Hmm Weekly for December 8, 2020

Tuesday is a maniac's dream

Hmm Weekly for December 8, 2020
Betty Long. Photo by Zala Long.

How Did You Sleep Last Night?

By Lori Teresa Yearwood

TO FALL ASLEEP, Betty Long knows that she must first relax. Problem is, when COVID-19 hit this country in March, the 47-year-old lost her job as a food and beverage manager of an upscale Salt Lake City hotel, and despite applying for countless jobs, she hasn’t worked since.

“I’m always thinking, what’s my next move?” Long said. “Do I stay in the industry? Or do I start over and do something else? This is what I contemplate at night.”

Long, who was making $54,000 a year and living in a gated apartment complex, has been receiving less than half that amount in unemployment benefits. In April, she moved into a three-bedroom apartment with family members who have also been financially set back by COVID.

Every day, she watches the news to see if the restaurants that she might be able to work in are still open.

“Suddenly your job is based on the news of, is your city open?" she said. "Can people travel to your city? Everything has completely changed.”

Every night, to drown out the news of what she can’t control, Long turns up the noise on the devices she wants to see and listen to: her television, her phone, her computer, even her bedroom light.

“It’s hard to sleep because it’s a helpless feeling,” Long said.

During the first six weeks of the coronavirus pandemic in the US, 5.9 million workers in the restaurant industry lost their jobs, the industry publication Restaurant Business reported. That made the industry the hardest hit by unemployment, according to Forbes.

Meanwhile, according to Utah’s coronavirus dashboard, Utah County, which is where Long lives, has a seven-day rolling average positivity rate of more than 31 percent.

“It’s not like you can move to another state or even country,” Long said. “All the restaurants are either closing or barely staying open. A lot of chefs I know have lost their jobs as well.”

Long earned her associate’s degree in 2015 in culinary arts from Salt Lake Community College while raising her daughter, Zala, as a single mother. She described the current job-hunting scene as “cutthroat,” because it feels as if “everyone is suddenly and collectively” applying for a job, she said.

When she’s made it past the online application process and into the job interviews, Long said, she is usually told that the position isn’t actually what it was billed to be.

“The job says general manager, but they want you to manage and cook and bartend—on top of everything else because there is less money out there,” Long said. “I’m like ‘That’s not what the agreement was.’ ”

Still, her experience in the field gives her an open-minded perspective. “You’re talking about restrictions forcing restaurants to go from 100 percent open to 25 percent open,” Long said. “How can they keep staff with that? Everyone in the food industry got hit at the same time.”

In the end, the advertised job titles haven’t mattered, as Long said she hasn’t been offered any jobs yet. Thus, Long, a chef who specializes in cooking for hundreds, if not thousands, at a time, has expanded her job search to the realm of the fast food industry. But those fields are clogged with applicants, too.

“They keep telling me I’m overqualified,” Long told me.

Long once oversaw food operations in a Utah prison, and said she'd thought about working in one again, though prisons are known hotspots for COVID transmission.

“But then I realize that I would be putting my life at risk, as well the lives of those I live with,” she said. “And I ask myself, is it worth it?”

As far as she knows, Long’s unemployment benefits—which come to less than $2000 a month before taxes—ended on Tuesday. Congress has been debating a second stimulus package for months, with no result.

Long is having a difficult time unwinding, as normal activities have fallen by the wayside, including karaoke and hanging out in person with friends. She still takes walks, but even that activity has taken on an additional stress, as so many more people are also outdoors these days, she says. And while she wears a mask, not everyone else does.

“Relaxing is a totally different situation that it used to be,” Long said. “I don’t relax as easily during the day as I used to. And that’s what I need to be able to fall asleep more easily at night. So I never feel fully rested.”

“How Did You Sleep Last Night?” is an ongoing series.

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Buy Two Pies

By Hamilton Nolan

WHEN TIMES ARE good, buy two pies. The first pie will be your primary pie. Maybe pumpkin at Thanksgiving, or apple for the summer barbecue. There’s nothing wrong with satisfying expectations. The second pie is your change of pace. Maybe a cream pie to balance out a fruit pie, or a custard pie to offset a chocolate one. The second pie is just for you. Custom may make its demands upon you, but asserting your own agency can keep you from being trapped by the tyranny of expectations.

