It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
I never thought it come to this but desperate times call for desperate measures. Thanks for reading, and to any who used my work for term papers and such. I hope you got good grades.
Tag Archives: Food Writing
It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
Sunny and cool this morning as I wait for my train on the railroad platform. This is my 2nd unexpected trip to New York in recent times, with the promise of 50 degree temps today there was no way I was staying home. The chores can wait till tomorrow. The New Year hasn’t turned out too good so far but of course it could be much worse. My father has been sick with a cold and asked me on New Years Eve morning to lookup online the symptoms of swelling in the legs. I ask to see it and it looks like cellulitis, just like my mom had which I chronicled in my story Anya,Mosquito’s and Me a few years ago. I tell dad to call his doctor and he is told to go to the ER. So I leave for the store because dad insists on finishing his toast and tea, like a sort of last meal before the cigarette and blindfold I guess. When I come back mom is up and I tell my brother through his closed-door what is happening and leave for the ER. This has become all too familiar in recent years.
When I park the car after letting dad out at the door I find him in triage being evaluated. I help them fill in the blanks of my dads memory and then they take him to chest ER and we are seen soon enough. The same jackass who misdiagnosed my brother with a simple nosebleed is my dads doctor, but I hold my tongue pending any legal action my brother might take against the hospital. They immediately put him on oxygen with a nebulizer and a double antibiotic drip. He has congestive heart failure, edema, cellulitis, possible pneumonia and anemia. He will be admitted as soon as they do some tests and find a bed. I go down to find some breakfast but they don’t open till eleven for lunch, so I get some free utility coffee and graham crackers in the pantry and wait as more blood is drawn for a second round of tests.
When my mom and brother show up I say goodbye to dad and head home stopping first at the liquor store to see my friends and fill them in on what’s happening. They are shocked and sorry for us as another holiday is ruined. They don’t even know about the trouble with mom at Christmas which wasn’t medical but just as devastating. I go home and clean up a bit and pour myself a glass of wine and settle in to make a meat and vegetable lasagna, with no bake whole wheat pasta, skim milk cheese and ricotta with fresh tomato sauce. I’m so glad I can get healthy foods in under the radar like this and nobody is any the wiser. It’s getting dark and I really wish that mom and bro would get home before the crazies start driving around. They finally arrive and we sit down to eat the food which was awesome, later we toast the New Year with Negroni’s for me and beer for my brother and we watch the ball drop with mom. I note that Carson Daley has almost completed his transformation into Dick Clark. We are all mad at dad for refusing to go to the doctor until his scheduled visit in January and landing himself in the ER again. This is an exact repeat of Christmas 2010.
The next day I plan to try making French macaron’s for the first time followed by a small pork roast I got on sale as our holiday dinner. I visit dad in the morning and bring him the paper and he is looking better already, I try to make the best of it by making small talk and watching TV but he is mad. I take the opportunity to speak with the floor doctor to correct any false statements my dad made and fill in gaps about his last trip to the ER. Soon after I leave and wish him a happier New Year with assurances that mom and bro will be there later. Despite my efforts to make his tea and heat up his lunch and prep it for him he is miserable. There is nothing I can do. I go home to find the house empty and since I’ve again had nothing all day, I don’t know it yet. But I’m about to make the best Fritatta of my life! I combined chopped onions, ham, potato and goat cheddar cheese cooked on the stove top and then into the oven to broil the top and melt the cheese. It was a masterpiece, cooked to perfection! The flavor was out of this world and no one was there to see it. Someday I will make some lucky girl very happy, I cook well , don’t watch sports ( except the Olympics), I actually enjoy shopping and I’m an artist. But enough bragging about me…my euphoria was cut short as the unforgiving macarons would remind me just how much of an amateur baker I am. I set up my mise-en-place and have my instructions out and while the oven heats up I mix the almond meal with the egg whites and then pipe them on to the baking sheets, but my first batch doesn’t rise and spread the way it should, and despite lowering the heat and doubling up the pans my second or third don’t work either. I have succeeded in making crunchy buttons that’s all. So I clean up the Fritatta, storing it to take to work for the week and clean up my mess when I hear a strange noise in the house.
