A Little Introduction

A refresh of a slightly shopworn model Howdy! If you are reading this, most likely you are familiar with my former blog as The 614ortyNiner. And even if you aren’t, the introduction applies equally in this case. I moved to Ohio from California early in the 2010s. As you may have figured out from my previous blog name, there was an underlying theme of my … Continue reading A Little Introduction

California – A (Pseudo)-Revamped Menu

The ancestors of those involved with the effort to recall current California Governor Gavin Newsom have experience telling people to “go back to China.” (Photo from the Los Angeles Times.

I do pay attention my former state of residence more in passing these days, but I can attest to the political wackiness that often accompanies California politics. The mechanics that recalled Governor Gray Davis and brought Arnold Schwarzenegger to the head role in state government in 2003 are plainly in motion with a similar effort to recall Gavin Newsom in 2021.

The perception to many people nowadays is that California is “Woke” Central and always has been that way, at least in recent memory. The reality is a lot more complex – despite the reputation, the state has seen successful passage of such things as Proposition 187 (which barred almost all state services for non-citizens/legal permanent residents in the state) and Propositions 8 & 22 (which defined marriage as between one man and one woman.)

In reality, this is in line with what California and all of the West Coast states have historically done in the past in regards to treatment of POC and other minority groups. As a matter of fact, the Constitution of the State of Oregon had specific anti-African-American language written into it, which was not fully repealed until 1926.

One section of the Oregon State Constitution prohibiting any “free negro or mulatto” from moving to the state

As the state’s recent reputation went toward the more “woke”, the state’s more racist elements simply went more under wraps – I personally knew they were there, but you hardly ever saw signs of them. But as ongoing demonstrations by White supremacy groups like the Proud Boys in Southern California have proven, the past few years of the Trump presidency have seen those forces emboldened.

The COVID pandemic has in many ways awakened the Asian-American populace of this country. Growing up, I heard about and bought into the whole “model minority” label without fully understanding how insidious it actually was. One, it was an acknowledgment that Asian-Americans were acceptably quiet when it came to protesting society’s wrongs and wrongs against Asian immigrants, with rare exception.

Moreover, it was meant as a denigration of other minority groups (namely, African-Americans) which gave people of a certain ilk an argument of “well, geez, why can’t you be like Asians?” (Of course, the answer is impossible to answer in a short retort, not to mention a fuller understanding of the African-American experience in America.)

However, the hatred directed towards Asian-Americans during the pandemic (a report from Voice of America reports attacks on Asian-Americans had spiked 164% in the first quarter of 2021) has awoken the community as a whole to reality. In truth, Asian-Americans are only the “model minority” when convenient – this country’s history has shown that there has almost always been been a derided group of Asian immigrants of the moment (Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, etc.) and all Asians are, by default, associated with that derided group.

One such incident in this long history was an eye-popping bit I learned during my adult years: the Tacoma Expulsion of 1885 saw the town’s White residents forcefully expel Chinese residents from this Washington state town. As I learned, this became a blueprint for similar expulsions throughout Western U.S. towns for the next several years.

Perhaps it was due to lack of media sources, or lack of population in the country’s western region beyond California, but that template could easily have been named after the expulsion which happened in Antioch, California nearly a decade earlier.

Continue reading “California – A (Pseudo)-Revamped Menu”

Science Still Can Be Fun

Back in the day, science was a fun endeavor with folks like Don Herbert (aka Mr. Wizard) around

One of science’s greatest strengths is also, ironically enough, one of its weaknesses.

Science essentially is humanity’s way to seek out the how and why of the world at large. Of course, when humans don’t know much about a certain process, theories (essentially a “best guess”) are given as to why it happens. Typically, further research is conducted and more information is gathered, which either strengthens, refines, validates or debunks those theories.

But life is complicated, and there are a plethora of things which still sport a ton of uncertainty on the how and the why. That uncertainty leaves the door open to a number of theories, some sporting more credibility than others.

The ongoing pandemic has been a prime example of this, and has probably led to a lot of science fatigue for many. Theories and policies related to how COVID spreads, its virulence, and appropriate prevention measures have been modified based more and better information, or as the virus itself has mutated (at this point, there’s a contingent of Greek-letter-based virus variants spread throughout the world.)

However, a loud minority has taken these changes as distrust, or even lies. Like the snake oil salesmen of yore, people have been touting cures from the iffy (hydroxychloroquine, silver-based solutions and Ivermectin) to the natural (such as Vitamin C, D and Zinc, in various combinations) to the plain bizarre (the rather scary cure of bleach.) Some have even ventured off into conspiracy land, claiming that experts are in concert with Big Pharma and what not to ruin the fabric of America over something no worse than a cold (never mind the fact that a lengthy stay in the hospital, a fate of quite a number of the world’s residents, will line the pockets of Big Pharma similarly nicely as well.)

