6 somewhat random (but necessary) things to buy this week

Nothing to do, nowhere to go, that should be the motto of 2020 - and so it shouldn’t be a surprise that at the start of this pandemic it was reported that American’s personal savings spiked up to 30% - from the typical 3-8% people save a year. Yet despite the security of money in the bank, people have a whole other set of (very real) concerns and Tyler Cowen suggests that one way for Americans to be happier and gain some semblance of pre-Covid joy is simply to spend more money.

Historically nearly all of my disposable income has gone toward experiences to create lasting memories. I’ve never been one to buy much stuff online or fuss over clothes, jewelry or gadgets. I even accidentally smashed the back of my iphone in March and its still being held together by a bunch of scotch tape, much to the chagrin of my spouse (and the ongoing fascination of my two year old).

But aside from the frugality with the aforementioned phone, the pandemic has changed my spending considerably. I am now suddenly seeking out things to buy online, for myself and for others. Random things, like room spray. Or Japanese candy. Or a magazine rack. As many of the zoom-appropriate clothes I could reasonably afford from this Solange photoshoot in Harper’s Bazaar. Even a no-occasion birthday cake.

I used to loathe the mail, I’d let it pile up for weeks before opening - to the point where another sizable portion of my budget went to late fees for bills. Now I’m waving to the mail-person mid-day and happily unboxing things before I’m back in the front door. It’s a problem, or maybe it’s a solution to the severe novelty-deficiency I’ve been experiencing all these months.

Anyway - if you too need things to buy—and want to shop locally—here are a few east bay-based things to buy this week.

  1. Greenery. At the start of all of this, I tried doing the long-distance plant-by-mail thing and the plant I ordered showed up near death with dirt everywhere and no chance of redemption. The not-to-be-named trendy millennial plant company kindly shipped me another one, and that one too arrived as if on death’s door: box smashed, leaves browned and surrendering to a slow death by postal transit. They offered me another one, but I just couldn’t bear to see another sad, sorry plant make its way to me, so I declined. [Side note: I once read a study about how plants may possibly feel feelings and it’s haunted me ever since.] Anyway - I’m back to buying local and found a wonderful east bay spot to shop. Locally-owned The Tender Gardener was founded this year and offers contactless east bay delivery of healthy and happy-looking plants, including everything from palms to prickly pear cacti, ferns, and that oh-so-trendy fiddle fig. You can even find a little work-from-home desk-mate for as low as $6.

  1. Olive oil. The secret to most great cooking is great olive oil. And olive oil goes bad within a year, so depending on how often you cook - it’s probably better to buy smaller bottles so you always have the highest quality stash in your cooking. There’s a local company that can help freshen your supply - Fat Gold - offers pure Californian olive oil in a cute tin. The company, based out of Oakland, is run by Kathryn Tomajan and Robin Sloan who, upon reading their website bios, sound like the kind of people you’d want to be friends with but you’d also need to have high self-esteem to be friends with, because they’re probably just so casually, unbearably interesting and cool that if you were insecure, your spouse and you would be looking at each other like ‘why can’t we be more like Kathryn and Robin', but also the kind of people who probably would never make you feel that way, so it would be OK after all. Kathryn has her master’s degree in food culture from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy and is a trained olive miller. And Robin worked in tech before leaving to become a full-time olive oil truck driver and writer and is the author of a delightfully whimsical new york times best selling novel called Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. All that said - you can buy a tin for $28 or get a whole year subscription. Feels like a great locally-sourced present for the foodie in your life.

  2. Sugar. In the last east bae, I was lamenting on how I miss the feeling of standing casually at a pastry counter trying to decide what to order. The good news is that the best baked good wholesaler Starter Bakery is now delivering direct to consumers. Historically they’ve only sold their goods at Farmer’s Markets and local coffee shops and while they still don’t have a storefront, they recently started offering delivery and I was able to get an enormous box of treats delivered. Don’t sleep on the Kouign Amann, the sugary sweet french pastry they’re known for — and they’ve also been playing around with some fun seasonal flavors like caramel poached pear, plus they’re offering a whole assortment of pies you can pre-order for Thanksgiving if you get your order in soon!

  3. Spice. Sana Javeri Kadri is the owner of the Oakland-based Diaspora spice company which sources and packages sustainable, organically farmed spices. I’m a sucker for mission-oriented companies with beautiful branding and this is a company that clearly shares their values through their business model, messaging and design. The company notes that most grocery store spices are 5-7 years old but instead Diaspora only sells spices packed from 2020 harvest, so you know you’re getting the most potent and flavorful varieties. Another great holiday gift for the home chefs on your list.

  4. Bubbles. Soda lovers will be delighted to learn about Oakland-based Olipop which has a line of fizzy drinks with less than five grams of sugar and less than 50 calories. Olipop is meant to be a soda alternative in pretty packaging with twists on classic flavors plus 8-9 grams of pre-biotic fiber meant to give you a healthy and balanced gut. I sent a variety case to a trusted soda connoisseur and they said all the flavors were good but were leaning toward the “Orange Squeeze” as being best.

  5. Unnecessary, but also, necessary, alcohol. I don’t get out much, so it was completely unbeknownst to me that East Bay rap legend E40 has a pre-made bottled alcohol line called SLURICANE, modeled after the famed New Orleans hurricane cocktail. One Forbes reporter said they traveled 2,500 miles just to track it down. You can probably find Sluricane at your local BevMo. Related, somehow I was also completely unawares, but BevMo is actually HQ’d here in the east bay in Concord, and it was recently acquired for $350M by a company called GoPuff — which given its name, I was convinced was a weed company, but apparently is just a delivery company? Anyhow, if you really love E40 and ICYMI in a past edition of the newsletter - there’s also this incredible wallpaper that features E40, Alice Waters and more local legends.

And lastly, the absolute best way to spend money is on other people! Please consider supporting our local community and donating to the food banks (Contra Costa, Alameda). Send along your receipts and east bae will do our best to match!