What sounds like the blinds on the back door being ruffled by someone brings me to full alert, I go into the dinning room expecting God only knows but there is nothing there. I’m alone in the house, it is then that I smell that ugly burning wire smell that sends me racing upstairs to check the rooms and then back down again to find the source. I finally call the fire dept who advise me to get out of the house but I stay. I move the furniture around to find the source looking for the problem when I look up and see the chandelier has one candle that is black and melted. I quickly turn off the light and call back the firehouse to cancel the call but as I can hear they are already on their way. I go out side to find they have brought every truck imagineable as well as the Chief dressed in his dress blues and the others in full battle gear. I shake hands with the Captain and explain that he didn’t have to get dressed up for the occasion but he laughs and tells me they just came from a swearing-in ceremony. I tell him what I found and they go in to check it out and we turn off all the breakers just to be sure. I sign some papers and they leave me to air out the house and I pour myself a large white wine and try to calm my jangled nerves. I thank God this didn’t happen when we were at my cousins for Christmas, we could have come home to a smoking ruin, especially when I think that dad wanted to leave the dinning rooms light on while we were away. Once again my instincts told me to shut it off after he went to the car, my guardian angel, sixth sense or whatever you believe in saved us again.
I come up from Penn Station and waste no time in getting over to 9th Ave , I’m glad I dressed warmly as it’s still cool and breezy. I head south and stop in a bodega for a coffee and a loo break and sit and write looking out the window, the sun is warm on my face as I sit and the promise of spring is on my mind as I watch the passers-by. But I move on passing thru Chelsea, a quieter section with Asian influences, stopping to take a photo a French cafe called Le Grannie. It looks inviting for lunch despite the ugly black door but they are full up. So I move on stopping to take pictures of the Maritime Building, built-in 1968 it features round port-hole windows which I love. I continue on down Greenwich St to Gansevoot where 9th Ave ends. A photographer is photo shooting a model in the cobblestone plaza across from another French place called Pastis. It’s relatively quiet here except for the street construction it’s like the suburbs. I continue on stopping to look at the menu of the Spotted Pig, an old gastropub that I’ve mentioned before, it’s a little expensive so I move on past the remnants of Christmas trees that have been picked up by NYC Sanitation, the needles litter the sidewalk and out into the street like green blood of a murder scene that has yet to be cleaned. I turn back and decide to try the Spotted Pig after all, I know it will be good here. The place is like a hunters tavern, old brick pillars, wood floors and artwork featuring pigs, ducks and game birds in all states of life and death. There’s an attractive hipster staff and good old standards and jazz playing at just the right volume. This is the kind of place I would love to have back home in boring Long Island. I like it here a whole lot, if I wasn’t watching my budget I’d have a drink or two but it’s not even noon yet. The menu is amazing and the bar specials too, they include rock shrimp over grits with poached egg, rabbit rillettes, sardines et toast but I decide on an Omelet Albert Bennet, an omelet covered in bechamel sauce and Gruyere cheese. They bring you a small pot of coffee here God love em, I sip my coffee and write for a while till my food comes. The omelet is a little over browned but it’s rich and creamy, simple rustic food served with crusty Italian grain bread and olive oil. This is the kind of place I love, no TV, quiet music, great food and drinks and a lot of atmosphere. I pay my check and go out heading east to Hudson St, stopping to take pics and deciding to walk to the Bowery. I want to go to the kitchen supply store where Anthony Bourdain shot scenes for his show. I pass the familiar A.O.C. where a very naive me ate his first Cassoulet years ago, I didn’t even know it was an overcooked mess. But that was before I started teaching myself classic French cooking.
