Thursday, November 30, 2023

Covid Chronicles. Chapter 90: Menu Planning and Game Playing

Read chapter 89 here

Friday, November 27, 2020
The first few weeks after Wisconsin’s official start of the pandemic — March 17th, when Governor Tony Evers issued a safer-at-home order — felt like an unplanned vacation in a nameless, off-the-beaten-path location. No restaurants. No bars. No movie theaters. No libraries or museums. No shopping malls. Not even a church. 

At least we had wi-fi. 

With the virus cutting us off from our usual array of entertainments and diversions, we heartily embraced two of the few remaining options: food and games.

Andy set the stage for menu planning. 

“What are we going to have for dinner tonight?” he asked each morning during the early days of his return engagement. 

Soon thereafter, he took a slightly longer view. 

“What should we have for dinner this week?” 

At this point, the three of us offered up suggestions and volunteered to take a slot or two. Generally, one evening per week involved take-out, our contribution to supporting local businesses during these tough times. Weekend meal planning tended to be more spontaneous, oftentimes depending on what was on sale at Knoche’s. 

Photos by Retiring Guy

Best butcher shop ever, in our estimation. It has an old-fashioned, “little store” kind of feel to it. Although the layout is not the same, I think of Foreman’s every time we shop there. 

Photo creditNext Door

As for my suggestions, I find the Sunday “At Home” section of the New York Times to be a useful source of new recipes. Not that we ignored our standbys. Andy regularly prepares his pork spare ribs recipe, and so far this fall, I’ve made spaghetti and meatballs every other week. Korean Bulgogi Bolognese Zibdiyit Gambari (Spicy Shrimp and Tomato Stew) 

We grilled out regularly during the summer, always hoping that Knoche’s would have steaks on sale for the weekend. Fortunately, the sky-high price of beef that we experienced during the first two months of the pandemic — nothing less than $20/pound — returned to Earth by the Memorial Day weekend, which meant that steaks were regularly on the menu on summer weekends. 

Needless to say, we’ve been eating well since mid-March. Fortunately, the three of us have no excess pounds to show for it. In fact, thanks to the exercise bike, I will soon need to tighten my belt another notch to keep my pants my sagging. 

Once Andy moved in with us, playing games became a part of our evening routine. We resurrected the various editions of Trivial Pursuit we have in our board game collection. Once we started to experience too many repeats, we ordered the latest edition online. On top of the initial pandemic disorientation, I felt as though I had traveled back in time to the mid-1980s, by which time the board game had become a phenomenon, creating a nation of trivia junkies. In 1984, JoAnna and I spent a portion of the Labor Day weekend with her parents in Two Rivers. We spent all day Saturday in a marathon Trivial Pursuit session with the Walters family, starting in the early afternoon and continuing well after midnight. (With time out for putting on the feedbag.) I felt as though I had OD’ed on the game. 

“I think I played enough Trivial Pursuit this weekend to last me a lifetime,” I announced to JoAnna on the drive back to Oshkosh. 

The addictive nature of the game proved too powerful to give this statement any weight. The occasional marathons with various friends continued into the early 1990s. 

We also played Wizard, an equally addictive card game to which Eddie introduced us during our Germany trip last year. These sessions reminded me of the many rounds of Crazy Jacks and Uno we played during family vacations at Spread Eagle and my pre-JoAnna visits to Warren. I can’t recall the year – somewhere from the mid-to-late 70s to early 80s -- but I have a hazy memory of four of us (Mom, Dad, me, and _?_) sitting around a card table set up in the living room. ‘Hazy’ is definitely the operative word here. 

As a result, since the mid-1970s, I always associated playing games with family gatherings. Best of all are the hours we spent during our Warren visits around the dining room table, the dinner dishes cleared away and Mom in the kitchen cleaning up while the rest of us played the dice game. It was an activity in which the boys could participate from an early age. Mom, of course, always refused any help, and I imagine the sound of our conversation, laughter, and carrying was the most beautiful music to her ears. Once she finished up, she rejoined us, only to have Taury or Jazz start begging for ice cream. 

\By the way, our game-playing during the early days of Covid lasted about a month, when the idea of being on a vacation lost its allure. 

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