Food Personal Essays

Candy & The CaronaVirus

unnamedMy dear friend C. and I used to go to the candy floor at Gimbels on 86th Street once a week. Actually, the whole store was filled with candy — more candy than one could imagine. We bought it and ate it during the week and went back for more the next week. We were in our early twenties, each running around at our first job and living together in an apartment. We painted our living room Grecian Rose, which was great until we saw it from the street at night and realized our apartment looked like a bordello. Life was good.

Over the years, C continued on the candy quest and never gained weight, which is really not a very BFF thing to do, but we still talk “candy,” especially in times of trouble. When I lived on the Cape, she would come once a year to go to Chatham Candy Manor in Chatham to stock up. Sometimes I would make a run for her and then meet her in New York City.

We have discussed old age together, and one of her criteria is that we must live near a good candy store. I don’t think that’s unusual at all, although I need an indoor pool that isn’t at the YMCA, and I still weigh dozens of pounds more than she does. Life is many things; unfair is one of them.

WWII_imageI sent her the article this morning that said that people are not buying kale and quinoa anymore; they are buying Oreos and chips. And in return, she sent me the announcement from See’s Candies in Los Angeles that they are closing all their stores. I would challenge her notion that See’s is on par with Chatham Candy Manor, but we are trying not to argue during this stressful time. Perspective. Anyway, See’s is 99 years old and has never before closed except during WWII, when they would shutter their doors only if they didn’t have the ingredients they needed.

Here is our back-and-forth:

C: So, even health nuts have moved to junk?

Me: Finally, they’ve become our people.

C: Kale and quinoa have always been questionable. I have a bag of Oreos in the freezer for emergencies.

Me: I feel strongly that Hydrox are infinitely better than Oreos. I have no sweets here. (This is true.)

C: I agree, but they are hard to find. Birthday Cake Oreos are fantastic!

She went on to assure me she’d stocked up last week. She went to See’s and wore her face mask. We determined that perhaps candy is an essential need, and the candy stores should be open, like pharmacies. While we do recognize that they aren’t truly “essential,” we will always appreciate that candy is part of our 45-year shared history. Cathryn’s husband, Victor, holds our obsession against us, but I’m pretty sure it’s in the prenup that he can’t say anything about it. And we are both grateful that he has no interest in our candy, which makes us like him all the more.

P.S. You remember C.; she is the one who keeps real maple syrup in her car in case she decides to stop at IHOP, where they don’t always have it. She is very organized.



Invader Got in By Hiding in the Grocery Bag

Green-And-Blacks-Organic-White-Chocolate-708656100036Invader in my house.

It was terrible. I’m not sure, but I think he got in through a grocery bag, hiding underneath the grapes, turmeric, coconut milk, fresh Atlantic salmon, and lemons. I had no idea. Swear. And, before I could call the police for help, he disappeared into the abyss that ends up on my thighs with nary a trace charting the roadways it took to get there. Evading the authorities yet again.

Murderer of dreams!

Food Women

Debbie From Dunkin Donuts

Dunkin'_Donuts_Coffee_BoostI live on Cape Cod when I’m not traveling for business, which is at least half the month. I grew up coming to the Cape in the summers. My mom was raised here as were sixteen prior generations of our family, so it’s in my DNA. I feel connected to the earth here – really more like sand I guess – and when I’m on the Cape I’m calm and grounded. That said, my social life is more in New York City, so I might go a few days where I put my hair in a pony tail instead of taking a shower. They really are the same thing you know. Don’t judge me.

Anyway, each day, I load myself into the car first thing in the morning and go to Dunkin Donuts where I get a medium black coffee. This ritual ensures I do get dressed to go outside, and besides, I do love their coffee. I go to the Drive Thru where Debbie (I asked her what her name was a few years ago and then related it to my friend Debbie from Chicago so I would remember) hands me my cup of coffee and calls me ‘hon.’ She is the only one I will tolerate ‘hon’ from become I am a feminist and we don’t allow people to call us hon. I guess I allow it because she always looks a bit pained, or tired, or both, and I like that I know her name and she might be the only person I speak to that day who can actually see me, so I give her a hon allowance.

This morning I went at 4:00 a.m. to get my coffee. Long story, not worth going into.

She was there and handed me the coffee and I said, “Debbie, are you here alone? Not sure that’s a good idea.”

