May 2022

May 17, 2022
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The first course at Harbor House: vegetables from the ranch in a chilled green garlic broth. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Howdy, dear readers. Wow, I just want to start off here by thanking all of you for your nice notes after last week’s missive/PSA, and I was very heartened to hear how much my Covid experience and Paxlovid resources helped inform you (and encouraged you about being extra-careful right now since this thing is definitely not “just a cold”). Well, it ends up there’s another chapter in my Covid saga to share, but this one will be much shorter.

If you’ve been following the news about Paxlovid, there have been some mentions of “rebound cases“—people have felt some Covid symptoms return after their five-day course of Paxlovid, and some have even tested positive again. Incredibly, I was one of those folks—I didn’t test positive again, whew, but I felt my sore throat, body aches, congestion, and complete exhaustion return a couple days after I finished my meds. I couldn’t believe I was feeling pretty bad again.

Two weeks to the day after I first had symptoms, I started experiencing shortness of breath and difficulty breathing—I just couldn’t clear my lungs. It was pretty scary, to be honest. I booked a telehealth appointment with a family nurse practitioner from my doctor’s office and he prescribed me an Albuterol inhaler, which helped my situation massively after my first couple rounds of puffs. I was able to breathe somewhat normally after 24 hours, and it helped clear up my cough in a few days, so I didn’t need to come in for an X-ray of my lungs. The FNP told me he has been seeing a number of patients with the same breathing issues, so if you start feeling a tightness in your chest or shortness of breath, call your doc—don’t suffer through the lingering cough. The inhaler is what helped me finally turn this thing around.

As for the rebound, the way I look at it, I’d rather have a rebound of symptoms than end up in the ICU to begin with, so I’m incredibly grateful I was able to track down Paxlovid, even if it meant going to the ER to get the prescription. It just shows how pernicious this virus is. What a bastard. I am so sorry to hear of so many friends getting sick right now, many for the first time, and this surge in the Bay Area is no joke, so please stay vigilant. Mask up.

Refer to Test to Treat in case you get sick, and once again, this spreadsheet outlines Paxlovid supply around the Bay (and other Covid therapeutics). Do you feel a tickle in your throat? Sniffy nose? Think you have bad allergies? Odds are it’s Covid—don’t depend upon your rapid antigen home test to pick it up for a couple days, get a PCR test to know for sure. Think you’re still immune from the Omicron infection you had in January? Maybe not. (UGH.) Don’t get this thing, sweeties.

Since so many folks are home sick right now, I thought I’d share a few dishes I made (and bought) that helped me feel better while I was home illin’. (It’s tough to be single and home sick, and Fortuna isn’t very handy in the kitchen.) I also have some suggestions of what to do for a friend who is sick since no one is going to ask you to come over. And I included some shows and movies I watched since that’s all I could do for a few weeks. I hope it’s helpful!

Praise the lard, this is all in the rearview mirror now. I can smell and taste (thank goddess) and my cough is basically gone. I’m so grateful I was able to recuperate and get enough energy back for a long weekend in Mendocino—my friend and I were supposed to take this trip just when the pandemic hit, so this past weekend was our make-good getaway. What a stunning weekend to be in Anderson Valley and Mendocino. We had a magical lunch at The Bewildered Pig, revisited my favorite chowder at Little River Inn, a dreamy dining experience at Harbor House, and a fun pizza lunch on the patio at Wickson at The Madrones. We had misty beach walks and breakfast (with farmstead eggs) in our rooms at Glendeven Inn and the Elk Cove Inn (such incredible views), and rode Railbikes up in Fort Bragg! I can’t wait to tell you more about this epic weekend in an upcoming piece—it was so good to get out of my quarantine and into springtime and glorious nature.

Driving home on Sunday, we passed the Apple Farm in Philo, which was fitting since my review of Sally Schmitt’s cookbook, Six California Kitchens, just ran in The Examiner! She also spent her final years in Elk, so I was enjoying her proximity in spirit all weekend. It’s a fantastic cookbook, check it out (it’s being reprinted right now, so stand by)!

And now, I’m excited to head out of town again this weekend, this time for the Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience. The grand tasting is outdoors, along with some other events (there are still tickets available), and the weather is going to be stellar this weekend! See you there?

