger in this country.” The speaker refused to be convinced otherwise.

The comment nagged at me so I looked online for recent articles about hunger in America, [not that this person would have read any of them], and found none on Google since 2020. At that time there were plenty of reports of how the pandemic had made a terrible situation–that had been getting better–worse for many, especially children.

The nokidhungry.org website reports today that “according to the latest estimates, as many as 13 million children in the United States live in ‘food insecure’ homes. That phrase may sound mild, but it means that those households don’t have enough food for every family member to lead a healthy life.

$2.99 at Trader Joe’s

“The number of children living with hunger had fallen steadily over the past decade, but the coronavirus pandemic dealt a terrible blow to our progress as a nation – one that No Kid Hungry and other organizations will work to reverse during the long recovery ahead.”

So I changed my question to Google and wrote: “How has inflation impacted food banks?” I found a January 31, 2022 story on cbnews.com by Kate Gibson: “Inflation has more Americans counting on food banks to eat.”  It described the financial pressure that food banks are experiencing which, of course, impact those who depend on them.

I can’t believe I paid $1.99 for a grapefruit or $1.19 for a navel orange at Trader Joe’s. There are plenty of staples I buy there that haven’t increased in price such as a pound of penne rigate from Italy $.99; a pound of sweet Campari tomatoes, $2.99, [as much as $6 at other stores], or 16 ounces of plain Greek yogurt for $3.29. The last time I bought a butter substitute, Brummel & Brown, at a standard Manhattan grocery store, it cost $4-something. Last week I handed the cashier $5.00 and quickly realized that wasn’t enough: I paid $6+.  For the average family of four, that doesn’t have money left for food after paying rent and electricity, many of these items I buy regularly are luxuries.

Speaking of luxuries, I saw a stunning looking country bread at Bien Cuit in Grand Central Station for $15. I bet it’s tasty.

Do you know anyone who believes that there are no hungry people living in America? Are there many who think this? Can you share links to recent articles on hunger in America that I’ve missed? Are your grocery bills inching upwards or have you negotiated around the increases?

Trader Joe’s price: $.99.

Service of Reviews II

Thursday, March 31st, 2022


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I met a friend at a restaurant another friend had recommended. We both liked it a lot. My lunch companion admitted she rarely tries new places. I love to.

One of this blog’s stringers recently wrote: “My family always hated when I would insist we try places I read about in a review and had to go!” She continued “In AMNY I learned about a pizzeria in Troy, N.Y. Hilary said it was a favorite. When my daughter lived in Albany we went. It was in a sketchy neighborhood, was a dirty joint and the pizza was only OK.…I’ve not followed the reporter’s food reviews since!”


Image by Nenad Maric from Pixabay

I covered the subject of misleading reviews in a 2011 post so who will remember? The New York Times ran an article about a restaurant/gift shop in what turned out to be a nondescript residential Paris neighborhood. After I figured out my metro travel strategy I went. As I strolled the unremarkable quartier, I came upon a tiny dump. A few people were eating seated on pillows on the floor. The so-called “charming” gift shop included a few commonplace items on a small shelf. I wondered if the reporter was trying to help out the owner–a friend or relative perhaps. The article was a disservice to tourist readers.

Then there was the restaurant in Spain that a major food magazine covered with plentiful vivid color photos accompanying pages of compliments. We went out of our way to try it one night and were treated as though we were contagious. The vast dining room was empty and we were placed as far as possible from the few tables that had guests. Once the order was taken and the food delivered we never again saw the waiter until it was time to pay. There’s more but you get the picture. Why the place sought out publicity when it didn’t want foreign customers was a mystery.

Once in Venice we were looking for a place to have a spot of lunch. After peeking into countless windows and studying menus we chose a restaurant. We had one of the best meals of our stay in this favorite city.

More recently yelp.com helped me identify some toothsome choices for lunch and dinner in Connecticut. All but one of five were good.

Do you rely on reviews or friends to ID new restaurants? Do you prefer to return to old favorites? Or do you like to drop in on a place that looks inviting?


Image by SSidde from Pixabay

Service of When You Thought You’d Seen Everything

Monday, March 28th, 2022

I’m an eat-it-the-old-fashioned-way person [although I can’t deny enjoying some three star meals with refreshing interpretations of food which were even better than what mother used to make]. I like pancakes and waffles with maple syrup, not a sweetened hazelnut cocoa spread–Nutella [which I don’t like]–or whipped cream [which I do but on strawberry shortcake]. I question people who put salt on grapefruit or who drown a magnificent steak in ketchup. I like food as-is. Same with seltzer. Plain please. If I have a yen for a taste of lime, orange or lemon, I’ll squeeze in some fresh juice.

There’s little as divine as a lightly toasted bagel with butter or cream cheese. My favorites are poppy seed and plain. Again the outlier, I’ve never been tempted to try the most popular everything bagel topped by poppy seeds, sesame seeds, onion flakes, garlic powder, and sea salt. Why disguise a perfectly delicious bagel with so much stuff?

Yet the everything bagel has inspired marketers in all sorts of ways.