“I’ve been here alone since 2:30.”

“Why? You don’t open until 4:00.”

“We open the Drive Thru at 3:00 and so I have to be here, but the baker is in the back now so I’m not alone.” And then, for the first time in three years, she smiled at me.

Driving home I thought about Debbie going to work at 2:30 in the morning and handing me my coffee along with scores of other people, who maybe don’t know her name.

Then, because this is the way my ADD mind works, I thought about Peter Matthiessen’s book, Men’s Lives. The opening line says, “And it’s men’s lives we eat for breakfast.” I have thought about that line a lot over the years. I’ve pondered the enormity of how many lives go into me living mine easy, and here is Debbie, whose life I am eating (or drinking) for breakfast. And, I am not sure I really take the time to appreciate that her life is not as easy as mine, and I need to try even harder to make hers a bit more pleasant.

That’s it. A simple message from before I’ve finished my coffee.

Food Personal Essays Relationships

The Opinion of Strangers

We are funny ducks, we human beings.

We play games, thinking we are fooling the world. But the world couldn’t care less, and doesn’t even notice the lengths we go to in order to appear the way we wish we were but aren’t.

Examples abound:

imgresI love Maltesers—those malted milk balls from England that melt in your mouth (don’t judge me). My cousin Louise, who is British, loves them as much as I do. When she goes home, she brings back boxes of them and shares with me. The key is making sure I see her soon after her return—if too much time passes, she will have eaten them all. Anyway, if you can believe it, the local movie theater started carrying them a few months ago. Small bags of them. Oh happy day!

So now when I want them, I go see a movie. Sometimes it’s a movie I don’t wish to see, but if I want the Maltesers, I have to see a movie. Now, I could visit the candy counter without purchasing a ticket—it’s just inside the door before the ticket taker’s booth—but then the candy counter person would see me enter, buy the candy, and then leave. What would they think of me? On the other hand, no one serving me has ever actually looked at me when I’m ordering, so maybe they wouldn’t think anything at all.

So I see a movie I might not otherwise see, just so I can have my Maltesers. Now, I’m a smart girl, but this is not a smart strategy. If the bag has twenty pieces in it, that’s a lot. And the $6.00 cost of the bag has to be added to the $9.00 cost of the ticket, which means I’m eating a candy that takes ten seconds to chew and swallow at a cost of 75¢ per piece. Seriously?

Then there is the take-out Japanese place near my home, from which I order at least once every week. I don’t order a lot; usually one order of salmon don and miso eggplant. But when I go there to pick it up, every week they ask if I want one or two sets of chopsticks. I always say two.

I love living alone. I live alone by choice—I haven’t found that perfect person who raises me up so I can stand on mountains—and my own company actually pleases me. So why do I want them to think there is another person at my house waiting to eat half of a meal that really only serves one? I don’t know, but I do. I have a drawer full of leftover chopsticks to remind me of my silliness.

The truth is that the opinions of strangers matter to some of us, and the absurdity of it all changes nothing. Note to self: If I want Maltesers, just go into the theater and buy them.

Food Health

Burying Aspartame

imagesMy first diet soda memory is of the vending machine in the basement of my sorority house in 1972. Diet Doctor Pepper, which I purchased one can at a time to consume while sitting on the floor of somebody’s room or other, playing Yahtzee or Bridge. The empty cans were used for cigarette butts. I would go to the basement before both lunch and dinner, and that was my drink of choice during most meals.

I am not sure when I switched to Tab, but I can confidently say that by the time I moved to New York City in 1976, Tab was my constant companion. One of my roommates hoarded her Tab under her bed, so I became a common thief, often going under the bed at odd times when my supply was empty. I’m not proud of that, but an addict will do what she needs to do when she needs a fix at 1:00 a.m. Sorry Gail.

I have no idea when I switched to Diet Coke, which I have now been drinking for more than thirty years. I took it on the Concorde with me when I traveled with H2 (Husband #2) to Europe, where they only served regular Coke in the early eighties. I took it in my purse to the finest restaurants, where I would ask for a glass of ice and embarrass H2 by flicking the tab on the top of a can and pouring it at the table while everyone else downed glasses of 1969 Burgundy.

