COVID-​19

  • By Design

    Artists use ele­ments of design (line, shape, form, value, color, tex­ture and space) to make a con­nec­tion between a com­po­si­tion and a viewer.

    The depic­tion of food in art cuts across all cul­tures and all recorded his­tory. Ancient Greek and Roman ban­quet tables laid out feasts of food as inspi­ra­tion and stim­u­la­tion.

    We’re famil­iar with still life draw­ings, sketches and paint­ings that high­light fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles as the main sub­ject mat­ter.

    This recent long stretch of stay-​at-​home/​cook at home pan­demic behav­ior gives more per­mis­sion to play with our food. Is any­one else out there look­ing at sum­mer pro­duce from an artist’s per­spec­tive?

    Chefs and home cooks have always appre­ci­ated the sea­sonal value of what we eat when. Can­ning, pick­ling and pre­serv­ing are other food cen­tric activ­i­ties that cap­ture the best of summer’s showy spread.

    Food (agri­cul­ture food prod­ucts in par­tic­u­lar) in all it’s forms is a dom­i­nant artis­tic theme. From plant­ing to har­vest and prepa­ra­tion to eat­ing, food imagery is cen­tral to social engage­ment.

    COVID fatigue may be blur­ring the lines of California’s rich agri­cul­tural bounty. Farmer’s are given the tall task of feed­ing our great nation. That is not a new phe­nom­ena. The ever fluid impacts of the pan­demic now weigh heavy on grow­ers to adapt, per­form and deliver.
  • California’s Baby

    Straw­ber­ries thrive along California’s coast­line. Between the west­ern ocean expo­sure and the Pacific winds, fields are insu­lated from any extreme tem­per­a­tures and weather.

    In 2018, Cal­i­for­nia farm­ers grew more than 1.8 bil­lion pounds of straw­ber­ries. That’s nearly 90 per­cent of the nation’s crop.

    It takes a vast, com­pli­cated infra­struc­ture of advanced plan­ning, pick­ing, pack­ing and trans­porta­tion to antic­i­pate and meet world wide demand for straw­ber­ries.

    By this time of year, oper­a­tions are in full swing, with the peak of the sea­son start­ing in late April or early May, and run­ning for six to eight weeks.

    It is par­tic­u­larly impor­tant for farms, as straw­berry sea­son is peak­ing in the next few weeks, to have a game plan. Because coro­n­avirus is peak­ing at the same time, a large por­tion of the mar­ket for the fresh berries has dis­ap­peared.

    Restau­rants receive roughly 15 per­cent of California’s peak har­vest berry crop, accord­ing to the Cal­i­for­nia Straw­berry Com­mis­sion. Most all of them have stopped order­ing strawberries.
  • Cel­e­brate!

    Mother’s Day 2020 was a remark­able hol­i­day. Sons and daugh­ters had to pivot away from nor­mal ways to honor mom.

    Mod­i­fied behav­iors post COVID-​19 takes some get­ting used to. Not every­one is com­fort­able or eager to rub elbows with oth­ers.

    In many cases, elder or vul­ner­a­ble fam­ily mem­bers still require quar­an­tine pro­tec­tion. This makes it dif­fi­cult to gather around a table for cel­e­bra­tion.

    June is a mad month for birth­days, grad­u­a­tions, anniver­saries and wed­dings. Father’s Day is on Sun­day, the twenty first. Expect new ways to show our love and remem­brances.

    Large gath­er­ings have been vig­or­ously dis­cour­aged. Self-​distancing is the new norm for any type of social fes­tiv­ity. Smaller groups of eight or fewer will still have to mod­ify to com­ply with vigilance.
  • Cinco de “Stay at Home“

    Amer­i­cans love to cel­e­brate with food. While it may be still be risky to come together in num­bers, we can use hol­i­day meals to lift our spir­its.

    Cinco de mayo bashes dur­ing lock­down orders is unique. Restau­rant and bar fes­tiv­i­ties have always given the per­fect excuse to rally around the gua­camole, chips and mar­gar­i­tas.