Charles Passy wrote in marketwatch.com about the everything bagel seasoning mix which, he reported, is in the top five at Trader Joe’s [which calls it Everything but the Bagel…”.] The store recommends using it in waffle mix or on pizza. According to Passy a chef at Spiceology likes the mix on avocado toast, roasted sweet potato and popcorn. The reporter has seen it in or on cottage cheese, croissants and ice cream.

Jeni brand ice cream chose a cream cheese flavor as its base for the everything bagel option wrote Passy. The reporter doesn’t mind the taste but concluded: “Still, part of me objects to an everything bagel ice cream — mostly because it speaks to the worst traits of American food marketing. It’s never enough to have a good idea and leave it at that. Instead, we must take that idea and spin a gazillion products off it — for better or worse.”

To further prove the point Passy mentioned all the iterations of Oreo cookies. “I have trouble finding the original version since the supermarket shelves are filled with flavors from carrot-cake to peanut-butter Oreos. Could an everything-bagel Oreo be far behind?”

Do you like everything bagels? The seasoning mix? Would you give everything bagel ice cream a whirl? What unusual combinations do you create or buy? Is it only in food marketing that a good idea is copied all over the place and at all price points?

Service of If You Can Breathe, You’re Hired, No Training Necessary–Except at Trader Joe’s New NYC Store

Monday, December 6th, 2021


Image by Jessica Latorre from Pixabay 

We read and hear daily about the shortage of workers and with few exceptions almost everyone has experienced repercussions when out and about.

I dropped into a well known high end supermarket looking for an item. Customer Service wasn’t sure of its location, [a laptop was in front of the staffer but I guess this information wasn’t available there.] He suggested I check out the produce department. Once there a well-meaning man stacking vegetables had no clue and I suspect didn’t understand what I wanted–snack size guacamole. I found a second person in the vicinity standing in an aisle focusing on what was happening on his phone, not the store. He barely looked up while directing me; his sneer indicated that he was annoyed to be interrupted. They didn’t have it–or I didn’t see it–and he didn’t care.

A Chelsea branch of a favorite bakery sells sandwiches, salads, sweets, breads and warm drinks and has tables and chairs for those who want to eat there. They hired two very young, well-meaning, inexperienced men to fend for themselves. There were almost no sandwiches on display at the counter and we asked what was on trays full of food stacked behind their work area. Answer: [Lots more] sandwiches. However it looked to customers as though they’d run out of all but a few stragglers. The cappuccino and latte were delicious but took a dog’s age to prepare. The two juggled all jobs–warming and packing sandwiches and bakery items as well as charging customers. In other branches the drinks are made by a dedicated crew.


Image by ElasticComputeFarm from Pixabay 

An excellent restaurant that handled a full house with ease before was about a quarter full the other day. It maintained the quality of its food but the kitchen must have been understaffed or working with newbies as it took an unusually long time to produce dinner.

The exception is at Trader Joe’s in its newest Manhattan location in 20,000 square feet of well-lit space on First Avenue and 59th Street. Opened on December 2, the company welcomed New Yorkers long anticipating its addition to the neighborhood. [A man waiting with me at a nearby bus stop, seeing the TJ shopping bag, asked me what I thought of the store which he and his wife were looking forward to visiting.] The line on Saturday was breathtaking and the short wait to pay even more incredible. Over 20 well trained cashiers charged, packed and sent customers on their way.

The store is located in a landmark–Bridgemarket–built underneath the Queensboro Bridge which was completed in 1909. In a section called “The Cathedral,” and originally an open green market until 1946, according to a February 1998 press release on nyc.org, the architects used Guastavino tile vaults for the ceiling. If you’ve been to the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal, you’ll recognize them. Once it was closed to commerce, the city used The Cathedral to store vehicles and as a sign shop.

In 1999 David W. Dunlap wrote in The New York Times about its opening as “a market-style Food Emporium, two restaurants operated by Sir Terence Conran, a high-end Conran home-furnishings store reached through a swoop-roofed pavilion on 59th Street and a landscaped plaza with a fountain.” The complex cost $24 million according to Dunlap. Food Emporium closed in 2015 and Trader Joe’s is the first tenant in The Cathedral since then. Where Conran’s shop was is a TJ Maxx.

I wonder where Trader Joe’s found all those trained employees who quietly refilled refrigerators and shelves, expertly directed the line that wandered up and down aisles leaving plenty of room for shoppers, with an efficient team of cashiers to top off the seamless shopping experience.

How long will it take for new, untrained employees to catch on to their jobs? Have you noticed blips in service recently?


Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Service of Faster and Faster and Faster and For What?

Thursday, November 11th, 2021

I ran out of eggs while making a quiche the other evening. I was too lazy to go out–it was 7 pm–and I don’t know my neighbors so I improvised.

Winnie Hu and Chelsia Rose Marcius covered a potential solution to my missing eggs in their article in The New York Times. They wrote: “Now the nation’s largest city has become the biggest laboratory for the latest evolution in rapid e-commerce — a surge of online companies promising groceries at your door in 15 minutes or less, so no one has to worry about running out of milk or missing powdered cinnamon for a poundcake recipe.” This near instant grocery delivery service model is old news in London, Paris and Moscow.