Doubts about science theory have been prevalent throughout history. Perhaps one of the more famous ones resided in the generally accepted notion that the Earth was the center of the universe. The Heliocentric Theory (where the Earth rotated around the Sun), brought forward by such scientists as Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei, brought them into direct conflict with the Catholic Church, who were firmly in the then prevailing theory camp. It wasn’t until decades later when further work by scientists like Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton were able to convince both the Church and many others that the Sun was the center of our universe.

But befitting science’s nature, even generally accepted/proven theories like Heliocentrism have their detractors. In this case, this lies mainly in those who still believe in the Flat Earth theory. This theory essentially argues that all celestial bodies are rotating “above” the flat disc that is the earth, the Arctic Ocean is the center of this disc and that Antarctica acts as a wall to prevent people from falling off said disc.

Despite some seemingly obvious problems with the idea (for example, how do you get Antarctica and the Arctic region to stay dark for several months at a time during the year with everything floating “above” the disc), a stubborn minority still holds this view. Some have even cited things like religion (via the Bible) to support their belief; interestingly, there are folks in the religious sector (such as the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) who discount this line of thinking altogether.

Perhaps that’s one thing science cannot account for – the lens of the human brain. That lens can be as imperfect as anything, bending truth, half-truths, and plain old wrong information to cater to an individual’s personal preferences, biases and faults.

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Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Emmett’s Cafe in their growing culinary corner on Columbus’s South High Street

2020 would have seemed to be the worst time to enter the restaurant world, but that’s what Ben Kelley and a host of partners did when they opened Emmett’s Cafe in their edge-of-German-Village location in October.

I admit I didn’t think much of it at first. There were plenty of more familiar favorites that needed our support during pandemic times. Also, Emmett’s isn’t as convenient a location for us to get to, especially in an era of takeout (freshly cooked food is only naturally going to suffer the longer you have to transport it.) Finally, nothing specifically jumped out at me on the menu, save for the slightly intriguing twist of Aussie-based coffee drinks on the menu.

Appearances are often deceiving, and in this case they definitively were. The coffee drinks are good, but the menu items have more than exceeded our expectations.

I heard from others that the Breakfast Burrito was a must-try. I was skeptical (I mean, a breakfast burrito is a breakfast burrito, right?) And my general belief is if you’re going to do one, you’re better off at a Mexican restaurant.

But I bit. And I bit and I bit and I bit some more until I was all done.

The Breakfast Burrito from Emmett’s Cafe

In fact, several times we have bit on this burrito and other Emmett’s Cafe goodies and we can safely say this is some of the most delicious fare you can grab in the metro these days. The referenced burrito’s ingredients come off as gourmet (including crispy prosciutto, tater tots, and chipotle aioli), but the final experience comes off as completely satisfying as opposed to being feeling fancy for fancy-sakes. The just about equally as good Meat & Tato also sports some gourmet-style ingredients (arugula, house-pickled onions, and an Everything Roll from the always welcome Matija Breads.)

We’re happy when we find breakfast items without egg on the menu (instead of having to ask to remove the egg) and Emmett’s has two such items in their bowls – the very good South High Salad and the even better Harvest Salad. Even their Treats, while not large in number, are big on flavor, such as their Choco-Tahini Crispy and the Lemon Rosemary Bar.

Bowling us over with delicious fare

Emmett’s has proven so popular that they’re on their way to opening up a second location, at the Open Air facility in Clintonville, with Wolf’s Ridge Brewing’s new brewing/dining venture Understory and Butcher Shop Fitness facility as neighbors.

Deceiving indeed…in a good way.

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Why Are There No Chinese Restaurants in Columbus?

A question posed to WOSU’s “Curious Cbus” led me back to a pet peeve of mine

Truth be told, the title of this blog post was not the question actually asked. But it sure did inspire the title, and gave me cause for some reflection.

The question, as posed in the “Curious Cbus” segment of WOSU News, was why did Columbus, unlike other cities, not have a Chinatown? My initial instincts proved correct when I read the response, which lies in the real estate adage “location, location, location.” Early Chinese immigrants who traveled to this country tended to settle in port cities like San Francisco and New York; meanwhile, land-locked cities like Columbus were harder for immigrants in general to get to.

Anti-immigration laws like the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act stalled out significant growth for Chinese populations in this country for over sixty years; those that remained in the country would travel elsewhere for work. However, Columbus did not see any substantial growth in their Chinese and other Asian populations until the mid-1960s, especially when the Hart-Celler Act of 1965 eliminated the national origins quota system that had been in place prior.

Interestingly enough, if you followed the “Best Of” polls of a certain local magazine, you might wonder if there were actually no Chinese restaurants in this town of nearly over 900,000 people now.

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Here Comes The Shun

Remember 2020? That was, among other things, the year of the heroic retail and restaurant worker/owner, braving a very uncomfortable period of uncertainty and stress from both panicked consumers, the closure of dine-in services in numerous communities, and facing a virus whose true virulence and death- and long-term-complication-causing impacts are still being discovered even midway into 2021.