I’ve never had a glass of alcohol. Never even had a beer. When you tell people you have never had a drink, they look at you kindly because they think it’s code for you being an alcoholic. But Diet Coke was my drink of choice, and aspartame my addiction. No water either. No coffee.

My name is Christine, and I’m an Aspartame Addict.

I recently ran the numbers. Forty years. Five to ten cans a day. 73,000 to 146,000 cans of diet soda consumed by the now sixty-year-old me. I may have spent a quarter of a million dollars over the years on Aspartame-loaded drinks. Wow. Gives a girl a moment to pause. Water is free.

My diet sodas have been with me through thick and thin. I drank diet soda the day Sarah was born. I drank it on my wedding day — both of my wedding days. I drank it at my dying mother’s bedside. I drank it at all of Sarah’s graduations. I drank it when others were drinking coffee, I drank it when others were drinking alcohol, and I drank it when I was happy, sad, scared, or enraged.

It’s odd, really, because I’m not a stick-to-things kind of girl. I’ve moved more than 100 times in my sixty years. Two husbands. Scores of jobs, or as I like to call them, professional projects (I figured out in my thirties that I was a short-distance runner, and have been a consultant type of professional ever since). I change cars every two years, and I give away handbags as if they were Halloween candy. Carrying the same handbag day after day makes me crazy. What I’ve written here may make it look as though I have trouble with commitment, but I’m forever committed to my child, my friends, and my country. That never wavers. (I write that because I’m feeling defensive, but it’s true. Promise.)

The daily commitment I have kept is my loyalty to diet soda and aspartame. For more than forty years. Every day. Every meal. Every important moment.

A year or so ago, I started to read things that made me anxious. Articles about aspartame and memory loss, which I know I have. Articles about aspartame’s formaldehyde effect on the liver over the years. They also say it causes joint pain, and I have that, too. The list goes on.

A friend and I had lunch a few months ago. She’s in amazing shape. You know, that yoga kind of in shape. She told me if I were to do only one thing to help myself, it should be giving up Diet Coke. Since then, people have started to say more and more things about it. Concerned friends and family have suggested I might like to regroup on the DC at every meal.

My beloved Cousin Alison (sister of the fabulous Cousin Pam, and fabulous in her own right) is a Physician’s Assistant. When I was in Colorado in March, she gently suggested I look at my aspartame consumption. “It’s really, really bad for you,” she said, looking at me intently.

A lot of voices out there sending me a message.

I’m not sure why an article on a friend’s Facebook Page hit me so hard. It was about a woman who had many of my symptoms and gave up aspartame, and voila, three weeks later she was cured, as if God’s hands had touched her. I knew it wasn’t true, but for some reason it hit home. When I read it I was finishing up the last of the Diet Coke in the house. I didn’t need to go out that day, and something — I have no idea what — made that moment the one that said it was time to stop. For good.

It’s two weeks later. My name is Christine, and I’m a recovering aspartame addict. Fourteen days clean. Two days after the last can, my head hurt. Bad. Whenever I moved it in any direction. My eyes, too. My hands started shaking. I was disoriented. Confused. I didn’t leave the house except to drive through Dunkin’ Donuts’ drive-through window and get water and lemonade, which I mixed together. I was really, really sick. And I didn’t want to tell anyone, because I didn’t want to publicly commit to my commitment.

I’m feeling better now. My sugar cravings have all but disappeared. I crave protein. I feel better. I’m sleeping better. Actually, I should rephrase that. I’m actually sleeping for the first time in years. Last night, according to my Fit Bit, I slept almost eight hours.

I am not more focused however. I had to do a Google search to find two of the words in this blog post. I am confident that will change as time goes by.

I went to BJ’s this morning and didn’t buy Diet Coke, and I felt sad. Really sad. That DC can has been my companion through more of my life than almost anything else. I know this is a ridiculous way to feel about something that may actually have damaged me irreparably, but I want to say a fond farewell. It was a constant in a life spent struggling with consistency. It refreshed me after hundreds of tennis games, when I’d throw back my head and down half a can in one gulp. I held it while I read great books that took me to places my real life never has. It sat in coolers next to me during two cross-country trips that I took alone in my car. It has been part of many a phone conversation, sipped between laughs and tears. It was my friend. And, it was my enemy.

