It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: COVID-19 Gooses Local On-Line Shopping and Home Delivery Options

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood – soft sunshine, with fluffy clouds scudding overhead – after a windy, wet, and unseasonably cold – 50 degrees F! three days.

Today, I find myself reflecting on Memorial Days past.

It’s been a long time since I was last in the U.S. on Memorial Day. My most vivid memories are of how I celebrated the day during my high school years. I played clarinet in the Newton High School Marching Band, the headliner for the town Memorial Day Parade. The sun is always shining in my memories of those parades, when we marched clad in heavy woolen uniforms and wearing our spiffy freshly-polished white shoes, playing show tunes, Sousa marches – and most appropriate for a holiday originally established to honor Civil War dead, the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

The parade always ended on a somber note, when town dignitaries – the mayor, various freeholders, the high school principal – assembled to deliver speeches (or listen to them). Someone always read out In Flanders Fields, followed by the band’s first trumpet playing Taps (aka, the Last Post):

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

With our solemn duty discharged, we’d march back to the high school, then head home for the first of many of the new season’s barbecues, with family and friends sharing hamburgers and hot dogs, potato salad heavy on the Hellmann’s mayonnaise, cucumbers dressed in sour cream,  and a strawberry jello mold, studded with pineapple, grapes, strawberries, and other fruits. Perhaps cake mix cake and Breyer’s ice cream for dessert.

My marching days are long over, as is my playing of the clarinet – although mine still rests at the bottom of our linen closet. This evening, I’ll  fire up my Big Green Egg and grill a steak, to serve with a potato salad – dressed with a lemon vinaigrette – a cucumber salad perhaps with peanuts and chili, and grilled asparagus. Jello salads I’ve long given up, a casualty of losing tolerance for the chemical taste of processed foods. But we’ll finish with a strawberry tart, which I’ll throw together after I’ve uploaded  this post.

Which brings me to one of my main points. The food scene in my Brooklyn neighbourhood has changed, from when what my husband and I call the greengrocer formerly known as Ho’s catered to the local community by selling all ingredients for the Jamaican delicacy, cow cod soup: scotch bonnet chilis, malanga coco, yams, other vegetables, and thepièce de résistance, bull’s penis, stored with dozens of others in a five-gallon plastic bucket.

Ho’s is still in business, trading under another name, and has branched out to sell organic milk, herbs, and other types of yuppie  vegetables. But they’ve not abandoned their Caribbean specialties: ginger beer, various pulses, a broad selection of root vegetables and greens I’ve not encountered elsewhere . And of course, cow cods are still on the menu.

Now back in our Brooklyn home after much of the winter sequestered at the beach, I’ve been happy to see that other local businesses have weathered the pandemic by upping their on-line shopping and delivery games. Right across from Ho’s we now have a decent liquor store – a bright airy shop, rather than the cramped space where workers in its predecessors sheltered behind bulletproof glass. I’ve popped into the shop before, a couple of years ago, when the  selection was well-chosen but meager. That’s all changed and after finding its website, I tried to place an on-line order the other night. But the ordering system was balky -aren’t they always? – and after a lively ‘phone chat with Amanda, the knowledgeable manager, placed my first order. Forty-five minutes later, a  smiling cordial delivery guy – Chad – showed up on his bicycle and handed over my purchases.

Meat I also ordered from my local butcher for the first time online on Friday. That process was hassle-free.  A couple of ‘phone calls were needed to sort some details, but one reason for patronizing a butcher is so I can get exactly what I want, in the quantity I require, cut to order rather than being limited to prewrapped options.

I’m currently awaiting my first delivery from a newish neighborhood grocery store. I usually buy most of my vegetables and fish from NYC Greenmarkets. Alas, the closest one is only open on Saturday, while another nearby is open on Sunday and Wednesday. It rained heavily over the weekend, so I didn’t make it to either market. We’ll see how this delivery option works out.  The variety of foods offered on-line is much broader than what my husband has found on the shelves when he shops in person.

*****

I just broke off briefly to accept my grocery delivery – which went much better than I expected. Too much so. Based the difficulty my husband found with the store’s selection  when he shopped  in person, I ordered more than I needed, expecting the store not to be able to supply all items I selected. But they did. Perhaps their on-line options are more extensive than what they put out on the shelves. So I now have red, savoy, and Napa cabbage. Time to make some sauerkraut and kimchi. Tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. Kale, swiss chard, and spinach.

One challenge shopping in Brooklyn is how to carry home my purchases on days such as today, when in addition to fresh fruit and vegetables, I needed to restock some pantry items – olive oil – and to replenish my supplies of butter, milk, and eggs. Dee, my grocery delivery person, dropped off three bags of groceries, which I never would have managed on my own.

As we head into the summer, I cannot wait to visit greenmarkets again and select my own vegetables from seasonal local options. I suppose for food and beverage stores to have survived during the pandemic, it was necessary for them to make it easy for products to get to customers. It’s not just the evil Amazon that’s developed new distribution options. I expect now that customers have got used to fast and efficient ordering and delivery services, there’s no going back.