Well, as things wobble around precariously back to whatever new normal emerges, these workers have returned back to their typical status of not being thought of highly at all. Many politicians would have you believe they’re all just being lazy, getting fat while sucking up government handouts versus being a gainfully employed “good American.”

(FWIW, $300/week unemployment checks over one year is $15,600; full-time minimum wage in Ohio gets you nearly $3K more than that. And neither amount will get the average adult even a bare-bones living in Ohio or pretty much any state in the Union…but I digress.)

People are back to being more enthralled by someone like Richard Branson, who recently rode a wave of enthusiasm with his recent trek to the edge of space. In spite of his proclamation that his mission was “to turn the dream of space travel into a reality – for my grandchildren, for your grandchildren, for everyone,” the reality is these flights are almost exclusively going to be the realm of the well-heeled/well-connected for now.

And whether you take the optimistic view of Ars Technica or the dour view of The Atlantic, the reality is those with the money and/or fame will be deemed the heroes, not the everyday worker. Even in places like the former Communist Soviet Union, folks like Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin got the parades, not the local corner store clerk in Moscow who handled shitty customers with grace and aplomb for years on end.

Many retail and hospitality businesses are looking for workers to come back to the fold, but despite politicians’ claims, I believe there aren’t as many available to go back. Many have simply moved on to new jobs – colleges like Columbus State had grants for individuals to learn new skills, and many took them up on it. The rise of remote teleconferencing and similar has generated a whole new field of jobs which unemployed people filled. A few hearty souls have even ventured out and went into business for themselves during this period. More tragically, some former retail and restaurant workers have died or have acquired long-term complications from a bout with COVID, or are dealing with similar circumstances with a family member in their care.

Some are finding challenges to getting back to the working world, especially families with children who were challenged by schools going to remote learning or the shrinking of child care options.

And even those folks who are riding unemployment benefits until they are forced back into the workforce – can you really blame them for doing so? Is minimum wage and almost certainly lack of benefits worth the passive/aggressive (or in some cases, just darn aggressive) attitude people who were against masking regulations and/or vehemently anti-vaccination? Or worth wading back again into the COVID-19 muck, now driven mostly by the more contagious Delta variant (even many Republicans, with wide speculation about the reasons why, have done a complete 180 in regard to encouraging vaccinations.)

Amidst this, another group of people came up in my mind recently, a group which has had trouble even obtaining a chance for gainful employment in better times in order to better their life circumstances.

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The 614ortyPlatter – The Food Encyclopedia (N-Z)

We started off our first volume of my off-the-cuff Food Encyclopedia with the first 13 letters of the alphabet at this prior blogpost. Well, a couple things happened in the meantime, including a change in blogging platform and a random post or two in between. But indeed, this is one of the tangents in which I felt my original blog was no longer sufficient for … Continue reading The 614ortyPlatter – The Food Encyclopedia (N-Z)

If Life Was Only Parfait

I have written about Belle’s Bread before on my previous blog in 2017, when I was out exploring the excellent ice cream scene in and around the Columbus metro. Since then, I have learned they have much more than a mean soft-serve ice cream swirl, offering a number of cakes, breads, cookies and coffee drinks to tantalize the taste buds.

For those unfamiliar, this Japanese Bakery is but one of several culinary gems located in the Japanese Marketplace complex in the Northwest neighborhood of town. Their French-inspired baked goods have earned them praise on a national level from such media outlets like Food & Wine Magazine. Their existence isn’t exactly what the casual consumer might expect for Central Ohio, until one realizes that the American headquarters for one of the largest Japanese automakers, Honda, is just right up US Highway 33, a relative stone’s throw away in Marysville.

Up until just a few days ago, I hadn’t indulged in their picture-perfect confections behind glass windows. The weather actually justified something like their divine soft-serve ice cream, available in either vanilla, matcha, or a swirl of both, a perfect balance of slightly sweet and lightly bitter.

This time I went with the Strawberry Parfait, and this immaculate construct lived up to its pleasing exterior – light airy pillows of layered cream that floated on the tongue, and fruit flavors that glided in subtly.

As enjoyable as this first parfait experience was, I realized that the better selection for my state of mind at the time might have been better suited for my usual vanilla/matcha swirl.

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The Great Chili-Crisp Off: Volume 1

Three of our five contenders in our first (and hopefully, not last) Chili Crisp-Off.

The first non-standard-condiment I remember digging lay in the Chevy’s Fresh Mex chain of restaurants, which started in Alameda, CA back in 1981. Their salsa which they included with their freshly fried batch of tortilla chips was a revelation, equal parts chunky and chewy, spicy and savory – it was tough to NOT overload on chips while waiting for your main food orders came to your table.

Since then, the flood gates have been open in regard to various hot sauces, salsas, and other condiments that were at one time not almost impossible to find in the standard grocery store. My spouse and I have had our periods where one of them has ruled the roost in regards to favorite accompaniment to the main meal, but lately, that honor has fallen into the realm of the Spicy Chili Crisp. Continue reading “The Great Chili-Crisp Off: Volume 1”