Pandemic Politesse

Covid’s comedy of manners, mobile eats and sweet treats


By Billy Eye

“Etiquette is what you are doing and saying when people are looking and listening. What you are thinking is your business.” — Virginia Cary Hudson

Changing times call for changing norms and new customs. To compare and contrast our polite society’s code of conduct with past guidelines, to stay au courant I’ll be referring to my grandmother’s edition of Etiquette by Emily Post, published in 1945.

For instance, you may have learned early on not to chew food with your mouth open. Today? Splash, spittle and splatter. To quote the upcoming 2021 edition of Billy Eye’s Etiquette, “What happens in the mask stays in the mask.”

As a general rule, when strolling alongside a lady, gentlemen walk closer to the street, harkening back to when passing horse and buggies splashed debris from puddles swirling with equine excretions, donkey dookie and the broken dreams of the hoi polloi onto fair maiden’s petticoats. Today, a gentleman must still walk to the right of said damsel maintaining a 6-foot distance, even if it means promenading into oncoming traffic.

When making her debut, a débutante should nowadays remove her face covering unless she has foie gras breath or excessive neck wattle.

After absconding with an Amazon delivery from your neighbor’s front porch, if it’s something you can’t use, the box should be returned with a short but curt note apologizing for any inconvenience.

Addressing a dignitary in a formal setting, say a congressman or city council member, you are to greet them with “sir,” “ma’am” or, when appropriate, “you traitorous knucklehead.”

According to Etiquette, wedding invitations should be ordered two months before the big day. New rule: Don’t bother with invitations silly, no one wants to attend your super-spreader event.

Some things, however, remain constant. Reading from chapter 40 of Emily Post’s 1945 rulebook, “When Children Come To The Table,” nothing much has changed. Basically, it should never be allowed. Look it up!

* * *

October. Eye like to think of it as the over-the-hump month between summer and the holidays. It’s also time for the downtown Food Truck Festival on the 11th, weather and apocalypse permitting.

I’m a big fan of the Big Cheese Truck, who plan to be there. I sampled their fare at the new extension of Idiot Box comedy club now called Next Door Beer Bar & Bottle Shop, where a festive crowd recently took advantage of outdoor seating and mild fall temperatures.

Nathan Stringer, formerly chef for Coast Seafood in High Point, along with his business partner Chris Blackburn, launched their mobile mealticket as everyplace else was shutting down. It’s been a fantastic voyage for these galloping gourmands ever since.

With a rotating menu of globally influenced sandwiches, subs, wraps and brunch, Big Cheese bounced their way around the Triad this summer, parking at places like Grandover Swim & Racquet Club, Hoots Beer Co. and Joymongers.

Expect savory carne asada tacos, garnish with pickled, roasted red peppers, artichoke pico and key-lime slaw; garlicy jalapeño crab cake sandwiches adorned with tzatziki, brie, tomato, pickled snow peas, roasted peppers; or an Italian meatloaf sandwich kicked up a notch with provolone, olive-caper-parsley tapenade, salami, pepperoni, tomato and aged cheddar on sourdough. Sides include my fave: fried green tomatoes.

Just goes to show you that, no matter how tough the business landscape may be, pursuing your dream can be the shortest road to success.

* * *

Speaking of following your heart by way of one’s digestive system — finding herself out of work with a newborn baby to look after in May, Veneé Pawlowski began doing what she does best — baking — from her home on the outskirts of downtown Greensboro. With orders trickling in at first from her circle of friends, word of (or fork to) mouth caused business to explode for what she s calling Black Magnolia Southern Patisserie.

Veneé serves up traditional Southern classic desserts, often with a European spin. s“I use brioche for my cinnamon rolls”,“  Veneé says.  “And I make sure to have a cake, pie and pudding available each week.” Eye tried her banana pudding and it’s the best I’ve had since my grandmother passed!

“ItIs a lot harder than I thought it was going to be,s Veneé tells me. And becoming harder now that her baby girl just turned 4 months old:  SheSs getting a little bit bigger so she doesnst just sleep all day.t

Working out of one of three grand houses from the turn of the 20th century on the east side of the 600 block of Summit Avenue, her house avec bakery is on the corner of Summit and Charter Place. It has been painstakingly restored, with its majestic two-story high white Ionic columns up front and an inviting rounded wraparound front porch underneath corner bay windows.

Next door is Tar Heel Manor with 4,000-plus square feet on two levels featuring four bedrooms, a sleeping porch, sun room and library loft. They can be rented by the night, week or month. In the pre-motel / hotel / Holiday Inn days of 1906, Tar Heel Manor morphed into a travelers’ lodge, then a boarding house before becoming a duplex in the 1950s. The house where Veneé and her husband, Ian, reside will eventually be re-converted into a single-family residence once again. “NWeW’ll be moving very soon, just because we’ ve been expanding so quickly.v”

Each week Veneé features a rotating variety of delicacies including bourbon chocolate chess tarts, strawberries-and-cream bread pudding, red velvet cake, and strawberry lemonade cake, available by the slice if you prefer. With the holidays fast approaching you should give her a try.  OH

Billy Eye is O.G. – Original Greensboro.

Black Magnolia Southern Patisserie can be found on Facebook.

Wandering Billy

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