I walk down W.Houston street among the throngs of people, this for me is the non-Asian speaking equivalent of Canal St and I stop opposite The Angelika Film center to make a call and sit for a while. It’s a long walk but I love to walk far in the city. It’s what makes a stress test so difficult for me, they have to raise the incline and increase the speed far above many people to get my heart rate up to complete the test. The nurses always ask me “Do you do a lot of walking?” I had no choice today anyway, I heard that the subways are undergoing a makeover today and several lines are closed. So it’s walkies for me today for real. I find the Kitchen Supply Co easily and go inside to look around, they have got everything here. The next time you go to a eatery and look at the stainless steel counters and utensils, chances are it came from this place or one of the others that are in this area. I find the saute pans that Tony showed on his show and just like he said $18.95, I get a little chill to think that I’m standing where he stood. Especially when I realize I already have pans like these, so I am using the stuff that is recommended to Chefs all over New York. I leave without buying anything else, I’ve got all I need for now. It isn’t long before I’m walking down into Criff Dogs, a steamy small place serving the most unusual hot dogs and hiding a secret. This is also a Tony place and I order a BLT dog, a wiener wrapped in bacon and served with lettuce tomato and mayo. The phone booth is where the secret lies, it leads to a small bar that serves good drinks and dogs that you can only get in the bar called PDT. But it’s too early-not open for another two hours, so I eat my crunchy BLT dog and drink my Sprite and leave. I will make it a point to come back one night when I’m in town. I begin to head back to mid-town and start the long walk home, it’s a beautiful day filled with people moving around enjoying the sunshine and warmer temperatures.
In France people often wish each other to step in Merde, it’s like break a leg in theater… it’s for good luck. The dog poo laws being what they are there’s an excellent chance of stepping in some if you’re in Paris, as I can attest to. The New York version is getting pooped on by a pigeon or at least a sparrow, and for the first time in New York and the second time today I am hit by an incoming round! I hope it’s the bluebird of happiness, after the last few months I could well use some. I decide to stop at a pub on 33rd and 2nd called Jack Kavanaugh’s for a drink or two before the train. I sit at the end of the bar and the bartender comes over, mid fifties and Irish as they come. “What can I get yah?” I think for a moment and say “Ill have a Manhattan” and looks at me and says in a thick accent “Streyhtwup?” and I say “Excuse me?” and he says again leaning in a little. “StraightUP!” So I think for split second and say “Yes thanks.” Trying to appear deaf instead of naive. He tells me he was invited to a New Years party where he drank only Manhattans because he was given no choice in the matter. I laugh and tell him I decided to try all the old school drinks I’ve never had just for kicks to see what I’m missing. He seems pleased that someone ordered something other than beer and brings me my drink in a Martini glass with 2 cherries laying in the bottom. It is smoky and bitter, strong and smooth, just what the doctor ordered. I sit back and read the Village Voice in the fading light of afternoon and think this is about the happiest I’ve been in a long time. The stress of the past few weeks melts away with the second drink as I listen to the sounds of the city as I read. I start to think about getting home and after a trip to the loo I walk down 33rd St west toward the LIRR. Moving with the throngs of people I think how the family is changing, the old people are sickly and some will be gone soon. The forty somethings are turning fifty and the thirty somethings are turning forty. Then there is the young ones who are not so young anymore, they have become the twenty somethings pushing at thirty. The old guard is coming to a close and the rest of us single people will have to close ranks, find mates and form a new family bond in an ever uncertain world we are all we’ve got. It might be the booze but I start to feel a little blue at the thought of all who are passed. I start to feel a little sorry for myself. But the city always provides the answer in the form of a young Hispanic couple I pass on the street. She is taking a picture of her boyfriend and I pass them by-but then I stop. And turn back and say “Would you like me to take a picture of you together?” “Sure!” they say in unison and hand me their camera. They pose and I take a shot, but after giving it back they ask for another…she had her eyes closed. I take the second shot grinning now at them and they are pleased. They thank me and I walk away feeling better about things with a spring in my step now that I made a difference to someone today. I can only hope that their love lasts as long as my love for New York City. I ride the escalator down to the waiting trains below.
