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Sanitizers – where do they take you?

Aesop hand sanitizer

Let’s talk hand sanitizers.

We need them. They help stop the spread of viruses. But I’m all out of my favourite bottle, the one that lives in my purse and smells like mandarin rind, cedar and rosemary. You know the one, the Australian brand that transports you to a Sydney rock pool, where a woman in a red bathing suit and sun hat is lounging on a striped towel. She has a book in her hand, something by Sally Rooney. She’s only here for an hour, soon she’ll be meeting a friend at the café across the road, where they’ll drink a flat white and eat toasted sourdough topped with avocado and a good pinch of Himalayan salt.

Compare this to the sanitizer at the grocery store, the one in a huge dispenser just outside the sliding glass doors that you’re asked to use before entry. One plunge will take you, perhaps, to a neighbourhood school yard on Labour Day weekend, where your friends are drinking alcohol from mason jars. The brown liquid – a melange of this and that, stolen from various parents’ liquor cabinets – is dark and foreboding. One friend, with the tight ponytail and a delicate nose ring, offers you a sip. It tastes like burning aftershave, but it’s not so bad if you squint your eyes and try not to spin around in a circle. You can’t remember what happens after that, but you do remember being grounded for most of grade ten.

Or how about the sanitizer at the gym, the one you have to slather on before, during and after every workout? This one is harder to pinpoint, mainly because the aromatic notes of a dietary supplement typically don’t come to mind while performing chest presses. But then it’s there: you’re in grade one and the bell is ringing for recess. You file into the cloakroom with the other kids and retrieve your special snack from your backpack: a chocolate milkshake in a can that your father brought home from the medical clinic where he works. He said they were about to expire. You don’t know what ‘expire’ means, but you understand ‘chocolate’. It’s guaranteed to be good. But it’s not good. It’s thick and oily, and smells like a hospital cafeteria, the one you visited when your grandfather was in the hospital. You gag a little, then spend the rest of recess in the girls bathroom, pouring the contents of your ‘chocolate milkshake’ down the drain.

My friend says going out is a game of ‘sanitizer roulette.’ Who knows what you’ll get, or which story it will tell.

UPDATE: now I’m craving sanitizer roulette. It implies a life outside of home. As of today, Nova Scotia is more of less back in lockdown. While we ride this out, I’ll be working on the perfect avocado toast. It’s a throwback to the food trends of 2018, I appreciate that. But 2018 was the year I visited Australia, it’s when I swam in rock pools and ate the best avocado toast imaginable. Avocados grow beautifully in Australia. Why not travel there through the kitchen, through scent memory, through a little bottle of hand sanitizer?

avocado toast
A Very Good  Avocado Toast 

2 slices of your favourite bread
1 splash of olive oil
a tiny bit of butter
1 avocado, ripe and ready
1 teaspoon lemon juice
a good pinch of salt
cracked pepper


– 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced, and marinated in 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar. Leave to mingle for 15 minutes or so – long enough for the onion to loose its bite and the slices to turn a tender shade of pink. Save the rest in a jar in the fridge, and serve later in salads, sandwiches, soup…

-a small crumbling of feta

Heat olive oil and butter in a fry pan. I like to fry my toast, for maximum warmth, flavour and richness. While pan is heating and bread is frying, scoop avocado into a bowl and smash with a fork. Add lemon juice, salt (a simple sea salt, Maldon flakes or pink Himalayan for the ultimate experience) and cracked black pepper to taste.

Spoon avocado over fried bread- I find that one avocado typically divides well between two slices. You’re more than ready to eat at this point, but for extra colour and texture, add optional toppings. A fried egg will make it a meal.