A couple more quick notes: I wanted to be sure you saw my latest posts on Instagram about the extraordinary sake dinner and tasting I attended last month with Sumi Seo, and an “only in SF” classic lunch at Sam’s Grill (book one of their pandemic-friendly booths or sit on their patio!). You can read more about what’s happening in Belden Place—Sam’s was unfortunately hit by an arsonist in April. I can’t imagine SF without Sam’s, so go pay them a visit.

Lastly, would you believe I just got invited to go on a press trip to Greece (again!) in two weeks? I know, I’m so damn lucky. Happy to take my hybrid immunity on an international trip while I can. I’m going to be in Thessaloniki (hello again, yay!) and Thassos learning about some DOP agricultural products (not feta this time), and I’m adding on some personal days on Skiathos island, because YOLO. (If anyone has any recommendations or friends in those parts, I’m all ears!) Let’s see if I manage to get a column out the day before I leave…things are going to be crazy the next two weeks as I try to get all my work done. We’ll see. And I’ll see ya soon!

Stay healthy and happy.
Marcia Gagliardi

May 4, 2022
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Been eating a whole bunch of noodles over here. This bowl of creamy kabocha-chicken udon from Kagawa-Ya really hit the spot. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hello, friends. It has been a minute! And yes, this column is a day late, for a multitude of reasons. Doing the best I can over here. It has also been a unique challenge to focus on writing this week’s column while watching an attempt to strip women and people who need abortion care in America of their hard-won right to have full autonomy over their own bodies. Infuriating comes close to explaining how this all feels, but there are many more levels of emotion (rage, horror, disbelief, fear, and an overarching desire to burn the patriarchy to the ground). It’s (yet another) really dark time in our country. I know we’re all SO TIRED of SO many things, but please stay loud, engaged, supportive, and mobilized for reproductive justice and body autonomy. And if you’re going to tell me to “just stick to food” in this column, please, just unsubscribe right now, I don’t even need to hear it. My body, my column.

Personally, I have already been pretty wiped out the past two weeks…I’m about to do a big, personal share here, and it’s because I care about your health and well-being more than my own privacy. After participating in my first in-person event in two fricking years, I ended up (most likely) contracting Covid from a friend who I chatted with for about a minute (she reached out the next day to tell me she just tested positive, although she didn’t have any symptoms when she was at the event). I was taking what I thought was a somewhat-safe, calculated risk (the room where I was hosting my canna bar had a fourth wall completely open to the outside, so it was extremely well-ventilated), there was a vaccination policy at the event, and I was able to keep my distance by staying behind my table. I’m vaxxed and boosted. Nope, that Miss Rona, she still got me. (I told her she wasn’t on the guest list, but she still had the nerve to show her ugly face!) This variant is crazy-contagious, I can’t believe the infection and reinfection stories I’m hearing lately.

Three days later, I started getting a sore throat and strange body aches. Ruh roh. I did a rapid test at home, which came up negative, so I decided to get a PCR to be sure, because I was definitely starting to feel bad (runny nose, fatigue, feverish). When I got the positive results back on Sunday, things had definitely gotten worse, with horrible congestion, sneezing, and a deep cough. Both my sister (a family nurse practitioner) and a good friend who works with the City’s Covid task force said I should get Paxlovid, which I have been reading about as an effective antiviral medication that diminishes Covid symptoms and severity (and helps keep you out of the hospital) if you have underlying conditions that could lead to developing severe Covid. But it’s crucial you take it within five days of symptom onset, so I was on the clock. (It’s kind of like Tamiflu in that way.)

I called my doctor’s after-hours service, shared my worsening (and worrisome) symptoms, and they said I needed to come into the ER for observation. After measuring my oxygen levels and taking my blood pressure (and that’s all they did, they didn’t even listen to my lungs, thanks for forcing me to get out of bed), they handed me the scrip for Paxlovid, but then said, “Here you go, but we have no idea where you can find it, look at the URL on the scrip. It’s really tough to find.” Great. Thanks a lot. I was like, can I have a clue? Have you heard of any pharmacies that have it so I can go there right now? What’s up with the Paxlovid treasure hunt, and on a Sunday evening? This is why Test to Treat is so important (more on that below).

Of course, our 24-hour pharmacy in the Castro didn’t have it, and thanks to my friend for sending me this exceedingly helpful spreadsheet that outlines Paxlovid supply around the Bay (and other Covid therapeutics), it was easier to read than other resources I was provided. Fortunately, my sister is an ace, and remembered there was a 24-hour pharmacy in Alameda, where she was able to fill my scrip and drove over to pick it up for me. FIVE GOLD STARS.