In a previous story (Always In The Small Hours) I told the tale of my brothers trips to the ER. He had come home after being diagnosed the first ER trip with a nosebleed, then he went back 24 hours later and was re-diagnosed with possible pneumonia and given a z-pac and told to follow-up with his own doctor in a week. He tried hard to get better but he was not feeling well, he seemed to rally and then his coughing would start again and so did the bleeding. This time it was no joke, we took him back to the ER and he was admitted. Now they are checking him for Tuberculosis and after a cat scan, bronchioscapy and more blood tests than you can imagine. My parents and I run back and forth to the hospital to see him donning masks every time. We brought his laptop day two so he could alert his online teachers of his predicament. The four of us waited out the test results and prayed that all that blood my brother coughed up was just a Pneumonia and not TB. It was a scary time for all of us, I tried not to think about the unhappy possibilities of losing my brother. He made the best of it by the second day of strong meds and fluids and was up and around, working on his online degree with renewed energy. I called all the relatives and cancelled hosting Thanksgiving for the family, I was too tired and my brothers favorite holiday was ruined, I just couldn’t go on without my brother and sit and eat turkey while he was in isolation eating hospital food.
Thanksgiving Day we got a nice surprise at the hospital, the downstairs cafeteria for the employees; which also serves the public, was putting up a free holiday dinner for the employees and the families of the patients! This is something they do every holiday apparently, and since my mom had been making an issue out of having turkey on Thanksgiving to the point of being willing to spend $25 each on the privilege of eating it in a diner. It was indeed a happy accident that she found out we could eat for free. Only after I suggested she call and see if the hospital had any special food for the holiday on the menu. So I was glad I stuck to my guns and refused to spend upwards of 75 bucks on dinner. The hospital dinner was really good, I was shocked. We had turkey of course and cornbread stuffing, asparagus, and candied yams with loads of gravy and coffee,tea and your choice of dessert for free! I shook hands with the manager a told him and the head of the kitchen how much we appreciated the food and the gesture of feeding the families for free.
But the next day (Friday) I got an unusual call in the morning from the hospital, they wanted to know how my brother was doing at home, I told the woman on the phone that he was still in the hospital and she needed to check her records. Yet I was puzzled, so I called my brother only to find out his tests came back negative and he was free to go home. So as soon as his doctor signed his release he was sprung. I got into his car and bolted to the hospital to grease the wheels any way I could. I arrived to find him getting dressed with laptop open on the bed, towels on the floor and suitcase being packed like he was leaving a hotel. There was nothing to do now but get the IV line out of his hand and sign the paperwork. He goes home with no restrictions on anything except to stay away from tobacco and to see his doctor in two weeks. I hand him his keys as we walk out of the hospital and we get into his car and immediately drive to 7-11 for soda and beer for him. He has had nothing but ginger ale and water for days and days. We come home to the relief of my folks, this was really hard for them. This year there is much to be thankful for at this time of celebration.
So I’ve just finished my meager breakfast as we hurtle to New York City on an express train. There are dozens of people heading in to the city today, mostly to shop I imagine. This is Black Friday weekend and I’m taking a trip in today to do a photo-shoot and enjoy the unusual 60 degree plus weather before the rain comes in on Monday. This is totally unexpected as I figured this little mini vacation was going to be a bust. The fact is that for once we got really lucky. I come up from the tracks and head out of the station into the street, throngs of people are about moving in all directions. I head to Macy’s Herald Square for a loo and also I’d like to see it again in full Christmas regalia. I haven’t been here since 2008 and its in full bloom. This place is packed with a choking crowd of people already and it’s not even eleven yet. It takes me twenty minutes to find the loo and twenty minutes to get back out onto the street. I look around a little feeling bad that mom, dad, and brother man never get to see NYC. The fact is that dad has no interest, bro has school and mom is not in good enough shape to travel to the big apple. I wish we were all twenty-five years younger.