    Place hold­ers for social gath­er­ings have been shared pho­tos of spec­tac­u­lar food prepa­ra­tions. Warmer weather means a greater selec­tion of Cal­i­for­nia grown pro­duce to uti­lize in solo meals.

    Spring tran­si­tion is com­plete for the grow­ing sea­son return­ing to the Sali­nas Val­ley. Salad ingre­di­ents, fresh veg­eta­bles and straw­ber­ries are back on home turf.

    With­out the full return of the restau­rant dining-​in expe­ri­ence, retail, take out and meal deliv­ery options are keep­ing us fed.

    Salad is stay­ing on the menu. Romaine, spinach, endive and other ten­der greens sup­port every iter­a­tion of spring salad com­bi­na­tions. The base can be sin­gu­lar or blended leafy com­po­nents. We are for­tu­nate to have so many locally grown options.
  • COVID-​19 Oper­a­tions Update

  • Curb Appeal

    Tech­nol­ogy has risen to the occa­sion when it comes to keep­ing us con­nected in these days of “social distancing”.

    Online shop­ping and pick-​up ser­vices have enjoyed a surge in demand at retail.

    Once we move past the COVID-​19 cri­sis, it will remain to be seen how this retail shop­ping seg­ment fares.

    Restau­rants of all lev­els of ser­vice (fast casual to high end, white linen) have been hard hit in keep­ing the doors open. Ones that can offer curb­side pickup or take out, are being cre­ative in adapt­ing menus.

    Feed­ing con­sumers is deemed an essen­tial ser­vice. Restau­rants have been there for our cel­e­bra­tions. Every mile­stone– birth­day, anniver­sary, retire­ment or pro­mo­tion feels spe­cial when enjoyed at a favorite din­ing place.

    To those who are the reg­u­lar week­night home cooks, din­ing out is a big reward. The break from the norm gives an indi­vid­ual a chance to relax and be “waited on”.

    Din­ing out typ­i­cally gives choices not usu­ally in the home meal plan rota­tion. Fewer choices is new norm. Picky eaters are with­out their favorite go to.

  • Fields of Dreams

    What was once taken for granted has for­ever fun­da­men­tally changed.

    Eat­ing out at a local restau­rant or café has dearly been missed. See­ing our favorite wait staff and hear­ing about menu spe­cials will be music to our col­lec­tive ears.

    Going to the gro­cery store for weekly pro­vi­sions used to be a chore at best. New restric­tions, pro­to­cols and short­ages com­pound the already stress­ful house­hold duty.

    Nor­mal rou­tines are mor­ph­ing in to excep­tional expe­ri­ences. Curb-​side food hand offs and don­ning masks and gloves just to push a shop­ping cart may be part of the next level nor­mal.

    The food sup­ply chain in Amer­ica has been extremely chal­lenged. For those who can and will con­tinue to afford fresh foods, it is a time for real grat­i­tude check.
  • Ground­hog Day

    We mean the film, not the actual day when some crit­ter in Penn­syl­va­nia comes out to pre­dict the weather.

    The iconic cult clas­sic is a movie in which the main char­ac­ter, bril­liantly played by Bill Mur­ray, is caught in a time warp.

    His guy relives the worst day of his life, over and over. Part of the premise is around the self-​absorbed and arro­gant behav­ior of Phil Con­ners. With­out any con­se­quence, he indulges in reck­less activ­i­ties.

    Cut to 2020 and the COVID-​19 cri­sis. Every day we wake up to more dis­mal news, climb­ing sta­tis­tics and what looks to be a repeat of the day before.

    The cur­rent spell hangs over every per­son, every busi­ness and every agency. We are des­per­ate to break the cycle.

    Stay­ing con­nected with oth­ers is a chal­lenge as mil­lions fol­low man­dates to shel­ter in place. The human spirit is tamped down with­out the pow­er­ful forces of touch, kind­ness and compassion.
  • New Rules

    The vast major­ity of Amer­i­can con­sumers agree that their lives have been dis­rupted by the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

    Along with mas­sive dis­rup­tion has been a cer­tain degree of anx­i­ety, con­cern and fear.

