Monday, June 28, 2021

Sobbing At The Salad Bar

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 28, 2021] ©2021

Who knew that June 15, California's official alleged re-opening, would be the happiest day I’ve had in 15 months?  I went to Gelson’s to shop for dinner and was happy to see no cart guys. Nobody spraying anything.  No masks required for customers.

Then a few steps further inside, I saw it, like a mirage in the Sahara.  The salad bar was back.

I actually started crying.  OK, my husband doesn’t call me the Grim Weeper for nothing. But I truly thought salad bars were going to become permanently-retired relics of the past, along with blowing out birthday cake candles and shaking hands. We’d tell our great-grandchildren about them and they’d say, “Seriously? People touched each other? There was food that wasn’t plastic-wrapped?”

Pre-pandemic, Gelson’s fabulous salad bar, along with their hot food bar and soup station, were mainstays of my life.  At the salad bar, you could get exactly how much you wanted of about 50 different salad ingredients, freshly replenished multiple times daily, with a choice of six dressings as well.  I blame my 22 pounds of Covid weight on the loss of that salad bar.  Also from not socially distancing myself from my refrigerator.  But especially the salad bar.

I guess sometimes you don’t appreciate what you have until you don’t have it.  Covid has given us all more opportunities to experience this than we ever wanted.  Like most people, I got the message after three months. Didn’t need another whole year of Appreciating How Good I Had It Before - especially about masks.

Let me be clear that I did, and will continue to, wear masks when required (or someone specifically asks). But for those of us who wear glasses, unloading the mask requirement in most locations was right up there with the salad bar.  For more than a year, I’ve felt like I’ve been rendered legally blind with fogged-up eye wear. It’s amazing I haven’t fallen and broken my hip. In my age group, that often leads to pneumonia and death. Either way, it seemed like I had “respirator” written across my forehead.

We all developed our own comfort zones over the last 15 months about personal boundaries. By definition, anyone whose standards are more lax than yours is a risk-taking idiot. And those folks who are still standing in their back yard wearing masks as they water the tomatoes might as well have gotten Covid for all the quality of life they have (in some of our opinions).

Let me just clarify that my husband and I have probably been less impacted by Covid 19 than 99% of Americans.  We’re retired. Nobody we knew died of Covid.  In fact, no one we even knew contracted it.

Regardless, there are some things I am just totally over.

At this point, I can’t even bear to hear the C words (Covid or coronavirus) or the V words (vaccine and variant).

In various mindfulness classes I have taken over the years, the power of visualization has been emphasized as a way to manage stress.  So when someone other than a doctor’s office says, “have you been vaccinated?” I can visualize myself inflicting some major act of violence on them.  It allows me to continue to smile the whole time. 

Forty-two million doses of vaccine have now been administered in California. Watching the evening news, I think I’ve personally witnessed every single one of them.

I’ve written about the 30+ hour slog it was to get appointments for Olof and me, only to have them repeatedly cancelled.  I feared that as younger and more computer-savvy groups became eligible, it would be harder and harder to get appointments. They’d be giving shots to offshore infants and we’d still be hitting Refresh.

Turns out, we could have gotten a free ticket to Six Flags and a $50 gift card if we’d waited long enough. Now, those once-elusive vaccine folks are begging us to show up.  In another month, they’ll probably be offering foot rubs and a glass of Pinot along with the shot. I’m guessing all those people who waited five hours in their cars to get into PetCo Park are feeling Refresh Rage right now. 

Initially I wore latex gloves at the supermarket, and washed my hands a lot. But I lived for those two trips a week to Gelson’s and a weekly jaunt to CVS. If I lived in a locked-down retirement home, I would have broken out early on.

Plenty of people we know are more comfortable continuing to wear masks which is fine with us. We, however, hoped getting vaccinated would allow us to start living a freer life. As we experienced during this past year with a family friend, Covid isn’t the only horrible thing you can die of.

It’s been emphasized that Covid has probably never going to completely disappear.  Its future course is still unknown.  But as long as Gelson’s salad bar is back, I can live with it.


               Gelsons's salad bar miraculously re-appears.  Was it a mirage?