Like many toxic relationships you know must end for the betterment of your body and soul, the end doesn’t mean you won’t miss them. DC is one of those. I bid you a fond farewell DC. Thanks for the memories, at least the ones I can still remember.


Food Personal Essays

My Refrigerator

I have friends coming to stay for a night before they head to Martha’s Vineyard for the summer. I got this e-mail this morning:

“Hey. Do you have room in your fridge if we stop by Trader Joe’s today and stock up on a few things?”

Here is a list of what is in my refrigerator. Mustard, Diet Coke, Ginger Ale (a friend brought over when I was sick), eggs, expired cheese, butter, half and half, and mayonnaise. That’s it. There is a Britta water pitcher too, but it’s been in there for about six months, so I’m not sure the water is okay. I should change it I guess.

I started to panic. Should I go to the store and fill up the refrigerator so they don’t think I’m a loser? Am I a loser? Am I a bad host? I was going to get some breakfast things for when they come tomorrow, but we are going to the Yacht Club for lunch and out to dinner, so I didn’t feel I needed much to nourish them (other than my charming company), but now I’m sure I am wrong.

How do I answer her e-mail?

Here is what I sent as a response.

“Of course. I have an empty refrigerator. 🙂 I do not keep lots of things in my refrigerator. Ok, that’s a lie. I don’t keep anything in my refrigerator.”

I am trying to be authentic and present myself as I truly am. These are really good friends; they know the fabulous me and the ridiculous me, and they seem to like me as I am. When my mom died, this woman was one of the first to call me, and she and her husband were both here for the funeral and related events. We are not talking about people from whom I need to hide my true self.

But come to think of it, when I was at my cousins’ houses in Boulder a few weeks ago, I marveled at the contents of both of their refrigerators. They each have a plethora of things to choose from, and you have to move things around to see what is in there. I want to have that refrigerator. I’m going to go to the store today and stock up. I am going to bring leftovers home. I did that for a while a few years ago, and I blogged about the cost savings opportunity in leftovers, but then I forgot all about it.

This is it. A new me. People will say about me, “You should drop by. She always has a ton of things in the refrigerator, and she will bring them out to feed you if you do.” Yep. I think I need to e-mail my friends that there may not be so much room tomorrow when they come after all.

I’m sure your refrigerator contents say something really important about who you are as a person. It’s always something staring you in the face that you need to change about yourself.


Meatloaf Anyone?

Holiday gatherings usually allow participants a minute or two to indulge in nostalgia for days gone by. For me and mine, this year was no exception. Over and over again, the topic of meatloaf came up. I’ve recently had a lot of dinners out, and it seems that meatloaf has returned to menus, allowing for this trip down Memory Lane. Okay, you food snobs, the conversation did not take place at Le Bernadin, but at some local joint where you gather for a quick bite in darkened quarters.

Anyway, my mother made the best meatloaf. Here is the recipe, which I know by heart because that is where it is stored.

Ground Beef (don’t know how much, but enough to fill a meatloaf pan or bread pan, whichever you use)

One onion, diced

One jar of Heinz Chili Sauce

One egg

One cup of Wheaties

Cheddar cheese (the kind that comes in a box, like Velveeta)

Salt and pepper

Mix everything together (making sure to wash your hands first), and then work it into a loaf shape. Then cut it in half horizontally, put the cheddar cheese in the middle, and smoosh it back together. Then put some of the cheddar cheese over the top.

Cook at 350° for a long time. (Not sure about the temperature, but whatever.)

This is my mother’s finest accomplishment. My sister, who is a real writer, included a slightly different version of this recipe in her cookbook. I have pitted my mom’s recipe against my friends’ mothers’ recipes at these table discussions, with great success.

“Wheaties? Really? Not Cornflakes?”

“Nope, Wheaties. Try it, you will never go back.”

“Does it have to be Heinz Chili Sauce?”

“Well yeah, it does. Are you daft?”

Everyone has their own recipes. My Aunt Nancy has been collecting them and plans to put them in a cookbook containing just meatloaf recipes. I think it would do really well in this world of single-ingredient recipe books. A person who wrote a cookbook—a hundred-page cookbook on just scallops, mind you—was speaking at a breakfast I recently attended, at which I learned that “single-ingredient recipe books” is a new genre in the cooking industry.

