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.
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.)
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.
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)
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.
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”