Sunday, June 13, 2021

How To Ignore Internet Wardrobe Advice

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 14, 2021] ©2021

As anyone who has been reading my column for a while knows, I’m a sucker for “listicles,” those popular website lists like “what your car/phone/plants say about you” and “12 ways to lose 30 pounds in a week.”  So it wasn’t too surprising that when I saw “10 styling tips that will instantly slim you down,” I had to go for it. Especially after the 15-month food felony that was the Covid pandemic. 

The one thing that was clear about this listicle is that it was not geared to my demographic.  I may not be in the pastel polyester pantsuit crowd just yet, but for me, it’s all about comfort.  Unless I get a spinal transplant, there is no way a pair of heels will ever grace my feet again. 

So here are the 10 listicle suggestions:

(1) “Invest in shapewear, particularly a seamless slenderizing piece that has reinforced panels to suck in your stomach, slim your thighs, boost your derriere and define your waist when wearing bodycon dresses, clingy skirts, tight pants or evening gowns.”  First, what is a “bodycon” dress?  Does Land’s End sell them? Actually, it doesn’t really matter because I’m pretty sure I don’t own one, or for that matter, any clingy skirts, tight pants, or evening gowns.  Whew! Dodged the fat-squisher bullet! 

(2)  “In terms of skirts, a knee-length pencil skirt is the most universally flattering silhouette.”  Are you kidding?  The only silhouettes that pencil skirts flatter are pencil-shaped people. The rest of us look like fermenting pork sausages.

(3) “Say ’yes’ to higher rise jeans.”  They advise “going for a rise that hits directly above your belly button.”  That’s their idea of “high rise”?  I will say no more. 

(4) “Rock out with vertical stripes.”  I will concede that vertical stripes can make a person look “longer”. But we chunkies tend to eschew stripes altogether.  For good reason.

 (5) “Cinch with skinny belts to accentuate your natural waist.” What if you have no waist?  Of course, I make up for it by having multiples of other parts, like chins. And thighs.  But it makes the whole skinny belt thing moot.

(6) “Don’t discount maxi skirts; a well-cut maxi skirt can actually give you the appearance of looking longer and leaner.”  I’d totally agree, so long as you weigh a maximum of 95 pounds.  The rest of us look like a beluga whale about to give birth.

(7) “Buy a new bra.”  I don’t know what it is about aging, but bras just keep getting more and more uncomfortable as you get older.  For me, it didn’t help that I got my chest crushed and three thoracic vertebrae permanently de-stabilized by a drunk driver a few years ago. But maybe I wouldn’t be any happier with bras even if hadn’t had this accident.  I was telling a friend that the first thing I do when I get home is take off my bra.  She said she usually takes hers off in the car.

(8) “Choose heels with a low-cut vamp.”  A vamp, apparently, is the portion of a shoe that cuts across your foot at the front which allegedly gives your legs a slimmer look, even as it cuts off circulation to your toes.  A high vamp shoe comes up the foot and possibly up to the ankle.  (Do Orthofeet lace-up walking shoes count?)

 (9) “Mask problem areas with dark colors and highlight assets with bright colors.”  Not a bad concept, but what if your whole body is a problem area? Do you wear all black?

(10) “Wear all black.”  You were probably waiting for me to shoot this one down just like I did the first nine but this one I could (mostly) get behind.  OK, I don’t wear ALL black which seems a tad funereal. But I’m really big on the slenderizing effect of black slacks.   When my young granddaughter was visiting one weekend, she queried, “Mormor, why do you always wear the same thing?”  As I explained to her it only looks like the same thing.  Mormor actually has eight pairs of those black slacks (and at least as many white tops the combination of which I admit make me look like a server at a trendy trattoria).  It is my personal opinion that black slacks best minimize years of abuses of chocolate and chardonnay.  I wear them with colorful tops and sweaters even if they bring attention to areas that No. (9) suggests I shouldn’t be highlighting.  But tough luck. I like color.

Unlike my college years when I wore miniskirts to sub-zero college football games (can you say “bronchitis”?), I am no longer willing to suffer for fashion. And I would also aver that all the camouflaging tricks in the world won’t help chubby folks like me look good in anything that’s tight.  Sorry, listiclist lady. That’s the word from the trenches.