    Vir­tu­ally all pub­lic busi­ness sec­tors have a expe­ri­enced some sort of change, dis­rup­tion or mod­i­fi­ca­tion to work­place pro­to­cols.

    Restric­tions have been most evi­dent for “essen­tial ser­vice” providers like retail gro­cery stores. For any­one with respon­si­bil­ity for doing house­hold shop­ping, notice­able efforts to calm wor­ried shop­pers are evi­dent.

    Retail gro­cers were quick to adopt: Shop­ping cart san­i­tiz­ing, 6’ rule of self-​distancing, rec­om­mended wear­ing of face masks and gloves, plex­i­glass bar­rier pro­tec­tion at check­out and restric­tions of num­ber of shop­pers by size of store.

    Active in-​store food demon­stra­tions, self-​serve salad and soup bars and bulk food bins were at once ban­ished. Fur­ther adap­ta­tions have seen direc­tional aisles, spec­i­fied hours for vul­ner­a­ble shop­pers and floor stamps and mark­ers for COVID-​19 mes­sag­ing.

    Obvi­ously, new rules at retail are some­what com­fort­ing to shop­pers. Most shop­pers grade the store and if they elect to shop there again by what they see as health safety mea­sures being fol­lowed. A sim­ple thing like ban­ning re-​useable bags took awhile to take hold.
  • Safe Trav­els

    When it comes to travel, many will opt for “roads less trav­elled” this sum­mer. Post­cards may reflect local, state and national loca­tions over more exotic global des­ti­na­tions.

    Even then, tight restric­tions to our national trea­sures will likely limit those expe­ri­ences.

    Camp­sites, parks and recre­ational areas will have pre-​set guide­lines for vis­i­tors. Adher­ing to the health advi­sories may pro­hibit even the most dar­ing of trav­el­ers. Road trips are mor­ph­ing into SAFE-​cations.

    For all our shelter-​in-​place bud­dies, grab a new road map. Buckle up for safety. We’ve heard of “stay­ca­tions” prior to COVID-​19. They’re now more rel­e­vant and gain­ing wide atten­tion.

    Plan an at home or close-​to-​home adven­ture. Cre­ative events bring us together in the safety net of our own back­yards. Decom­press­ing and tem­porar­ily escap­ing real­ity is what’s needed for reju­ve­na­tion. Time off from the every­day “new life nor­mals” can breath energy in to worn and weary souls.

    Themed home events– for­eign movie night, cow­boy cam­pout, seren­ity day spa and ani­mal photo safari are wor­thy of explor­ing. Those who’ve trav­elled the world have fond mem­o­ries of cafes in Paris, muse­ums in Rome and moun­tains in Switzer­land. Revive those mag­i­cal remem­brances through newly designed travel events. Food is always cen­tral to any des­ti­na­tion, near or far.

    Pre­pare the foods that sum­mon a nos­tal­gic glance back­wards to happy past travel moments.
  • Self Care

    Much has been writ­ten about these stay at home days. Inter­net jokes abound of free snack­ing and mind­less eat­ing our way through the cri­sis.

    Also on the radar is the not so funny real­ity about true hair col­ors com­ing to light, post self-​distancing.

    One truth is that self care comes in many forms. In the wake of stay­ing healthy, there are mul­ti­ple ways to nour­ish, soothe, com­fort and pam­per.

    Tak­ing vit­a­mins and sup­ple­ments is an act of self-​care. Stay­ing on top of daily require­ments is a sim­ple, sin­gu­lar thing that may indeed pro­vide some immu­nity insur­ance.

    Main­tain­ing a diet rich in fruits, veg­eta­bles, pro­teins and whole foods is a nec­es­sary prac­tice dur­ing stress­ful times. Stress eat­ing car­ries a num­ber of faults that derail healthy outcomes.
  • Star Span­gled

    It’s hard to believe the sight of fire­works stands pop­ping up in park­ing lots across Amer­ica. The visual reminder that Inde­pen­dence Day is still on the cal­en­dar is a jolt to all of us in the food indus­try.

    We’ve all been nav­i­gat­ing the tur­bu­lent COVID-​19 times. To rein­vent how July 4th will be cel­e­brated requires great imag­i­na­tion.

