Wednesday, January 12, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Restaurants Are Back, But.....

[NOTE: The Prairie Editor, from time to time

asks the food writer Leo Mezzrow to comment

on food issues and trends, restaurants, and

dining out. Here is his newest commentary.]


by Leo Mezzrow, guest columnist


Following the nadir of the 2020-21 global and national 

health crisis and its disastrous impact on dining out, the

restaurant industry is making a recovery, but still facing

challenges of staff employment, food supply, national

economic inflation and diner psychology.


As I have suggested might happen in past articles, there

are noticeable changes, innovations and lingering

questions about prospects. Many restaurants have closed

permanently (but most of their restaurateurs will stay in 

the business), and others, temporarily shut down, have

reopened in stages from take-out only to dining-in.

 

Menus are generally smaller, wait service often reduced or

eliminated, and prices are up.  Some restaurants no longer

use printed menus, and rely on smart phone ordering or

ordering from a counter. Kitchens are open fewer days 

and fewer hours. How these changes will be received 

over the long term is unknown, but many of them are

irreversible for the majority of restaurants if they are to

survive.


A positive sign is a surge of new restaurants, some of 

them by those who had to close down their old ones. 


Dining out is now a vital part of American culture and its

economy. Lockdowns, shutdowns, customer restrictions

and inconveniences are not going destroy this important

industry, but the pandemic has already changed it.


For those with neither the time nor the inclination to cook

at home, there is a new appreciation for going to their

favorite nearby restaurants for take-out or delivery. Those

with budget limitations, and lots of children, will go back to

family fast food restaurants — although they probably 

will find that their prices, too, have gone up.


Perhaps most of all, however, we might be entering a

period of the home amateur chef, not only including wives,

but also husbands and singles who previously took their

daily meals for granted. If you have the time.you can serve

at home some superb meals that would cost  a great deal

more in a fine restaurant — especially for those who enjoy

wine with meals (most restaurants mark-up wines

substantially.)


Hone cooking devices and ware should see new consumer

interest. One pot and crockpot recipes, always popular,

likely will surge, as will soup and baking recipes. Cookbooks,

always a bookstore staple, will be in even more demand.


Notwithstanding the inevitable increase in home cooking, the

restaurant experience will continue to be part of daily U,S,

life. How long pandemic limitations will linger is anyone’s

speculation, and how permanent its adaptions will be is  

unclear, but it seems certain that the U.S. restaurant

industry has changed and will not be quite the same as

before.



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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: European Mish-Mash, 2022

 The European political landscape, going into 2022, seems set for

some dramatic changes as immigration issues continue to

provoke voter unrest, and economic issues stir public anxiety.


Long-time German Chancellor Angela Merkel has retired, and 

her center-right Christian Democratic successor Olaf Scholz

seems so far unlikely to prevail in the next German election. 

German left-of-center parties, especially the Green Party, have

appeared to make the most gains. Merkel led her nation and

the rest of the European Union member countries in providing

a destination for Turkish and other Islamic emigrants in recent

decades — which has altered the ethnic make-up of European

demographics and provoked voter backlash.


France, following civil unrest caused by ending her North

African colonial possessions since the 1960s, opening her 

borders to all former colonial subjects, ended decades of

right-left governments with the surprise landslide election of

President Emmanuel Macron and a parliamentary majority of

his new centrist party in 2017, and M. Macron seemed headed

for easy re-election in April, 2022 until immigration issues

arose anew, and a second charismatic radical right figure, Eric

Zenmour, appeared and roiled French politics. He now will join

long-time radical leader Marine Le Pen to run against Macron.

This will split the far right vote, and would ensure the president’s

re-election except for the revival of the French conservative party

under Paris district leader Valerie Pecresse who is now likely to

make the first-round run-off — and might well defeat Macron in

the second-round final election if she receives most  of the

Zenmour and Le Pen votes. The French far left and Marxist vote,

once very powerful, is now very weak — and is unlikely to be

decisive in the run-off.


Spain is now a constitutional monarchy with a socialist government

under Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. A new election is not scheduled

for 2022. but a new conservative party star, Madrid Regional

President (equivalent to a U,S, state governor) Isabel Diaz Ayuso

has succeeded where so many others have failed by imposing

lockdowns. Sra, Diaz Ayuso did promote mandatory mask use and 

vaccinations, but refused to impose lockdowns  and closing of bars

restaurants, stores and public events — relying on citiizens’ “common

sense.” During the first pandemic wave in early 2020, Sanchez locked

down all of  Spain..But when the second and third waves  followed,

Sra. Diaz Ayuse only ordered masking and promoted vaccinations.

Madrid, hit hard by the first wave, did much better in the later waves

despite having the freedom to circulate, shop and dine out —- even

as the  rest of  Spain and most of the rest of Europe was locked

down. Madrid district recently rewarded her with a huge landslide

re-election victory with a margin of a million more votes than her

previous election —- and the Madrid district economy has boomed.


Austria has seen its charismatic conservative leader Sebastian 

Kurz resign under fire, and his successor also resign, leaving 

the small central European nation’s politics unsettled going 

into 2022. Austria, like several of its neighbors, has resisted EU

open immigration policies, 


Italy has changed governments so often in recent years, it seems

always to be a political mish-mash, and nearly impossible to define

with traditional right-center left terms. As one of Europe’s major

tourist destinations, the pandemic has severely affected the IItalian

economy during mandatory lockdown periods.


The most stable nations, yet the most controversial for EU elites,

seem to be in Eastern Europe, including Hungary and Poland,

which have conservative governments that have resisted EU

open border policies. But bordering Russia, Belarus and Ukraine

creates economic and security issues for them.