An aside: The reporters prefaced news of the concept with the following: “The explosion of internet commerce has transformed New York City, with same-day delivery of a couch, a television or the latest laptop just a few clicks away as more companies compete for faster delivery.” This was posted on November 9. With the container backup I wonder how these promises are working out. A friend’s Christmas ornaments meant for sale in her store are sitting somewhere–but not on her shelves.

There is some downside to balance the convenience: Pedestrians are already at risk with the multitude of delivery people on bicycles–many motorized, driving at top speed in the wrong direction or on sidewalks. And what about the bottom line pressure on grocery stores whose owners pay dearly for substantial real estate and staff? And I cringe for the countless bodegas that city folk depend on for a quart of milk or can of soda.

Columbia Business School professor Mark A. Cohen conjectured that “grocery companies cannot realistically deliver in 15 minutes every time as their order volumes increase, or hold on to customers who may give them a try but grow disappointed with the limited selection of products.” Competitors working in some Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx neighborhoods include Buyk, JOKR, Gopuff, Gorillas, 1520 and Fridge No More. A supermarket carries some 35,000 products, report Hu and Marcius, where the micro hubs, maintained for fast delivery, stock from 1,500 to 5,000. One delivery worker told the reporters he dropped off 18 orders over 10 hours.

How does the model work that offers low or free delivery charges and products at standard prices? It does for those businesses, “with investors funding their operations for now,” the reporters wrote, that don’t pay for checkout or customer service employees and buy in bulk from manufacturers. Their locations needn’t be prime nor space big and they maintain tight inventories with little waste they reported.

If the price of goods remains moderate and delivery charges modest I see a use for the 15 minute delivery in market niches such as parents caring for infants and young children as well as the infirm. The frantic who juggle too much would also be likely targets.

Back to my quiche. I wouldn’t have ordered half a dozen eggs through a high speed grocery delivery service. I’d need to retrieve the package from the lobby because deliveries have not been permitted upstairs throughout the pandemic. Once downstairs I’d rather walk up the block to the deli than order online.

I’m statistically insignificant. I’m surely among the few in my giant apartment building who enjoys picking up my Chinese and Mexican takeout meals. What’s seven blocks? [Many other options are a block away but are not my favorites.] At certain times of day and on weekends the numbers of food deliveries to athletic looking 30-somethings made to this building are jaw dropping.

Do you think this almost instant food delivery service will be a flash in the pan? Does the concept appeal to you? Will you give it a whirl?


Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Service of Arsenic in Baby Food

Thursday, October 21st, 2021


Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

In upper school I read that some Victorian women took a tiny bit of arsenic to make their skin whiter. The poison accumulated in body tissue with adverse results. I remembered this because I couldn’t get why anyone would want to be whiter. At the time there was almost nothing I wanted more than to be tan. But I digress.


Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay 

Period manufacturers added arsenic to paint and wallpaper–not healthy–and it was many a murderer’s favorite ingredient. Think Amy Archer-Gilligan the serial killer celebrated in the 1944 movie “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Archer-Gilligan, who was said to have killed between 20 and 100 people, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1919 and lived until 1962.

So I sat up straight when I saw Allison Prang’s Wall Street Journal article “House Subcommittee Hits Baby-Food Makers Over High Metal Content,” with subhead “Report by Democratic members calls out companies over arsenic levels, recalls and product-testing requirements.”

Prang reported: “Some top baby-food makers didn’t appropriately recall products that contained higher arsenic levels than allowed by the government, according to a recent congressional report.”

She noted: “Heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and mercury naturally occur in soil and water. Baby-food makers have said their products contain these metals at safe levels.”


Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay  

Consumer Reports added some information:

  • Can manufacturers exacerbate the situation adding to the damage of naturally occurring metals? CR: “parts of the manufacturing process, including the addition of vitamins and mineral mixes, may be contributing to the problem.”
  • According to CR, the process to remove toxic heavy metals “isn’t effective enough.”
  • More info about where heavy metals come from. CR:  “most of the heavy metals in food come from soil or water that has been contaminated through either farming and manufacturing practices (such as pesticide application, mining, and smelting) or pollution (such as the use of leaded gasoline).”
  • CR maintained it’s possible to manufacture food with low/acceptable levels.
  • Babies’ brains, minds, immune and cardiovascular systems can be harmed possibly lowering IQ and creating behavior problems and ADHD. There’s also risk for skin and bladder cancer.
  • Are some foods more prone than others? CR: Yes: rice, sweet potatoes, apple juice, and grape juice.
  • And if you make your own baby food? CR says it will “eliminate the risk of any heavy metals from additives used in the food” but may not lower them in the child’s diet and depending on the food may increase them.

I’m equally amazed and appalled that major companies didn’t recall foods identified for having unacceptable levels of arsenic and other heavy metals. What marketer can live with these decisions? How dare these people jeopardize the health of babies and the reputations of the well-know brands they represent?


Image by 5686750 from Pixabay 

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