So, let me close by wishing our readers who are enjoying a three-day weekend a pleasant day off. I’d also like to learn what you’ve planned for what for many will be  the season’s first barbecues.

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11 comments

  1. GF

    I’m grilling Mahi-Mahi with taco spices. Tacos on the menu today. We have had a cool spring but we have managed to grill a few times before today.

    Reply
  2. Arizona Slim

    Me? I’m slicing a yellow pepper into dipping sticks for, oh, some hummus I bought at the food co-op.

    Wish I could say that I grew the yellow peppers, but…

    …it’s time to go to confession.

    I haven’t been giving my garden enough water. So, this weekend, I’ve been filling watering cans from the cistern. I’ve been a real garden watering fiend, and the plants are starting to look better.

    I shall go and sin no more, garden. And I promise to give you more water.

    Reply
    1. HotFlash

      Yeah, water. We got a ton of rain last Friday, but nearly two weeks w/o a drop before that. I am pretty sure my radishes are toast. I stow my second-best canning kettle near my kitchen sink and chuck in my rinse water, grey water, etc. throughout the day. That gets dumped into a watering can or one or t’other of my rain barrels, and thence onto the plants — waste not, want not. I use a bio dish soap, so I figure I am getting a biological insect wash at the same time. Currently concentrating on my bin of potatoes, which seem to be having a problem with slugs. Or something. BTW, Ms Slim, how’s your mead coming?

      Reply
      1. Arizona Slim

        Mead? Well, let’s say I have a mesquite honey mead that shows quite a bit of promise.

        It’s been fermenting briskly since the middle of last month. That’s always a good sign.

        I’m aiming to have this one into secondary fermentation by the middle of this month, with bottling shortly thereafter. Hoping to enjoy this one on the 4th of July.

        Reply
  3. Carla

    Speaking of sinning, as Arizona Slim just was, for the first official day of summer (forget June 21!) — we’re grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. I made some pretty good coleslaw and opened 1. a can of pork ‘n beans and 2. a bag of potato chips. No dessert needed but we’re well-stocked with our pretty-good local ice cream brand: Pierre’s. It’s a sunny 68 degrees in NE Ohio, but since our patio is in shade at this hour, it feels quite cool.

    BTW, when we have burgs’ and dogs, Kosher dills are a requirement. We haven’t found anything better than Bubbies’ Dill Pickles — have you? They originated in the Bay Area, but now are made in Canada.

    Reply
    1. HotFlash

      Bubbie’s are great! Lately I have been making my own halb-saurs, ready in a week, keep for a week. Every week I do a pkg (half a dozen) of the mini-cukes (so cute!), a tbsp each of mustard seed and dill seed, some garlic (to taste, thinnings are fine) and some hot peppers if you like (crushed red chilis, a Thai pepper, what ya like, what ya got) in a jar. Fill with a 3% salt solution and put something on top to keep the veggies under brine. I set this in another dish/bowl/whatever since it will bubble over (fermentation, you know) and check every day or so, to top up brine and give it a sniff to see if it’s ready. Usu takes a week, but depends on temperature. I had space left over in my jar so threw in some Campari tomatoes, but could be about any veg.

      Brought this to a n’hood potluck last weekend, a total hit. My next door neighbour was like, “You can pickle tomatoes?” Well yes, yes you can.

      Reply
      1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

        Thanks for this recipe. I’m going to try it now, as I have some of those cute mini-cukes. I’ll substitute fennel seed – which I have – for dill seed – which I don’t – and throw in some chipotles. Time also to make some kimchi and sauerkraut with the extra cabbages I ended up with.

        I’ll also make kimchi from some fennel bulbs and a couple of apples, in a 3:1 ratio, fennel to apple, with garlic, chipotles, Korean chili paste, and fennel seed.

        These are all great things to have in the larder to perk up grilled food.

        Reply
  4. flora

    Your intro brought back memories of my own youthful mindlessness about what the day meant to older generations then, (and means to older generations now). The past is past, right? Except not.

    Ah well. Each generation understands in its own time and in its turn. Meanwhile, coleslaw and barbeque! Yes!

    Reply
  5. The Rev Kev

    Soft sunshine, with fluffy clouds scudding overhead? I have no idea what you people are talking about. Here it is the first official day of winter and it is freezing in the mornings. :(

    ‘In Flanders Fields’ is not bad but I still prefer our own Ode-

    ‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.’

    https://www.army.gov.au/our-heritage/traditions/ode

    Reply
  6. David in Friday Harbor

    This was such a lovely piece. A death in the family has forced me to bach it today, but a delicious ribeye and fresh white corn were still in order.

    Today I thought of the futility of war while sitting on the porch of the quarters built during the “Pig War” between the U.S. and Britain/Canada by then-Capt. George Pickett, later namesake of Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg. Fortunately the “Pig War” ended amicably, the only casualties a few Royal Marines drowned attempting to disembark in full kit. What that all wars should end so well…

    Reply

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