Considering the importance of taking this medication early on after symptoms, it was extremely disheartening to be on such a wild goose chase to find it, and if I didn’t have someone amazingly helpful with a car to go get it for me, I would have had to wait until the next day to get it. Hello, the clock was ticking! This pathetic lack of accessibility is so wrong. (Here’s an important resource for you that I wish I knew about sooner, the Test to Treat initiative, which will help you get tested and receive medication on the spot if you’re eligible. Sounds great in theory, check it out.)

Something else I wanted to tell you to be aware of in case you get sick and want to get Paxlovid: the system automatically defaulted my scrip to one day less of treatment, assuming I had “moderate renal impairment,” which was not true. After reviewing my labs from a few years ago, my sister was able to confirm I didn’t have any kidney issues, and called the ER doctor to update my prescription. She asked why they gave me the reduced treatment (four days instead of five), and the doc admitted it was a system default and didn’t question it. Great, thanks! Again, if it wasn’t for my sister in healthcare advocating for me, this would have been a very different story. She also got her stethoscope to listen to my lungs since the ER doc couldn’t be bothered. I just love American healthcare!

I sent out a Covid exposure notification on my iPhone (do you have that turned on?) before falling back into my crypt, and started noticing a difference in about 24 hours—primarily, that my symptoms (and breathing) weren’t worsening, and then two days later, the fever, nasal congestion, and cough weren’t as bad. I had extreme fatigue throughout the first 10 days, and am still quite tired (I have to take a daily nap, which isn’t like me at all). I was also a bit spacey, and it has been hard to concentrate. I made sure to drink a ton of water—I have to say, those pills were potent (you could taste them before you even swallowed them), and I occasionally had a weird metallic taste in my mouth (for six days).

Does this sound like Covid is “just a cold?” No, it isn’t. Covid is no fricking joke, and even though some people barely got sick from Omicron, it doesn’t mean that’s going to be the case for you. The last time I felt this ill, it was when I had the flu about nine years ago, and couldn’t leave my bed for a week. This felt about the same. So, I’m just saying: don’t get complacent or cavalier. Stay vigilant, stay healthy, and think about diminishing your exposure, especially right now. Dr. Bob Wachter (my Covid barometer on Twitter) says there’s more Covid around and is estimating that every 1 in 30 people in SF is positive with asymptomatic Covid—based on the numbers of friends getting sick right now, I’d say that sounds about right. Miss Rona is back on the town, and she is really in the mixx! You might think you have bad allergies, but odds are that it’s Covid. Test often, especially if you have any symptoms (however slight!) or have been at a gathering, and mask up on essential public spaces like public transit.

I have been extremely cautious the past two years (my friends can attest to my freaky ways)—I haven’t been dining inside restaurants unless there were some very specific conditions met (sitting by a window, or in a huuuge booth, or the dining room was empty). No bars, no clubs, no parties. It has been tough to be so vigilant, trust me, and I’m upset she finally got me, but I made a choice to be at that event, and with so much sneaky Covid around, I sadly broke my healthy streak.

Well, now that I’m testing negative (let’s hope it stays that way) and feeling better, you can trust that I’m taking this hybrid immunity on the town for the next 60 days, at least! I will be in the club, in the bar, at your packed sushi bar, and at your communal table. Hopper in the house! (As soon as I have some energy back.)

I’m going to write a recap of some of my favorite home-sick tips (soups, baby!), and what to do for a friend who’s sick. But first, I had to get this column out since I’m so behind on sharing the news.

Quick reminder: this Saturday May 7th is the California Artisan Cheese Festival in Santa Rosa, with over 100 local artisans, and a lot of fresh air. It’s a great place to take Mom for an early Mother’s Day outing (that’s what I’m doing!). And I just have to say, whether Mother’s Day is a joyful day or a bittersweet one or a sad one, I am sending you lots of love.

Lastly, I wanted to share my first piece for The Examiner, which ran on 4/19 (mymilligram’s fourth birthday): Why I celebrate 4/20 the day before. It was a pleasure to write about microdosing and why I love it as a highly functioning lady! I sure as hell am thankful for the weed to chill out with everything happening right now, boy, do we need it. If you have always wanted to try something, order some CANNs on Sava (I love the lime basil), or get Mom a nice topical like Sweet Releaf for her tired, achy hands; use code mymilligram for $75 off your first order through 5/12, meowza.

Best wishes, stay healthy, and Happy AAPI Heritage Month!
Marcia Gagliardi

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