My favorite kitchen implement was designed to fail. It’s a $12 set of kitchen tongs I’ve had for over a decade. An exceedingly simple machine comprised of opposing bent stainless steel pinchers held together around a spring by a couple of pins. With a fatal flaw: the pins and spring were made of mild steel, rather than the stainless steel of the grasping surfaces. This thing should have outlived me. Instead, the pins and spring rusted out last week.
Naturally I decide to fix it. I spent an embarrassing number of hours researching and about $20 ordering the closest replacement parts I could find. I mustered my lackluster welding skills along with the extremely expensive equipment I own for difficult-to-defend reasons. I am tempted to imagine in detail the design process that led the manufacturer to install rust-prone parts, but I guarantee it only looked good on a spreadsheet.
My beloved kitchen tool is now fixed, but there’s no way I’m supposed to call this a success using any kind of math I know of. My reconstructive dalliance doesn’t work on paper. So, then, why was it so satisfying?
In every worthwhile project, vision inevitably runs afoul of data. It’s easy to spot any human endeavor where data ruled. There are very few complete failures in this camp, at least in the short term and on paper. When they do fail, though, they fail due to bad data or inability to adapt; imagination is beside the point. Financial systems come to mind, as do mass-produced goods, the accumulation of wealth, and almost anything that counts as a franchise.
In the other camp, rational thought takes second seat to squishy things like vision, desire, and will: all the things that barely or just plain don’t work on paper. These, of course, are the very things we work for, that we believe in. Sure, we hope we get the data right enough every once in a while to keep justifying things that don’t really make much sense by any common measure. I mean family, friends, art – as well as, these days, almost any locally owned business paying rent and wages in your community.
Now is a great time to double down on amazing ideas that may not pencil out. Count up every dollar you are fortunate enough to still send away from your home for services and shipped goods: packages, streaming entertainment, phone bills, internet, etc. Now is the time to look for ways to spend twice that with people who live nearby. Below is a list of my favorites, shared here with shameless bias. If they are closed, then sign up for their newsletter, buy gift certificates, or just send them fat envelopes of cash to hand out to their staff.
- Lord Stanley – is offering take-away meals and fresh bread for pick-up, and is working in collaboration with Mr. Jius to put together amazing multicourse dinner kits. I’ve done at least three family meals this way so far and, honestly, it feels like I shouldn’t be enjoying the end times this much.
- Dear Inga – is closed, but her sister restaurant Nopalito is offering take-out. Even if you don’t want food, get in touch with any of this team’s locations (like Nopa and Liholiho) and buy gift cards to help their people. They are offering a 25% discount on gift cards until 4/1.
- Obsidian Ridge Wines – sign up for the winery’s club shipment. I have. Or pick your own two or three favorite wine makers offering shipment from Napa/Sonoma and sign up.
- Tartine – has ongoing offerings of take-away food and baked goods from many of their locations. Check their spots online individually in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Los Angeles for all the details.
- Sightglass – has closed their cafes temporarily, but is roasting strong. Sign up for a coffee delivery. This stuff might be our new currency. If you call LA home, check out their brand new roaster in Hollywood that is gearing up to offer take-away items.
- Four Barrel – has a great subscription service for coffee. They have to-go service from their front door at Valencia, and at the Mill.
- The Mill – Josey Baker is keeping the ovens fired up and offering bread and other goods from the front door. Also look for Josey’s bread at Bi-Rite, Rainbow, Good Eggs, and more.
- Ritual – Check their site for details. A few shops are open for window service. Still roasting from their SF SOMA location, so look for them in stores and on delivery.
- Equator – has closed their cafes, but is still roasting from Marin and is continuing to offer coffee subscriptions.
- Flatiron Wines SF – and many local vendors like them are making deliveries. Look for local distillers like Hotaling. Call up your vendor and ask which local distillers they carry.
- Little Gem – has kept their store on Grove open for take-away and delivery via a couple services.
- Southern Pacific Brewing – is closed. Keep a look-out as they may be working on a way to offer beer for pick-up.
- Mazarine – has closed its doors. Keep an eye open for them.
- Trou Normand – is not open. Get on their mailing list. Keep an eye on them and their sister restaurants to see what happens next.
- Dependable Letter Press – is continuing to run projects with staggered staffing. Now seems like a good time to make something on paper and stop looking at a screen.
Any Services – call up your favorite architect, designer, illustrator, or other creative types and pitch a weird idea to work on. We all know how to work remotely. No bad ideas, no better time.
Thanks for reading. Please take care of yourselves, family, friends, and all the other squishy things in your life.