Sunday, June 6, 2021

I Ate The Dog's Cupcake

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 7, 2021] ©2021

Over the twelve years I’ve been writing this column, chocolate has been a frequent topic, most recently as a health food, which, by the way, it has finally been determined to be.  I was definitely born too soon.

Of course, I recognized the health properties of chocolate long before science figured it out.  Some years ago, I discovered that, unknown to any but the most dedicated wrapper-reading chocoholics, one can supply ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of one’s daily calcium, riboflavin, protein AND fiber requirements (never mind a whopping 50% of your daily iron) with only twenty-five vending machine-size packages of M&Ms – all with no trans-fats and staying WELL within your daily sodium and cholesterol allotments.  

Not surprisingly, chocolate lovers tend to gravitate toward each other, partners in cocoa-buttered crime.  I have a wonderful neighbor named Jill who is always up for a field trip to what we call the The Cupcake Place. Annoying construction delays and impossible parking have never deterred us. Where there’s a cupcake, there’s a way. 

During the pandemic, Jill discovered that with a minimum order of $25, Cupcake Place will deliver. I’m kind of sorry she told me. But Jill’s deliveries usually translate into more cupcakes than even she wants to eat in one sitting, so she often brings two over, allegedly for Olof and me. 

She knows, of course, that Olof will never eat his cupcake, partly because he just isn’t a sweets kind of guy. But mostly because I always eat his first, the non-chocolate one, just in case that changes. While my preferred flavor is chocolate, anything with two inches of gooey frosting has my vote. 

Cupcake Place understands that cupcakes are a vehicle food.  Hotdogs, for examples are vehicles for mustard. Cupcakes are vehicles for frosting.  The cake part (or the hotdog) are mere delivery mechanisms.  Alas, most cupcakes are all-too-frequently mostly cake and not much frosting, missing the point entirely. 

When Jill made her most recent drug drop, er, delivery, I wasn’t home so she handed them off to Olof.  This included two regular-size cupcakes (chocolate and red velvet) plus a cute little sample one with white icing. The next day, I texted Jill with my thanks.

“Great cupcakes! You are the best friend ever!”

She replied, “So Lily liked hers too?”


Me: “Lily?”

Jill: “Yes, the little one was a dog cupcake.”

Inga: “Ha ha!” What a kidder, that Jill.

Jill: “Seriously. I told Olof.” 

Inga: “Oy. I thought it was just a sample.  But it was great!” 

Or was it? I tried to think back: Did it have an under taste of kibble? And was that why the dog was glaring at me the whole time I was eating it?  Should the little orange dog bone on the top been a clue? Hey, the orange thing could have been a bow tie. And who was paying attention anyway? It was a cupcake!

Sorry, Lily. Next time. 

Cupcake Place describes their canine confections on their website as “a sugar-free cupcake with yogurt ‘frosting’.” Hmmm, why the quotes?  And no further ingredient list.  This made me the teeniest bit concerned.

After all, I recently wrote a column about why some dogs (that would be ours) like to roll in their own poop.  Research indicated that dogs are primally attracted to odors that humans find repugnant. There is also the evolutionary theory that smelling bad would help protect them from predators even though dogs have been domesticated for, like, 40,000 years.   

One of the wonderful things about writing this column is the things I’ve learned from readers.  And right after that column, a reader sent me an article about the difficulties pet food makers have in making pet foods that smell disgusting enough to appeal to dogs but not so bad that it will repel their owners.  Among the “palatants” added to dog food can be such colorless flavorings as “putrescine” and “cadaverine.”  Yum-mo.

Let me say right here that I am not suggesting in any way that Cupcake Place adds either of these to their doggie treats. But you do have to wonder what they did put in it to make it attractive to dogs. And given that I ate it, I am at least mildly curious. Thus far, no one has accused me of having doggie breath.

But another advantage of writing this column is that people don’t only send me links to interesting articles.  For the first time ever in the 12 years I’ve been writing, someone replied to my recent column on chocolate as a health food by sending me actual chocolate. And no, not M&Ms!  It’s called Volo and let me tell you, this stuff really is insanely good. And yes, healthy! One of the types even has chunks of candied orange peel which in Inga Land technically makes it a fruit, and no one can argue that Vitamin C isn’t good for you.

But from now on, I’m going to let Lily have the cupcakes with the little orange bones on them.