Frederick M. Hueston, PhD

I was going to head over to my favorite greasy spoon, but it is still closed due to this darn coronavirus.  I yawned my way into my kitchen to make my own joe, and see what I could find. Before all this social distancing started, it had been a while since I had to cook a traditional breakfast; there’s no time like the present to practice survival skills. So, out come the Betty Crocker cookbooks.  What’s funny is that after graduating high school, I worked in a diner, and even worked my way up to short order cook. It didn’t take me long to remember how to do some bacon and eggs, and perhaps I can still flip a hamburger or two with the best of them. 

I opened my ’fridge and spotted some bacon and some eggs I didn’t remember buying. I pulled out my electric grill and had a flashback to those diner days. By the way — important safety tip:  do NOT fry bacon without an apron on. OUCH  — OUCH —  OUCH! 

Just as I was about to practice my one-handed egg-cracking talent, my phone rang. The voice on the other end had sort of a New York / Italian accent. He regaled me at length about a problem with his granite countertop, and for a moment I thought I was talking to Tony Soprano.

He told me that his granite countertop was getting darker and darker. He said he had tried several different cleaners, but the countertop kept getting darker.  He wanted me to come out and take a look at it. I told him I was a little concerned about traveling. He started yelling that this virus thing was all a hoax, it was ruining his business, the government was behind it, etcetera, etcetera.  

I just kept calm and told him I could give him some stain removal tips. He wouldn’t hear of it. He really seemed to be the type of guy who wasn’t used to hearing “no.” But I really didn’t want to get on a plane with this outbreak, so I insisted he try a few things. He just kept insisting that I needed to see it for myself.  If only there was a way to see it without traveling all the way to New York… 

Yup — he was in NYC, and in one of the worst-hit areas. Just as I was about to tell him to find someone locally, I had an idea.  I asked him if he had access to FaceTime, Skype or maybe Messenger. He said, “Yeah, who doesn’t, dese days?”

 I told “Tony” I could do a virtual inspection. He could show me the problem over his phone, and I could ask him questions to clarify what I was seeing, and possibly have him try a few things as I watched.  He seemed to like the idea, so he hung up and told me he would call me back on FaceTime.

My phone rang several minutes later – and there he was – the spitting image of Tony Soprano! (But it couldn’t be him – didn’t he die in season six?) Tony was kind of intimidating, and I was afraid if I couldn’t solve this problem I would soon be wearing a pair of cement shoes (LOL). 

He turned the phone around and began to show me his countertop. Sure enough, the counter had these large, dark stains all over it. They seemed to be everywhere. Generally, when I see stained countertops, the stains are in areas near the sink or the stove, but these stains were everywhere. 

So, I started asking him some questions. My first question and rule number one in stain removal, “Do you know what the stains are?”

“I have no $*#$&^#^ idea,” he growled. So I asked what type of cooking or meal prep he does on the counter. What he said next had me nodding my head in understanding. He proceeded to tell me that he owned an Italian restaurant and he was the main chef. He said he tries new recipes at home before offering them in his restaurants.  

“Do you use a lot of oil.?” I asked.

 “Any Italian who doesn’t use olive oil is not a real Italian cook!” he yelled at me. This solutions was going to be tricky since the stains are probably olive oil, but even if we could remove them,  they are likely to return and be a continuous problem. 

I explained to him about poultices and how to remove a stain with a poultice. He listened to my instructions for a minute and then stopped me and yelled,  “Have you lost your *&@$#^%$ mind? I ain’t gonna to do that.”

I was going to suggest he get a restoration contractor to do the poulticing, but I suspected he wouldn’t be happy with that either, and then I got an idea.  I asked him if he would mind if the entire countertop was even, but darker? He told me, “Yeah, I guess that would be OK.”

I told him to take a rag and some olive oil and spread the oil over the countertop and let it sit for an hour or so. After it sits, go ahead and wipe the excess off.  He called me back the next day and told me it worked. Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone do this, but in this case, it was good solution. Instead of charging him I asked for his chicken parm recipe. He told me he could give it to me, but would have to kill me if he did. I settled for a free meal at his restaurant next time I was in town. Another case solved –and now I’m hungry!

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Dr. Frederick M. Hueston, PhD. Dr. Fred has written over 33 books on stone and tile fabrication and installation, and also serves as an expert witness. Fred has also been writing for the
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