I begin to wander in the general direction of The Meatball Shop on 11th between Greenwich and Perry. This is my new obsession after seeing it on the cooking channel, this place serves up six different kinds of meatballs daily. It’s the go to place for lunch and late night college snacks, and families with a kid friendly menu too. I stop and take pictures of the New Yorker Hotel and wander in the general direction of the lower west side. By roundabout ways I come to that section of Greenwich St that’s fighting to be chic while still retaining it’s village feel. The cobblestone streets surrounded by new trendy clothing shops and restaurants thinly veil the general feel of decay that lies just beyond the reach of the storefronts and al-fresco dinning. The ongoing construction seems to do little to change the landscape. It appears the same as the first time I came here years ago before I had my blog. This doesn’t mean it hasn’t got promise, in a few years this could be a go to area for the city’s trendy.
You find little gems when you peek under the city’s petticoats, and this time I find a little gem called The Spotted Pig, an old Irish pub that looks inviting and cheery outside with potted plants that even in death of winter seem ripe with promise. Further down hidden under scaffolding is the equally amazing Kaas Glass Works, a place where hand-made glass trays and plates meet a kind of esoteric zeal for the old and new. The place is small and a big man like myself treads carefully in the shop. The plate designs feature old botanical illustrations, advertisements, scenes of New York and Paris, and even a series of plates featuring a skeleton from Grays Anatomy split into four parts and displayed inside a presentation wall frame with museum glass. This is the kind of thing that I love about my travels. Sadly I cannot afford these beauties and would not buy them until I have my own place. I’m getting hungry now It’s been hours of wandering looking for just the right shot, so I move on to find The Meatball Shop on Greenwich Ave between 11th and Perry St. It’s a little place with charming white wainscot and a checkered black and white tile floor, old photographs decorate the walls and give the space an old world feel. The pretty blonde waitress explains the menu which is made of plastic and requires a little study. Basically there are five kinds of meatballs,beef, chicken, pork, spicy beef, vegetable and a wild card which changes daily. There are also five kinds of sauces classic tomato, Parmesan cream, spicy meat, pesto, and sweet teryaki. You can get you meatballs in a myriad of ways. Just plain in a bowl, on a hero or smashed on Brioche, over salad,pasta,risotto, or polenta. Even the simple slider is served here! The possibilities are endless and they also boast an impressive list of regional Italian and French wines. I mark my choices with a dry erase marker and go off to the loo for a washup.
When I come back I find my Pabst Blue Ribbon has been poured and I settle down to write a little , observing the people around me and listening to their stories. I hardly have time to do so before my food arrives hot and fresh. I got the classic beef balls with creamy Parmesan sauce over soft polenta. These are perhaps the best meatballs ever! The flavor of the sauce is savory and the sweet corn taste of the polenta combines with the strong meaty flavor of the meat making this qualify as one of the best things I ever ate. This is the thing I miss when I’m back home, no one is doing anything this remarkable in Nassau, not even close. After I finish my meal I look over the book they published about The Meatball Shop history, which can be signed by the chef/authors of the three locations they have. It’s a nice book packed with color photos and recipes so you can try it at home. I pay my bill and venture out again and growing tired I decide to begin to head uptown and see what develops-get it …develops, no oh well. I stop to take pictures, check out menus in windows and take a walk through Union Square market which has been set up like a Christmas village with each vendor next to the other in a long row. The tents are decorated and the whole atmosphere is very cheery if not very crowded, there is occasional breaks to allow people to escape and get some air. I come out the other side of the square and I’m stopped by a young guy hawking a CD, he has pigtail’s and looks a little more mixed race than American Indian but he explains its virtues and I give him my last three bucks for it. He said it was a donation and any amount would do so I gave what I had and continued heading home. In the warm sunshine of a perfect day I make my way uptown admiring the window displays of the stores, the lights are just beginning to come on as the shadows grow longer and longer. It was as good a day especially for a trip that was not originally going to happen. We got really lucky this time and I’m lucky to be alive in the city I love, doing my thing. It may never make me any money or any notoriety in artistic or literary circles, but damn I love what I do.
