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Ranking My Isolation Meals

27 people tested positive for COVID-19 last week. As a Bald Spot Editor, I do not get invited to many parties. Yet, somehow, I was one of those 27, and I’ve spent the last ten days living in an isolation house. 

There are only a few things you can do in isolation. You can do homework, play video games, go for walks and eat. That last one, in particular, is the focus of today’s article. Think of this as a time capsule—or a time-Green2Go, if you will—preserving the isolation experience for generations of Bald Spot readers to come. Note that I could only fully taste about half of the entries. 

#9: Sayles Beef Grinder with Fries

My first course came courtesy of Kari Scheurer, who went to Sayles for me and gave me a ride from Goodhue to my isolation house. Kari, if you’re reading this, you’re an absolute queen and I couldn’t be more thankful for you. 

But if we’re talking about queens, this sandwich was a jester. The bread was dry and tough, and the tomato slices were several orders of magnitude thicker than the thinly-sliced beef. There were also peppers, lettuce, onion and maybe some sauce, but I couldn’t taste it. Come to think of it, I couldn’t really taste anything. That was probably because I had COVID-19. 

I still ate the fries.

This sandwich also gets points off for being referred to as a “grinder.” I’m not sure exactly why, but that name makes me mildly uncomfortable. In Illinois, we call them sub sandwiches. That’s how it should always be if you ask me.

By the time you’re reading this, the Sayles specials have probably changed. But if they haven’t, make sure you avoid the Item Formerly Known As A Sub Sandwich. 

#8: Diced Pork Belly (?), Green Bean and Sweet Potato Curry, Fried Plantains

Everyone who knows me knows I appreciate a bit of weirdness now and then. But there are limits. Reheated pork belly is more fat and toughness than real meat, so I didn’t eat much of it. Thankfully, the side dish carried the meal with its somewhat bland yet altogether pleasant flavor. I was especially baffled by the plantains, which were desert-dry and lacked any flavor beyond the cinnamon they came dusted in.

The meal was an interesting fusion of at least two different cultures, I’ll give it that. But just because one can do something doesn’t necessarily mean one should. That also applies to me for trying to use the radiator as a chair yesterday. 

#7: Broiled Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Greens

The first bite of this meal brought me back home. That is to say, it would have—if my home SUCKED. 

The chicken was roughly 80% skin, 15% bone, 4% meat and 1% broken promises. It was slathered in a brown sauce that I cannot recall the taste of despite, at this point, being able to taste. After only a few bites, it deflated into a twisted pile of warm folds, like the remains of a book after my puppy tears it apart. 

And why were the mashed potatoes tangy? I can’t help but speculate that they added sour cream. That’s an old trick my grandma once showed me. But Bon App is not my grandmother. Shame on them for trying to be.

The greens, cooked nicely with cranberries, were the best part, if a bit watery. It’s funny, then, that I was only served one spoonful of them. I suppose that had there been too much, I might have come to take them for granted.

I appreciate this meal for the moral lesson I received at the end. But that’s about it.

#6: Salad


#5: Shrimp Risotto with Carrots and Green Beans

I have mixed feelings about this meal. On the one hand, I will eat anything that contains either shrimp or rice. The fact that this dish contained both meant that I was contractually obligated to clean my plate. But when I finished, I felt both a heaviness in my stomach and a hollowness in my soul. Was this lunch the seafaring spectacular I imagined it would be, or was it lying to me through my teeth? I have no idea, but I felt like I swallowed a bowling ball.

#4: Chicken Salad Wrap With a Pear

I literally could not taste the wrap at all, and I think the same would be true even if I wasn’t sick. I’ve always appreciated a good pear, though. As a matter of fact, Pear was my favorite Annoying Orange character back in fourth grade. But that pear was green and photogenically spotless, and this one was yellow and somewhat bruised. It still tasted good.

It should say something about the psychological effects of isolation that my suppressed Annoying Orange memories are returning.

#3: Sayles Honey Chicken Melt

The day I tried this sandwich, I woke up early to take a rapid test to determine if I could be released early. It was like Groundhog Day. As it turned out, I’d be getting three more days of winter. I was given this meal as a consolation prize.

Did it make me feel better about my extended sentence in COVID-19 jail? Short answer: Yes. Breaded chicken strips in between two pieces of actual bread, topped with cheese and a “house-made” honey sauce—it was a work of art that came with sweet potato fries. The sauce may have been a bit too acidic for my taste, but everything else was satisfyingly crispy. A perfect encapsulation of that “Just Below Restaurant Quality” Sayles style we all know and love. Honey never spoils; I can only hope my mental health follows suit. 

#2: BBQ Pulled Pork, Mashed Potatoes, and Diced Vegetables

This dinner was the first Green2Go meal I received while in isolation.

While I may not have been able to taste most of a food’s flavor profile when I ate this, I could still pick up hints and suggestions of taste. And this pulled pork hinted strongly that it tasted good. The zucchini and mushrooms provided some nice texture variability.

As a Super Mario enthusiast, I appreciated that the mashed potatoes came in block form. I imagined breaking open an item box and getting coins as I tasted the side dish. But then I discovered that lukewarm, rectangular mashed potatoes are rather unpleasant. An unfortunate low point in an otherwise decent meal.

#1: Ham, Turkey and Cheddar Sandwich on Wheat Bread

  When our taste buds are threatened, we must taste through our memories. Some of my best memories of isolation were spent eating this sandwich. The ingredients tasted fresh, and the whole thing stayed together quite nicely. Whoever threw this sandwich together deftly sidestepped the amateur sandwich-making mistakes of slathering it in soggy mayo or forcing in a gelatinous slab of tomato. 

As I ate, I recalled the shrink-wrapped sandwiches they sell at 7-11. This one did not come from one of those decrepit 7-11’s where everything is coated in the scent of stale coffee and the traumatized refrigerators chill the flavor out of everything. This one came from a cozy, kindhearted 7-11 that exists only on a hill in our childhood memories. 

On that slightly sappy note, make sure to never take the present for granted. You never know when you could be forced into a house for ten days due to a highly contagious virus. 

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