Does the pandemic have a fun side?

Sometimes I am reminded of my age— when I think of those summers of my girlhood circa the 1980s, when Pennsylvania experienced temperatures that averaged in the high seventies/low eighties and for about 2 weeks every August a heat wave of around 85 degrees.

It also snowed a lot more, and I can’t say I miss that.

Now I won’t be naive enough to suggest this pandemic has been fun. Some people have gotten seriously ill, others have died. Luckily in my circle, those who contracted Covid-19 survived and none ended up in the hospital.

But as I said in the beginning of the pandemic, the Coronavirus has forced us to look at our health system, our purchasing habits, our supply chains, what we need and what we don’t. I have found a more relaxed pace of life, and while I have lost my job, I have found some inner truths that bring me hope. Perhaps that is where my naïveté lies.

Yesterday, I had a business meeting with my first client as a partner in Thrive Public Relations. Thrive is the brainchild of a friend— who has been searching for someone with media, print and editorial experience to complement his digital marketing, strategy and networking expertise. I have agreed to help him, and hopefully this will lead to some paying work that could help keep me afloat and allow me to rebuild my career portfolio.

I spent much of the last year as a grant writer, and would love to highlight some current public relations work to augment my grant writing potential.

So I was asked to attend a business lunch at Sogo Asian Fusion yesterday in one of my favorite environs, downtown Easton. I thoroughly enjoyed, despite the 95 degree heat, dining on the patio. It felt lovely to build an outfit, put on make up and head into the world.

Then later that evening, my propensity for stress-related binge-eating led to me eating most of a jar of “trail mix” — I put that in quotes because it had walnuts and almonds but was mostly butterscotch and white chocolate chips— that my blind friend Nancy gave me for Christmas. I had it on my desk at work and it was one of my possessions that Mr. Accordion drove to my house.

The teenager doesn’t like almonds. So she gave them all to me.

And then my daughter cornered me. She started reciting old bits from Brian Regan, one of my favorite comedians (from the golden age of the early 1990s, before I graduated high school and Nirvana changed the world).

Finally she got tired of her delivery falling flat and we spent an hour watching Brian Regan clips from YouTube on my phone. I grabbed a Diet Coke and finished the rest of the vanilla vodka from County Seat Spirits.

The teenager’s father, my husband of 20-years whom I separated from last summer, does not like stand-up comedy. But a good stand-up comic (like Regan, or Trevor Noah, or for those who have thicker skin and/or less sensitivities Denis Leary and George Carlin), can lift my darkest spirits. So I love the fact that our daughter inherited my taste in comedy.

And when I got up this morning, as mundane life started to overwhelm me with chores and commitments, Nan called.

The Mighty.com had published her piece on our summer picnic and shared it with Yahoo News. It features me, and the teenager, so I got to enjoy reading about my life.

You can read it here: Nan’s summer picnic article on Yahoo News

So maybe life doesn’t look the same as always, but the simple joys don’t really change.

Southern eating and hospitality

In our travels in North Carolina today, we experienced some southern cooking and southern hospitality.

We stopped in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, for lunch at Gardner’s BBQ buffet. It wasn’t exactly what everyone had in mind, but it proved an amazing experience.

Am I using that phrase in every blog post this trip?

The food was good. Not gourmet or incredible but all the southern classics were represented. New Brunswick stew, collard greens, chicken necks, black eyed peas, barbecue, liver, hush puppies, fried chicken, ribs, good old American Mac and Cheese…

The teenagers both had some liver. That impressed me.

Service was phenomenal. The waitress was very patient with my talkative daughter who thought she could be grown up and have unsweetened iced tea instead of southern sweet tea.

She even gave us beverages for the car ride.

And the girls? Can’t get used to Southern accents.

Addicted to Somali Cuisine

I have fallen in love with the food in our hotel in Mogadishu. My amorous affair began with goat, moved to the Somali version of fried chicken, devoured the rice and perhaps might have peaked over the quality of the fruit. And that was just lunch.

I adore eating. I live to eat and enjoy every morsel that enters my mouth.

In Somalia, this was the first taste:

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Rice, with “Somali sauce” in the upper right and banana

Have you ever seen rice so beautiful? I added some of what the servers are calling “Somali sauce,” a hot sauce that seems like a blend of harissa and ketchup.

For a main dish I selected goat. M chose chicken. The other option was camel. Hopefully that will be an option again today. I would like to try camel.

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Goat

Dessert at lunch and dinner is fresh fruit. Appetizer is the best bananas I have ever had and limes. I am not a fuit eater. At home I occasionally eat a banana and I adore raspberries. I can eat watermelon or strawberries but won’t go out of my way to do so. Well, they bring out this melon after lunch, carefully draping a napkin over it to keep the flies off. I liked it. Was a tad indifferent to it, but it cleaned the palate and had a mild, fresh taste.

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Papaya?

When we returned to the hotel early (due to a failed suicide bomb attempt and a still live bomb strapped to a car two blocks away), we enjoyed a coffee, some sort of donut and samosa.

 

On the second day, our tour guide/”fixer” told us to wrap the samosa in the donut. I liked them better eaten separately.

Dinner the first night was chicken steak, spaghetti and a vegetable mix of what appeared to be potatoes, onions, peppers and carrots. It tickled my tongue so much I ate enough for at least two people.

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The spaghetti had an unusual spice to it and a little bit of meat, a tad on the dry side but in a good way. M insists the stray herb is cilantro. I wish I would have taken an after photo of this platter. The staff brought this for the two of it and I demolished most of it.

IMG_7912And then came the fruit course, lovingly and carefully covered with a napkin. I do not eat fruit. My daughter on the other hand eats fruit as if she were part monkey. I ate the papaya (? on the bottom) first. I liked it. Then switched between the mango and the watermelon. In comparison to the mango, which had a texture that melted in your mouth and a potent flavor as if someone had condensed it, the watermelon (though juicy and the most flavorful watermelon I have eaten) seemed bland.

I had noticed earlier in the day, a man in a fouta that squeezed the limes into his water. I had also seen the lime squeezed over the rice. Definitely an “a-ha” moment. M added lime to the Coke he was drinking to combat a caffeine headache. And the staff constantly offers us Coke and bottled water. And the occasional Sprite.

Our guide suggested we try Somali injera for breakfast to compare to the Ethiopian version. Our server offered us “omelette,” liver or porridge for breakfast and seemed a tad surprised we wanted injera. We ordered omelette and then he asked how we liked our omelette. His first offer was “scrambled” so I accepted that and assumed omelette was his term for eggs. He brought a giant portion of eggs, injera and, of course, we asked for Somali sauce. I really believe they make it for us fresh when we request it.

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Somali injera for breakfast with “omelette”

The injera has a crisper texture and is less spongy than the Ethiopian.

Meanwhile, at a nearby table, I watch the same man who revealed the uses for lime. He was having raw egg and honey for breakfast.

When we returned to the hotel for lunch, we dined in the fancier dining room and had no choice of goat or camel. Merely fish, chicken leg or chicken steak. But we started with a lovely cream of vegetable soup, with fresh juices: mango, watermelon and limeade. I drank them all and all delighted me.

Our dinner last night repeated the dinner the night before, and breakfast was also the same today. I must come back and try the camel some day.