So I’m sitting on an express train bound for New York and it’s a nice day…real nice. I am armed with both cameras intending to do a photo shoot and I am also pondering whether or not to go downtown and cover the Occupy protest. I sit down across from a pretty girl with a backpack, I am busy admiring her whilst trying not to leer (that would be creepy) when she pulls out a camera so big if a puma attacked her she could kill it! This is of course a real camera with a lens as long as my forearm, it makes mine look like child’s play. So much for the ego of the great shutter-bug. Today is all about the art project I’ve been working on lately but I’m bothered by the feeling that I should visit the Wall St protests. This kind of thing is happening all over the world, people are fed up with the government, the corruption of the politicians and are taking to the streets. But I can’t help feeling like something bad is going to happen, maybe not today but soon. The rumors of jails being built to house the creators of dissent with videos to match on You Tube are possibly true. People have been arrested by the dozens and New York’s finest have even herded women into penned areas and pepper sprayed them at close range! I think it’s gonna get ugly real soon.
I predicted all this would happen years ago and the revolutionary in me wants to be there standing up for what I believe in too. But I worry, what if some idiot does something stupid and incites the police? I could easily find myself in a situation. This is one of those times when I wish I was free to do whatever I wanted. If I get arrested and wound up in jail and missed work I’d be in real financial trouble. I have people depending on my income for their life too. But this is what the government and our employers count on-fear. This is how they keep us in line and make us work like slaves. I’ll see how I feel later but at my age I’m a little tired and sore from a busy week at work, I’m getting too old to be doing the grunt work I do.
I head straight for the Lunch Box Buffet, an Asian place right near Penn Station. They are rumored to have the delicious egg tart the Chinese are famous for but when I get there they have none, the only breakfast they have is the ubiquitous NY bagel and rolls or pastry. I was never a pastry for breakfast type so I pass up the chocolate croissants and move on in search of something better but cheap. I start walking in the busy hustle of the city just before the shops open. The problem with the city in the morning is the blinding sunlight, if you’re walking east your blinded-even with sunglasses on! But I forge on shading my eyes and zig-zag to stay on the shaded side of the street. I hit 3rd Ave and head south. There’s many Indian and Thai eateries here as I walk through Gramercy Park , it’s a busy built up area but as you go south it gets quiet and quaint in ti;s own way. I see many places are not open yet and I make mental notes on shoot locations. I pass a new restaurant where a nice old French cafe used to be, I wish I had eaten there just once. Soon however I come to the industrial part of town, it’s busy and loud here, this area has many restaurant supply shops and metal works fabricating those shinning steel counters where are food is made and sold. Recently on his new show “The Layover” Anthony Bourdain gave a quick tour of such a place, showing viewers how one could cheaply buy the same saute pans they used at Les Halles for $18.95, in fact he got a whole bag of stuff for under a hundred dollars. I also read online that the people in these shops on Bowery are really helpful and nice to walk-ins so I will make it a point to go over my kitchen inventory and buy my next pans at such places instead of high priced department stores. I turn off the avenue and go down Prince St into the heart of Little Italy. By chance I turn on Elizabeth St and walk right by Albanese Meat market to see Moe sitting inside, I go in and greet him and chat a little about business and the weather. He’s in early on Saturdays as he supplies the restaurants before shutting down for the weekend. He’s always cheerful and happy, I often wonder what his secret his?