Smaller northern European nations, including Belgium, 

Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries, long bastions of

national social welfare policies and single ethnic demographics,

are each facing acute pressures from debt and immigration.


In Denmark, the left-of-canter prime minister shut down the

nation’s mink farming industry (the world’s largest), prematurely

ordering minks to be killed, and putting 5500 mink farmers 

out of work when it was discovered that the pandemic

virus could be transmitted from minks to humans . It turned to

be an illegal government action, which the prime minister now

concedes,, but a major Danish export industry was destroyed,,                            


The off-continent United Kingdom led by conservative leader

Boris Johnson is undergoing some painful post-Brexit

adjustments, and like all European communities, the

persistence of pandemic issues. Short of a now-unexpected

no confidence  parliamentary vote, no change in 2022 is

anticipated, although Conservatives recently lost a long-time

Tory seat in a special election to a Liberal Party candidate —

and the leftist Labour Party is rising in the polls. Long-standing

issues about Northern Ireland and Scotland continue to confront

the Johnson government.


Banking, energy, security and trade issues plague Europe as

does the fallout from earlier immigration policies. The stability

of post-Cold War Europe and its general unity is being tested

once again, and 2022 could be one of its most pivotal years.


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Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.




















 




















  



























Tuesday, December 7, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Fading "Infamy"

You have to be very old today to have much recollection of

December 7, 1941 when the Japanese regime of that time

ordered and succeeded attacking the U.S. naval base at

Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. I myself am no youngster, but I

was in my mother’s womb at the time, and thus have no 

memories of the iconic national “sneak attack” which

brought America into World War II.


By the time I made my natal appearance six months later,

the villain in the war, Herr Hitler, was about to make the

second  of many strategic blunders by invading Russia

(his first mistake had been to declare war on the U.S. the

day after Pearl Harbor, thus giving President Roosevelt

an excuse to enter the European war.) 


In fact, Hitler made so many more blunders over the next

three years, I think his reputation as a military strategist

among some historians is much overrated.


The savviest leader in the Japanese military, Admiral

Yamamoto (who led the attack), knew Pearl Harbor,

however a devastating surprise, was ultimately a mistake

(“I fear we have now awakened a sleeping giant…..”) It was

a desperate action by the Japanese militaristic clique

which for a decade been riding roughshod over eastern

Asia, but was now shut out of needed resources as the

penalty for its bad behavior.


Not until September 11, 2001 did the U.S endure another

military surprise attack, but this time the attacker was not a’

single country, but a multinational jihad. In this case, the

“sleeping giant” awoke again — although it has not been

able to bring about an unconditional ending as it did in 1945.

Now we have gone through a surprise attack not by national

military, nor by a multinational group, but by a virus which 

not singled the U.S. out — it has attacked globally.


Although there are  articles inevitably written about how

the “day of infamy” is being forgotten, it is the nature  of

human events that they fade in memory as those who lived

through them pass away or grow old.  I don’t think a citizen in

Rome, Italy today is emotionally distraught by what happened

to Caeser on the Ides of March two millennia ago.


The best we seem able to do is preserve and remember  the

facts of events as best we can — something easier said than

done, even in an age with videos and forensics.


History always unfolds with periodic surprises. The future,

sometimes predictable, is always ultimately guesswork


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Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All  rights reserved.

                                                       


 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Wishing a safe and healthy holiday

to the Prairie Editor family of readers

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Now What Happens Next?

The 2021 electorate has spoken, and it said rather clearly that

its majority is not happy. The Republican base turned out, and

with Donald Trump on no ballot, was fairly united. Democrats

were somewhat divided, not that happy with President Biden,

and did not turn out with their usual strong numbers. Centrist

independents, moving toward the Democrats in 2018 and 2020,

shifted back to the GOP, especially in many suburbs where

radical urban policy proposals nearby turned them off from

the progressive agenda.


Such measures as “defund the police” did not  go well with

otherwise very liberal black urban voters.


Democratic leaders such as President Biden, former President

Obama, and House Speaker Pelosi, belittling many voters’

concerns about education and immigration, did not appear to

help their candidates in the two key races.


With President Biden now routinely receiving favorability poll

numbers in the high 30s and low 40s, many Republicans and

centrist independents are giddy about their prospects in 

next year’s much more dispositive nationwide mid-term elections.  


But a word of caution. Many mainstream Democratic pollsters.

strategists, and campaigners have concluded that the left agenda

is not being embraced by most voters, and are unlikely to send

their candidates down to campaign a losing campaign path next

year.


Yes, initial reaction to the 2021 election results by many

Democratic leaders has been defensive, and appearing to

double-down on their mistakes, but as poll numbers continue

to implode, laws of political gravity will likely reassert themselves

as the campaign season reaches a decisive point.


Of course, first mid-term elections historically do not go well for

new administrations, and loss of control of the U.S. house might 

not be avoided in 2022, but a more popular Democratic agenda      

might rescue or even expand the very narrow control of the U.S.

senate.


In fact, Democrats just got the news that highly popular New

Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu will not run

against very vulnerable  Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan in

2022. This likely turnover might now be avoided —- the GOP

so far lacks a strong replacement for Sununu — but if  there is

a red wave 2022 election because Democrats continue not to 

pay attention to voters’ concerns, Senator Hassan and several

other of her colleagues will lose..


In 1993 and 2009. upsets in the off-year elections, although few

in number, signaled possible landslides in the following years’

mid-terms. Democrats ignored those signals and paid a heavy

political price for doing so. On other occasions, Republicans

made the same mistake, and lost their majorities.


Republicans are fired up now, but the full outcome in 2022 is

mainly in the  Democrats’ own hands.


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Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.