When times are hard, buy two pies. It’s wrong to view this as overindulgence. The first pie is the obvious refuge for your sorrows, a place to surround and wall off your fears inside a flaky crust. The second pie is an act of stubborn optimism, an irreversible statement that things will change, and you will soon be luxuriating in an abundance of flavor. The devil will try to convince you that even one pie is more than you should hope for. It is your job to prove him wrong.

When it’s time to celebrate, buy two pies. This way you can be sure there will be leftovers. Let your celebrations not be fleeting moments, but rather occasions that spool out languidly for several days, relived anew in your mind every time you cut a sliver of that remaining pie. Pie for breakfast is its own kind of party. Pie after lunch is a nod to life’s inherent deliciousness. Victorian mores call for modesty, Christian values call for shame. Put those away, and have some more pie. There’s plenty.

When it’s time to mourn, buy two pies. Enveloped in the darker corners of the human condition, it is more important than ever to remember the good things in the world. Your journey up from the bottom of the deepest well of despair will be aided by the comforting knowledge that if you don’t feel like cherry pie, there is a Key Lime in the fridge as well. When it feels as though fate only takes what it wants from us, we must be reminded that there is also pie, which only gives.

One pie is conformity; it meets minimal expectations, does just enough to get by, meekly welcomes guests before retiring back to bed. Two pies are lascivious; they take turns whispering ideas in your ear, always luring you to the lavish side of life. After you have polished off the last slice of one pie, seeing the refrigerator’s light fall upon the glimmering foil of the second affirms that the party is only beginning. The second pie is a shift in perception akin to transcendental enlightenment. It grabs you by your somnolent shoulders and yells, “There is always more!”

The course of world events is indeterminable. All is plagued by randomness. At the smallest scale are quantum bits that we can never locate; at the largest scale is a universe accelerating into oblivion. We will live, and we will die. In the meantime, buy two pies.


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Xmas at Party City

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WE CONCLUDE OUR extended presentation of select recipes from the 1923 edition of The Calorie Cook Book, by Mary Dickerson Donahey: “Menus for Reducing—for Upbuilding—for Maintenance,” with a special addendum, because we kept thinking about a previous week’s recipe for Pepper Hash Sandwiches, which called for “any one of the thick salad dressings.” We realized later that we had never identified any salad dressings, and we couldn’t figure out which ones were “thick.” Some of them have the word “thick” or “thicken” in them, but anyway, in the interest of culinary completeness, we will present—in two installments—the dressings in the “Dressings, Sauces, and Icings” section of Ms. Dickerson Donahey’s book, and maybe you can figure out which ones are “thick.”

Boiled Mayonnaise Dressing
2108 Calories
2 tbsps. oil
2 tbsps. flour
1/8 cup vinegar
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp. mustard
1 cup boiling water
2 eggs
1 cup oil
1 tsp. salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
Mix the two tablespoonfuls of oil and the two of flour into a paste. Add the vinegar, lemon juice, and one cup of boiling water, stirring it in slowly. Cook this mixture five minutes, stirring all the time. Pour it, hot, over two well beaten eggs, beating as you pour, and keep on beating till the mass is cool. Then add slowly one cup of oil and the seasoning. This recipe sounds like a maniac’s dream, I admit. But try it—it is good! It is not quite so rich as the regular mayonnaise, made from only oil and eggs, and it very, very rarely “goes wrong,” which is a relief to cooks used to the utterly depraved fashion in which oil and eggs are apt to behave when they are requested to blend. Also it keeps well—I’ve had it keep a week, in summer, in a woods-cottage where there was no ice or cellar. I generally double the recipe and put it up in half-pint jars. If you wish you can use three eggs, put the yolks only in the mayonnaise and have the whites for a cake or meringue.

2690 Calories
Yolk of 2 eggs
2 tbsps. of lemon juice
2 tbsps. vinegar
1 1/2 cups oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp mustard
Dash cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika
Mix all the seasonings together first; add the yolks of the eggs; beat together, and when thoroughly mixed, stir in just a little of the vinegar. Then begin to add your oil, gradually, oh, very gradually, if you would avert disaster! Stir constantly, and as the mixture thickens thin it with the vinegar and lemon juice. Add these and the oil till all is used. It helps to have the bowl very cold and the oil very, very cold. To make this dressing it seems necessary to have superhuman skill, or superhuman patience, and sometimes both.

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