Category: Food

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The Urban Pumpkin

Now here’s something you don’t see every day: A pumpkin growing among the decorative greenery-space separating sidewalk and street. My wife and I first came upon the thing sometime last week, while walking home from the grocery store (Smart and Final). Making the same journey today, we were surprised to see the odd round of orange undisturbed. Amazing.

What may not be apparent from the Featured Image (warning: 24MB file), which I captured using Leica Q2: The pumpkin grows precariously close to the street and entrance to a parking lot—on Alabama Street across from the Blvd North Park, which is really located in the less-trendy San Diego neighborhood of University Heights. But, hey, anyone living nearby Smart and Finally can claim to rightly be in North Park. Blvd is real-estate marketing fiction.

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Too Much for Some, Not Enough for Others

Today, while walking with my wife along Meade Avenue in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, I was reminded about the food giveaway still going on at Garfield Elementary. Four full cartoons of skim milk littered the sidewalk and, later, a twist-tied bag containing unopened cereal and other sugary breakfast eats that would appeal to children.

In mid-March, California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered the closure of most businesses and all schools. While the state is now reopening and adults return to work, kids remain home—many with parents who are still furloughed or fired. San Diego County’s unemployment rate is a staggering 15 percent, up from about 3.5 percent before the lockdown precipitated by the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19pandemic. Select schools offer free food to needy families, and they are many.

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Why Watermelon?

As I crossed the Vermont Street Bridge from San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood to Hillcrest today, something strange stopped my morning walk. Why was there cut-up watermelon? Was it left for someone—perhaps the homeless gent wrapped in a blanket, lying still, and (likely) sleeping on the sidewalk outside the structure’s entrance? Was it a flavorless, abandoned breakfast? The slices looked fairly fresh and no flies swarmed about. So free from wildlife and human attention, the makeshift meal could have been the final feast of the apocalypse.

Update, June 19, 2020: Call me clueless! This morning, I showed the photo to my wife, who scolded: “You do know that there’s a stereotype about black people eating watermelon?” That’s news to me. “I love watermelon, and I don’t understand why there’s some kind of negative stereotype about it”. She, and me, is hyper-aware, given three weeks of protests about racism in America.

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From Fallen Flowers the Taco Truck Rises

The Taco Truck is a daily fixture, typically gathering a constant line of customers nearly all day long, at the corner of Meade and Texas in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood. But after California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide “stay-at-home” order on March 19, 2020, the food service operation vanished—for more than three weeks. I wondered why given that eateries offering delivery or take-out were permitted to stay open. What’s not take-away about a food truck serving burritos and tacos?

A few days before April 12, when I shot the Featured Image, the Mexican meals-on-wheels reappeared, but without standing tables alongside for customers and with a whiteboard upon which was scribbled a phone number to place orders to be picked up at the window. I suppose selling something is better than nothing, despite the stolen ambience and charm that made the place popular plus—that is festive and social, and, of course, good eating.

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Thin Crust Topped with Thick Irony

For days I’ve wondered about making one last Pizza Hut order—a final reach for what was before embarking on what is. Should I take away, like usual, or choose delivery? Last night, on my wife’s advice, I chanced pickup and nearly dropped the pies on the way to the car. Marketing messaging on the box caused me to laugh uncontrollably. Oh, and I desperately needed the chuckle, as do many more of us. “March Madness”: How ironically appropriate for circumstances.

The SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—better known as COVID-19pandemic is upon us. As I started warning family more than a month ago, the contagion is a transformative event unlike anything experienced by human society for many generations. Everyone’s lifestyle will change. The world we knew is gone. Poof!

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Candy Crush

If you believe the Wall Street Journal (and some other news outlets), “No One’s Making Sweethearts This Year, Crushing Lovers of Valentine’s Day Candy“. NECCO (New England Confectionery Company), the manufacturer behind the confection, closed its doors in 2018. Sweethearts’ new brand owner, Spangler Candy Company, hopes to have production lines ramped up for Valentine’s Day 2020, but existing supplies are limited for this year. Hehe, good thing this stuff has long shelf life.

Given the Sweethearts shortages, I was surprised to see a bowl of the candies strategically placed between the cosmetic and jewelry sections inside Macy’s Fashion Valley. Shouldn’t there be a security guard to protect these precious commodities from smash-and-grab robbers rushing the bowl? I imagine a sitcom plot where an attempted jewelry case robbery is merely a distraction for stealing Sweethearts instead. 

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Fido Confections

Among the stereotypes that cling to Californians: Their love of—no obsession with—dogs. Take a peek into this window of a local dog bakery. I could understand meat pie. But cake? Welcome to SoCal, where residents primp tail-waggers and fawn incessantly over them. I am aghast how the fussy folk here let their beasts pee and poop everywhere. Sure, most dog walkers carry baggies to clean up the hard deposits. But the liquid soils sidewalks and anything along them; considering how rarely rain falls, this crap clinging to shoes and dust that becomes airborne can’t be healthy. So why in a state where residents also are lifestyle-profiled as being health-obsessed is there such contradiction?

In County cities Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, San Diego, Santee, and Solana Beach, there are about 162,000 licensed dogs, according to official statistics. Human population for the same locales is about 2.15 million, says the Department of Animal Services. FYI: San Diego Humane Society assumed responsibility for providing county animal services to these communities during second quarter of this year. If you’re local, and interested in domestic or wild beasties, SDH’s annual report is informative reading. 

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The Book of Our Times

It’s catch-up time for things I meant to post but put aside, temporarily. Family drama! Perhaps you will read about it in the future, but likely not. Now to the main course: On Oct. 21, 2018—the day after reading that San Diegans spend more on alcoholic beverages than residents of any other city in the United States—I spotted something surprising on a table outside LeStat’s on Park. Did someone forget the book? Was it purposefully left behind—seemingly appropriate commentary about America’s “booziest city”?

For sure, breweries are commonplace, and most eateries serve alcoholic beverages, which also are sold everywhere—not predominantly in liquor stores but from pharmacies, supermarkets, warehouse stores (e.g. Costco), and more. 

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La Croix Sticker Shock Gives Me Nose Bleeds

What a difference branding makes for sale-pricing. Before La Croix became a posh, bubbly brand for environmentally-minded, organic-obsessed, uncompromising-to-spend-less Whole Foods sundry shoppers, my wife and I regularly purchased the seltzer. We preferred the no-flavor water for its effervescence and low-sodium content. I remember when, going back just five years, the local Ralph’s sold cases of 24 12-oz cans for $4.99 during summer months.

But now that La Croix is the Apple of bubbly waters, those cans cost lots more. Today, in the same Ralph’s the exact quantity deeply discounted is twice as much—and that’s helluva savings when one case of eight typically sells for what I used to pay for 24. 

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How Sweet, Sour Fruit

Fruit trees are among the signature characteristics of San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood. You see them—particularly the citrus varieties—on the front lawns of many homes. Too often, ripening trees appear to be neglected, bearing plentiful, but rotting, delights. That said, some people gladly share, by setting out their bounty for the taking—like this line of lemons that I saw late yesterday afternoon along Maryland Ave.

Because I recklessly left Leica Q at home, the Featured Image and its companion were captured using iPhone 7 Plus. Vitals for the first: f/1.8, ISO 25, 1/60 sec, 3.99mm; 5:31 p.m. PDT. The other is same, except for 1/40 sec shutter speed and 5:32 p.m. timestamp.