18 October 2020 – Sunday – #117

I decided I should cook my first Paella Valenciana before my first trip to Valencia next week. I wanted to have a clue about the cooking process before I order a paella in the city that invented it.

Even though paella is from Valencia, Catalonia has adopted it. I don’t think that’s just because tourists who don’t know better expect it here. After all, it’s not nearly as far-fetched to find paella in a Barcelona restaurant as it, say, to find hominy grits in a Salt Lake City restaurant. However, my Barcelona friends often remind me that paella isn’t really from here.

My first Paella Valenciana

The main thing I learned cooking paella is that a successful paella has a yummy socarrat, a crust of rice that forms on the bottom of the pan. I had beginner’s luck with socarrat. I have a lot more to learn about getting socarrat just right every time.

The timing of my first Paella Valenciana last week is ironic since all restaurants in Catalonia closed Friday. Catalonia’s Covid-19 numbers were steady in August and September. After school started, though, Covid-19 numbers rose this month. The public health authorities say interaction with Madrid’s Covid-19 hot spot is another contributing factor to rising Covid-19 cases here.

Central Barcelona has two main boulevards, Passeig de Gracia and Passeig Sant Joan. The big retail brands line the former and outdoor restaurants line the latter. After the lockdown, Passeig Sant Joan foot traffic picked up much more than Passeig de Gracia. I think that’s because Barcelonians are more interested in meeting friends out for a bite while tourists are more interested in shopping, and there very few tourists.

Anyway, I strolled along Passeig Sant Joan yesterday and all the restaurants are, in fact, closed. It’s a ghost town again, not as unpopulated as during the lockdown but very quiet. A few restaurants were offering para llevar from the front door, but none of the outdoor dining spaces were in use.

The Obrador DelaCrem ice cream shop is a good indicator of the drop off in foot traffic. There have been lines of 10-20 people waiting for a lick when I’ve walked by recently. Yesterday there was no line.

Grocery stores were busy. People were stocking up on food to eat at home at the same time that grocery stores imposed limits on the number of shoppers in the market. That created long lines in some locations, but there doesn’t seem to be a repeat of the great toilet paper shortage that happened in March.

Barcelona retail and supermarkets impose limits on customers in the store.

So far, the Covid-19 restrictions in Catalonia don’t feel like a significant adjustment, not nearly as bad as the restrictions being imposed in Madrid and Paris right now. Of course, I don’t work in a restaurant. Catalonia has ordered restaurants to close for 15 days. If Covid-19 numbers don’t improve, I suspect it will be longer. Restaurants are feeling the pain and schools may not be far behind.

I don’t know whether I’ll find an open paella restaurant in Valencia next week, but Covid-19 numbers are much better there and I haven’t seen reports of additional restrictions in that region. Such is the uncertainty of travel in the time of Covid-19.

Here’s a geographic view of how things Covid-19 look in Europe.

Here’s a less geographic view of confirmed Covid-19 cases throughout the region including Eastern Europe numbers.

Confirmed new EU/EEA Covid-19 cases. Source: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

While Europe is having its second wave, the US is having its third. Like the US, Europe’s current Covid-19 wave is worse in some places than in others. Here’s the picture in the US.

New US Covid-19 cases. Source: Worldometers.

The big difference between Europe and the US? Even if regions like Madrid have been slow to respond, generally Europe is putting in place Covid-19 restrictions to contain Covid-19. Republican US governors, on the other hand, continue to play politics with something as simple as mask mandates while their states run out of ICU beds.

It starts at the top. Trump’s catastrophic management of Covid-19 in the US has neither fired up economic growth nor improved his chances of reelection. The Republican party revolt is starting. Here are signs of a landslide for Biden.

As new US cases surpassed 60,000 per day last week, Trump continues to downplay Covid-19, holding crowded political rallies without mask mandates. Here’s the crowd waiting for him in Wisconsin yesterday. The state is having one of the most serious Covid-19 outbreaks in the US.

The outcome of the US election has implications for how Covid-19 vaccines come to market. Trump has taken a free market approach. In that framework, the first mover has significant advantage over other pharmaceuticals regardless of the effectiveness of its vaccine. After the first vaccine is approved, other candidates will face higher costs to complete trials and obtain distribution.

Biden has said that he will follow the advice of scientists. That could give more effective Covid-19 vaccines a better chance to complete trials and obtain distribution. In a world of anti-vaxxers, that matters. The possibility that 20%-30% of the population will refuse vaccination means Covid-19 herd immunity through vaccination requires more effective vaccines.

Covid-19 bits.

Last of all culture. Brad and I were bemoaning the lack of live performance, clubs, and other social events in Barcelona. It was one of the reasons we moved here. We’ve met great people so far, but Covid-19 restrictions reduce our opportunities to meet locals and extend our social circles. It’s like living in social limbo.

Luckily, artists continue one way or another. As an example, I leave you this week with a sample the Kinsey Sicks’ latest album, Quarantunes. I don’t get to meet anyone while I listen, but at least this is a sign that there will be cultural life after Covid-19.

I write this for my sanity. If you like it, please pass it on to friends and family. Also, you can follow me on Twitter for more frequent Covid-19 updates.

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