    Arguably the most famous 4th of July food tra­di­tion is the all-​American bar­be­cue. In nor­mal times, this back­yard or park event brings Amer­i­can fam­i­lies and friends together.

    While this year’s cel­e­bra­tions may limit who we gather with or how many are included, there is still every rea­son to put fresh food cen­ter stage.

    Locally grown mel­ons, berries, sweet corn, stone fruits, toma­toes and sweet onions are abun­dant just as we approach the hol­i­day. Putting these farm fresh win­ners on the hol­i­day menu can con­nect us in ways big­ger than COVID.

    All of the stay­ing at home and eat­ing at home has turned con­ven­tional meal shar­ing on its side. We are eager to ven­ture out to restau­rants and cafes and be served by some­one other than ourselves.
  • Stay­ing Con­nected

    The cur­rent world cri­sis has revved up the power of Insta­gram, Face­book and Twit­ter plat­forms.

    We’ve been humored by the cop­ing skills of par­ents, kids, teach­ers and stay-​at– home telecom­muters.

    Uplift­ing sto­ries, videos and images lend bright­ness to oth­er­wise dark days.

    We’ve seen health care work­ers being applauded in the streets. Fam­ily mem­bers in iso­la­tion have been shown on oppo­site sides of win­dow panes dis­play­ing devo­tion.

    Total strangers are reach­ing out with meals, sup­plies and gro­ceries to neigh­bors in need. Good deeds are cap­tured on smart­phones and video cam­eras for the world to witness.
  • Wave That Flag

    Food has always been a gal­va­niz­ing bridge towards under­stand­ing her­itage and dif­fer­ent cul­tures.

    Week what­ever dur­ing COVID con­fine­ment presents the per­fect storm to fly our food flags.

    Leisure travel is off the table. Enjoy the world through the eyes of a chef or cook.

    Col­or­ful assem­blage of plates from desir­able loca­tions feed more than the belly. Cap­rese salad, red, green and white– toma­toes, sweet basil and fresh moz­zarella — bring Italy to the table.

    Pep­pers are an essen­tial Span­ish ingre­di­ent, whether they are fresh, roasted or fried. Served as a side dish or a tapa, red and yel­low are flag emblems of Spain. So too are dishes like gaz­pa­cho (cold tomato soup), romesco sauce or sofrito. Add color and fla­vor of pep­pers and toma­toes to sig­nify Span­ish influ­ences.

    Cir­cle the globe with a week­night menu item that includes sea­sonal dishes from coun­tries of inter­est. Sum­mer corn and zuc­chini latkes move us to Israel for a light sup­per paired with a green salad. They’re per­fectly suit­able for week­end brunch with fruits and eggs cooked to order.

    Inter­est­ing that pre­cious saf­fron is used in Indian main dishes and desserts. This color is rep­re­sented in the national flag. Exotic in color, fla­vor and aroma, take advan­tage of this very evoca­tive spice.
  • We’re Jam­min’

    Just as we start to relax the stay-​at-​home orders, lin­ger­ing DIY projects reward those look­ing to stay in their own lane.

    Shop­pers lucky enough to have found flour, grains and yeast dur­ing total lock­down were a step ahead.

    Indus­tri­ous kitchen bees, with time on their hands, stayed busy mak­ing breads, piz­zas and pas­tas. Pantry sta­ples inspired new ways of putting food on the table.

    Self-​sufficiency doesn’t have to retreat. As we find our­selves return­ing to new nor­mal. Why not carve out some space to keep the home made food thing going?

    Ambi­tious new­com­ers and expe­ri­enced cooks are ready to tackle home­made jams, jel­lies and pre­serves.

    Tim­ing is per­fect with the glo­ri­ous stone fruits and berries com­ing in to sea­son. Cal­i­for­nia cher­ries and apri­cots lead the parade and rep­re­sent the exquis­ite short sea­son of these delec­table fruits.

    Small batch recipes dis­miss any fear of not hav­ing the right can­ning sup­plies or know how. Fewer ingre­di­ents are required and nei­ther are gear or gad­gets to com­pli­cate matters.