Carol Rochnowski, of Lake Stevens, enjoyed a socially distanced dinner with her neighbors, Andy and April Taylor, before the weather changed their weekly meals. The neighbors, along with Rochnowski’s housemate, Bernie Terry, have supported 24 restaurants during the pandemic. (Courtesy Carol Rochnowski)

Carol Rochnowski, of Lake Stevens, enjoyed a socially distanced dinner with her neighbors, Andy and April Taylor, before the weather changed their weekly meals. The neighbors, along with Rochnowski’s housemate, Bernie Terry, have supported 24 restaurants during the pandemic. (Courtesy Carol Rochnowski)

With weekly take-out, neighbors feeding their friendships

These Lake Stevens families have made it a point to order takeout from an array of restaurants weathering the pandemic.

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

If it’s Thursday in one Lake Stevens neighborhood, it’s a special delivery of dinner and good cheer.

Carol Rochnowski reached out to share one way of “coping with COVID-19, supporting local businesses and becoming much more neighborly.”

Early this month, Daily Herald readers were asked about how the pandemic has changed their lives. Future columns will tell some of those stories, which include saddening experiences of loss. To start, here’s lighter fare — a way neighbors are making dinnertime into a convivial Thursday night treat.

Rochnowski and Bernadine “Bernie” Terry are retirees who combined their households years ago. Their house has a driveway in common with the home of neighbors April and Andy Taylor.

Over the years, April Taylor and her husband have gotten to know their neighbors.

“We’d wave coming and going,” said Taylor, 43. “They came to our kids’ graduation parties.”

Along with that driveway, the women — Rochnowski is 77, Terry is 82 — share with their younger neighbors the enjoyment of dining out. With COVID-19 restrictions limiting those options, they’ve brought all kinds of menu items home.

Taylor recalled that it started in March, when Rochnowski said, “I’ll buy if you guys fly” — meaning she’d pay for four restaurant meals in exchange for the Taylors doing the pickup and delivery.

So every Thursday that they’re all available, they choose a restaurant, check out the menu, put in orders, and the Taylors bring back the food. They switch off, week by week, which household pays the tab for all four dinners. If one week is expensive and the following Thursday not so much, it evens out over time, Rochnowski said.

As of last week, “we have supported 24 restaurants in 32 outings,” said Rochnowski. “Actually, we’re rather proud of ourselves.”

They’ve tried to keep most restaurant choices either on the east end of the U.S. 2 trestle or in Everett. They started with Francisco’s Kitchen & Cantina, a Lake Stevens restaurant owned by the Taylors’ friends, Eddie and Alyssa Barajas.

Rochnowksi has kept a list of the other eateries, among them Terracotta Red, Buck’s American Cafe, Scuttlebutt Pub, Lucky Dragon, Gianni’s Ristorante, Contos’ Pizza & Pasta, Cristiano’s Pizza Etc, Fred’s Rivertown Alehouse and the Cabbage Patch Restaurant.

In better weather, they’ve eaten together outside — socially distanced on a deck or in the driveway.

Once, Taylor said, they surprised the women by setting up tables in the driveway, complete with linens and fresh flowers. These days, with early darkness and cold weather, “there’s a knock on our door,” Rochnowski said. “We chat, about 10 feet away, and then we each go eat.”

The Taylors deliver dinners between 5:30 and 6 p.m., she said.

“We’ve done a really good job of agreeing on places,” Taylor said. She said she’s teased because she doesn’t eat seafood. And unlike the neighbors, she and her husband both dislike mushrooms.

Perhaps what’s best about Thursday isn’t a no-cook night or a chance to try a new dish. Friendships are deepening at a time when so many feel isolated in their homes. Rochnowski misses friends from her water aerobics group at the Everett YMCA, although they’ve taken to weekly Zoom chats.

“We adore hearing their stories,” Taylor said of her neighbors’ travel tales. “They once took a cruise through the Panama Canal. They went to Machu Picchu. They’ve done really cool things.

“Carol does 3-D puzzles. She built one for my husband. He’s in the tugboat industry, and she built him a tugboat,” Taylor said.

Rochnowski and Terry, meanwhile, have become better acquainted with neighbors on the other side of their house, a pair of helpful brothers in particular. The newspaper carrier often delivers to the wrong driveway, Rochnowski said.

“We’ve conned the 8-year-old to bring us our paper,” she said.

His older brother brings them their mail.

“COVID really has had some benefits,” Rochnowski said.

Julie Muhlstein: jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com

Has virus changed your life?

If you’d like to share ways the pandemic changed your life, send an email to jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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