My beloved Cousin Pam (we are really sisters, but our parents think we are cousins) has a fabulous recipe for Turkey Meatloaf, and since it has things like green peppers in it, I can pretend it’s really good for me. She gave me the recipe a long time ago, but I lost it somewhere between the Hamptons and LA. I have asked her numerous times to send it to me again, and she has promised to do so, but never followed through. I’m hoping my mentioning it here will shame her into sending it now.

Anyway, meatloaf recipes abound. While I think a meatloaf-only cookbook is a great idea, I also think it might be nice to expand it to meatloaf and mashed potato recipes, because everyone knows meatloaf without mashed potatoes is like one shoe on and one shoe off. But I’m just grateful that meatloaf is back in, and I will not ask for more than that. I hate to be gluttonous.

I’m glad that meatloaf is back in style. I really am.

Food Health

Food Groups

I’ve figured out the obesity problem. It’s the food group thing.

It’s not about what you eat, necessarily, but about with whom you eat, where you eat, and your emotional state when the food goes into your mouth. Trying to tell me to eat three veggies and two fruits each day has no soul, and it ain’t working. Give me the rules on the who, what, where, and when theory of eating, and I think we can lick this thing.

Thanksgiving at Your Mother’s House with the Family.

No restrictions. Walk in the door and go for the food rather than speaking. You all know what I’m talking about. Eat it, don’t say it. No exceptions. This is not the food group with which to change your eating habits and lose a pound or so. Those who don’t get this need professional help.


When the lights go down, and you are all by yourself, it’s you, the people on the screen, and your popcorn and soda. Make it a small popcorn, no matter how many times the ill-intentioned person behind the counter points out that it’s only 25 cents more for 1,500 additional popcorn calories and extra guilt when the lights go up. Your response to that person should be, “Please tell me you are not making a commission on that extra 25 cents meant to hurt me.” Gently but firmly let them know you are on to the truth. Eat one kernel at a time, and only allow yourself to eat 1/3 of the popcorn container before the lights go down.

Mornings in the Car Alone.

Start your day with your morning joe from wherever. If you must stop at Mac’s, get the Egg McMuffin, pull over, and take the egg out and just eat the muffin and one slice of that fabulous American cheese that has a shelf life of three years. Eating in the car is a no-no, as is eating at your desk. You must eat  your morning whatever either in the parking lot of the place where it was purchased or in your home. Never make breakfast meetings.

The Boardroom at Work

Beg the office manager to stop ordering those tubs of candy when she places the Staples order. Remind her that you helped her get that raise, and that it’s only the women who are eating it while the guys sit there on their blackberries. Never bake anything for the office.

Dinner with Friends

Be a share-bear and order things to share. Make sure you speak at least one sentence between bites. Order one dessert for your table and two tables around you. Make new friends and save the calories. All sauces on the side. No drink before the food arrives.

See what I mean? It could work. There are other things you need to do as well.

Rank your friends on a Friends Who Eat Scale. That thing about safety in numbers is true, and you need to limit your exposure both to those who eat too much with you and those who only push their ridiculous salads (no dressing) around on their plates. Neither is a good food group. Trust me on this. I have been both those people, and I was never on your side in the food group.

Look, I really think I’m on to something here. Are you with me?


Dead Man’s Food

I was recently having dinner with a friend whose husband died a few years ago. She was telling me about all the food that was dropped off during the two weeks following his death. The sea of casseroles, desserts and fried chicken just kept coming, and surprisingly, on the bottom of the dishes they arrived in was the recipe for the whatever was being dropped off. Dead Man’s Food Recipes. It could be a book no? The Dead Man’s Food Recipe Book. Not so much.

“Are you kidding me? They gave you the recipe with the food?”

“Yep. Usually hand written on a piece of stationery. One night about a week after he died, my brother in law asked if we could possibly go out for dinner instead of eating ‘dead man’s food’ another night. We had to laugh. Each of the women also brought me a little envelope of pills and explained to me about taking them. It was a regular pharmacy.”

I decided to ignore the pill thing and just deal with the recipes. “Maybe they were just making sure you knew who to return the plate or dish to without asking for it. Tape the recipe on the bottom of the plate and you would know who the plate really belonged to.”

She just looked at me.

