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10 Safety Practices For Ordering Takeout (During A Pandemic)

Here's how to order out with total peace of mind...

Food & Drink

I don't know about y'all, but pretty much everyone in my world has been ordering takeout more than usual, ever since this coronavirus pandemic has become a part of our daily lives. What's really a trip about that is, it's not like most of us didn't make doing that a part of our lifestyle routine anyway, being that 60 percent of us were out here ordering delivery or takeout way before the Rona hit. Yet with all of the constantly changing information that's out here, I would totally understand if you're wondering how much of a risk that you're actually taking by hitting up your favorite restaurant so that they can send you something that you've been craving.

As with all things concerning this virus, the key is to be as knowledgeable as possible while not going into a state of panic. While it has pretty much always been holistically healthier to cook your own meals (check out "Why You Should Consider Leaving Fast Food Alone"), there are steps that you can take to insure that you are protecting you, your family and the delivery person, if you decide to bring some "outside food" in.

1. Avoid Peak Ordering Hours

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There are a couple of benefits that come with not waiting until peak ordering hours to get your food. One is that you won't have to wait forever (because a lot of restaurants don't have the same amount of staff that they did before the pandemic started) and two, if you decide to go the carryout route, you will be able to avoid coming into contact with as many people.

(If you don't know what a restaurant's busiest hours are, call them before ordering your food. Oh, and if you're wondering what restaurants are currently making deliveries, check out "60 Deals & Delivery Services To Get You Through COVID-19 Quarantine".)

2. Disinfect Your Screen Door

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While this step might seem like you're being "extra", choose to see it as a way of being proactively kind and courteous to the one who will be bringing your food to you.

While it would be ideal if the delivery person simply called or texted to let you know that your food is in front of your door or one the porch (more on that in a sec), if they do happen to knock on the door, do them a solid by disinfecting your screen door and door handle before they arrive.

At the time that I'm writing this, it's not a mandate that everyone wear masks and gloves, so it only takes five minutes to make sure that the person bringing your food to you is extra protected. Something like Simple Green® CLEAN FINISH® Disinfectant Cleaner should do the trick.

3. Sign Receipts with Your Own Pen

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There really is no telling how many people touch things like a single pen over the course of a day. So yeah, avoid coming into contact with germs unnecessarily by using your own pen to sign takeout receipts.

4. See If Deliveries (and Your Tip) Can Be Left at the Door

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These days, when ordering online, there is becoming less of a need to interact with your delivery person at all. For instance, there are usually notes, in the form of special requests, that you can leave online while placing an order about where you'd like your food to be dropped off. If it can be placed at the door without any human interaction, that's awesome. Speaking of, if for some reason, it is a restaurant's policy to get your signature on a receipt or they typically have people write in how much they want to tip their delivery person, ask if there is anyway to bypass this. The more that you can do with your debit or credit card, the less you'll be putting yourself at (potential) risk.

5. Tip Your Deliverer Well

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I once read an article that said, on average, food delivery drivers make somewhere between $8-19 an hour. Not bad if you're just looking to make a few extra bucks, but pretty low if you're working to make ends meet and you're basically putting your life on the line to do it.

Because restaurants are doing their best to stay afloat, we are able to still keep a certain sense of normalcy by enjoying some of our favorite foods without having to go out and get them. That deserves the "thank you" in the form of more than a standard 10-15 percent tip, if you ask me. You can also donate to relief fund organizations that are helping out restaurants, bars and food service workers. You can check out more on that here and here. Whatever you decide to do, please be generous. We're all trying to stay afloat right now.

6. Keep Carryout Off of Your Surfaces

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Not to get you all paranoid or anything, but you really don't know where food containers and bags are stored or who's been touching on them prior to them arriving at your house. Just to be on the super safe side, avoid placing the carryout bags directly onto your kitchen counters. Instead, put a towel or some paper towels on your counters first. Use gloves to remove the food from the bags and then immediately throw the bags out (preferably into your trashcan outside) once you've taken all of the food out. Do not touch your face, for any reason, while you're doing this.

7. Wash Your Hands Immediately After Removing Food from Packaging

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Once the food is out of the bags and the bags have been disposed of, it's important to wash your hands for 20-30 seconds with soap and warm water. While there has yet to be evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted through food (let's all make sure to keep it on our prayer list that it never does), what we do know is it can live on surfaces including containers and utensils (reportedly for 1-3 hours). So, you want to make sure that your hands are as clean as possible after touching on stuff that your food came in. This brings us to the next point.

8. Reheat Food in Your Own Containers

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If you're anything like me and you enjoy your food when it's about as hot as you can stand it, avoid reheating your food in the containers that they came in because, remember, someone handled before you did. It's best to immediately put the food in your own containers and to toss the delivery ones out as well (which yeah, basically means washing your hands just one more time). The other reason why you should do this is because you never know if the containers happen to contain harmful chemicals like BPA; the less you have to worry about, the better.

Oh, and I'm hoping that since I'm sharing that it's not a good idea to reheat in your delivery containers that it's a given to not eat straight out of them. It's kinda hard to eat out of something without touching it. Feel me?

9. Consider Eating Outdoors

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Yes, most of us are living in Safer at Home status at this point, but no one said that you can't go outside. If you live in a house or a townhome (that has a yard) it can do you some good to get out of the walls of your home and go outside; not just for a change of scenery but for some fresh air too. Since indoor air pollution is 2-5 times higher than outdoor air pollution, it could do you some real good to have a little picnic, a couple of times a week.

10. Don’t Leave Your Leftovers Out

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Food poisoning sucks and since hospitals are being pushed to their absolute limit as it is, you want to avoid getting it as much as possible. One way to do that is to make sure that you don't leave whatever food is leftover out for too long. How long is "too long"? Two hours. Also, make sure that whenever you do reheat your leftovers, you do it at a temperature that's around 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

BONUS: Support Those Who Are Lookin’ Out

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Thankfully, as if this month, "Federal law mandates new paid leave requirements for restaurant workers affected by coronavirus". But there are restaurants who are going above and beyond the bare minimum (and paid sick leave is definitely a bare minimum). Starbucks actually offers "catastrophe pay" (two weeks on top of their standard two-week sick pay) for employees who've been diagnosed with coronavirus. Recently KFC donated $400,000 to Blessings in a Backpack which is a non-profit that gives weekend meals to hungry kids, free of charge while Taco Bell donated $1 million to No Kid Hungry, a campaign that also feeds children. Domino's is donating million of slices of pizza to essential workers and school children. Several restaurants in New York are making free meals for hospital workers. I also want to give a big shout-out to Houston-based chef and restaurateur Jonathan "Jonny" Rhodes for recently turning his restaurant Indigo into a grocery store for low-income families (ain't nothin' like a good Black man, y'all!). I also found David Cabello's new app Black and Mobile to be a cool addition for such a time as this.

Other chains are being proactive about taking less money out of our pockets. For instance, if you use Burger King's app, they will give you two free kids meals with a regular order. TGIF Friday is giving a free kid's meal for every order over $20. Olive Garden has a two-for-the-price-of-one promotion. Several chains are offering free delivery (read more on what other chains are doing here). Figuring out the restaurants in your area who are helping their workers, you and the community and then ordering from them first is a great way of saying "I see you and I appreciate you" as they try and keep their doors open.

Do you feel a little better (and safer) now? Good. Now how about getting off of here and ordering you something to eat? With all that's going on right now, you deserve it.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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