I am still thinking about it. When I was around seven or eight, I got the stomach flu after eating cinnamon toast. I never ate cinnamon toast again, and I loved cinanamon toast. Loved it. I would assume that the same thing would be true after eating dead man’s food. Who would possibly want to ever taste that particular dish again, let alone enter it into the hall of fame recipe drawer where you put favorite recipes that are usually associated with wonderful ‘food’ memories. I have those kind of recipes. My Aunt Molly’s Apple Cake that she used to bring me when she visited me at school. Years later I made her spend months looking for the recipe because I just needed to make it for my daughter. Or, my grandmother’s Christmas Cookies that are pecan balls. Those are the recipes you put on your stationery. Not dead man’s food. But believe me, no judgement here.

I’m sure it’s a Texas tradition thing (she was living in Texas when her husband died). Get a grip people. Drop off food, for sure, but use a paper plate or throw away tupperware to send it in, and please, leave the recipe at home. But, no judgement here.

Food Health

Zicam Weight Loss Idea

You know how you get those emails telling you that if you don’t throw away all your toilet paper, you will get a rash that will never leave you? Then it turns out it is a scam from the Net and has taken off in that viral way that the Net nurtures.

I got the following such email from my sister. She was forwarding it from someone who had forwarded it to her. I googled it and it does appear that a number of consumers have reported the symptoms described.

I want my friends and loved ones to know what has happened to me in hopes that it will never happen to  
you or anybody you care about.  About 10 days ago, I felt a cold coming on; so before I went to bed I   
used Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel.  It’s supposed to help you “get over your cold faster.”   Immediately 
after I sprayed it into each nostril I felt the most horrific burning sensation imaginable.  It         
literally felt like I had sprayed pepper spray directly into my brain.  It burned all the way to the    
top of my skull.  My nasal passages swelled, my eyes watered – the burning lasted all night long into   
the next day.

After about a day, I realized I couldn’t taste anything and I thought, “Wow – I must really have a bad  
cold..”  Then I noticed that I couldn’t smell coffee brewing, couldn’t smell my perfume when I put it   
on, couldn’t smell the popcorn I burned, couldn’t smell my favorite candle.  I panicked and starting    
smelling everything that I could find that had really strong odors – ammonia, finger nail polish        
remover, bleach, etc.  I couldn’t smell ANYTHING!  I started tasting everything that had really strong  
tastes such as HOT salsa, raw red onions, Doritos, coffee.  I couldn’t taste ANYTHING!

I told my mother about this and she said, “Oh, I’ve heard Zicam can affect your Olfactory nerve.”  I    
went online, typed in “Zicam side effects” and bam – up popped all sorts of web sites with people       
reporting the same thing I experienced.  It seems that this past June, Zicam pulled the swabs for       
adults and children off the shelf but not the nasal gel.

I went to my ENT and he said the Zicam had basically “FRIED” my Olfactory nerve and the results are     
most likely permanent.  He put me on a strong dose of a steroid called Prednisone in hopes of           
recovering ANY bit of the nerve damage but he told me to “take this and pray.”  He said he had read     
about the side effects of Zicam and couldn’t believe it is still on the shelf.  It isn’t FDA approved.  
I am taking the Prednisone and praying but nothing is happening..  I LITERALLY CANNOT SMELL OR TASTE    
ANYTHING!  I can tell if foods are hot or cold, I can tell the consistency and I can faintly detect if  
it is salty but that is it.                                                                             

At first I thought, “How awful!” But then I started to think that if you can’t taste or smell, then you could eat salads and salmon all the time and never know that it’s not ice cream and chocolate. I immediately called my sister.

“Look, if this Zicam thing is true, this could be the largest breakthrough in weight loss ever! Do you know how much weight we would lose if we couldn’t tell the difference between a radish and an M&M? Yikes, this is fabulous! I can’t believe no one has thought about this! Quick, we need to buy the stock before they figure it out! It will be the biggest thing since the birth control pill. What do you think?”

“I think you are a sick person, and this just confirms it along with all your other hair-brained thoughts. I love food. Food taste is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and I would never give it up permanently. What is wrong with you? I am hanging up now.” And, she did. I hate when she does that.

I called her back.

“Look, are you telling me that if you could be thin for the rest of your life by merely spraying Zicam up your nose until it burned, you wouldn’t do it?”

She hung up on me again without a reply. I am sure this is why my family has trouble communicating, but let’s set that aside for now.