I move on to get my breakfast and wind up at Cafe Duke, a fancy name for a place that serves every kind of food you could want in separate stations- both hot and cold can be had. This place also doubles as a cyber cafe and has the mix of cuisine to please everyone. I order a bacon,egg and cheese on an everything bagel with utility coffee and wait for my order as the smells begin to drift about from various stations that are firing up the days offerings. It smells real good in here as food is being cooked in half a dozen places, who would have thought a place that’s not very attractive could be so appetizing. This is the kind of place that amazed my relatives from England in 2008, they have no English equivalent over there. I suggested they open one up and hire people to run it but they politely declined. My egg sandwich is nothing special but it’s still good and compared to a sign I saw advertising a $9.00 egg sandwich with truffles on it I think mine for $3.50 is as good as it has to be. I leave full and in search of my reason to be here today.
The sun is making today’s walk a little hotter than I would like but maybe it will burn the head cold out of me that hasn’t taken hold yet. I walk in the direction of the west side but stop when I see a girl getting off a Vespa, I walk over to make a little conversation about scootering in the city. I ask her about the safety issues of driving a scooter on NYC streets and she tells me that she’s had hers for years and never feels like she’s going to get mowed down by a truck, but also confesses that she stays away from big avenues at rush hour anyway. Big avenues really aren’t needed to get around in her orbit. She suggests that I look into buying one and tells me that it was a gift to herself for her 26th birthday. I wish her a happy birthday and she excuses herself to go about her business at the Vespa dealer nearby. I decide to move on without looking at them, I can’t afford one right now and of course the vintage one that I would like is the most expensive and hardest to find. I would like to go to Rivoli’s Pizza and have a slice, having just finished the painting of the storefront but I actually don’t have the address. It was weeks ago that I took that photo and I don’t remember. So I wander through familiar streets till I come to Broadway and see a strange and wondrous sight.
There are crowds gathered on the sidewalks watching dozens and dozens of skateboarders go south on Broadway! Each green light releases another group in all shapes and sizes and colors are coming in waves right alongside the traffic. Many are wearing their cameras taped to helmets or carrying small sticks with cameras running to video their run. The run of their lives! I don’t know why they are doing this but it is but I love it! I snap a few pictures and videos as they pass and am amazed to see some older guys in the mix and girls too. Up ahead a young guy stops and leans over, he’s sick and throws up a little bile. He apologizes and moves on but stops about six feet behind me and throws up for real. It’s pink in color and I figure he has a smoothie for breakfast, I wait till he done and offer him my unopened bottle of water. He gratefully accepts and begin washing out his mouth and drinking water to rehydrate. I ask him “What’s this all about?” puzzled.” Were going down to Wall St.” he says. “Oh to join the protest?” I ask knowingly. “No we just love skateboarding.” he says as he catches his breath. “I mean some are going there for that too.” he says. “Oh I see…where did you start out?” I ask curious. “Ah 116th street.” he says plainly. “Ah hundred and sixteenth street! I repeat astonished. That’s basically three quarters of the length of Manhattan! He offers me a few bucks for my water but I refuse, so he thanks me and turns off to join the ride again. It is then that I think the arrival of hundreds of young skateboarders could turn the protest into a free for all. So I decide to sit it out this time. The sad fact is that I could only stand around impotently for a few hours and go back home. I would then be protesting equivalent of a teeny-bopper from the sixties, spending the weekend as a hippie then going back to my real life. Essentially with all that’s going on at home and at work I could never live the life of a real political activist. The reality is that we can only muster a few signatures on a petition or two and then the powers that be just do what they want anyway. I am no advocate of violence but the only way to achieve change is through total rebellion, like the Star Wars saga. We would have to be funded, armed, organized, and military-like in our actions. Lets face it, a bunch of hipsters, latter day hippies, low level office workers, and housewives are not going to change anything. That might be a cop out but it’s the only one I got. I walk away to find refuge in my work.
I continue my walk and soon find myself on Laguardia Place by a happy accident. This is near where the French pastry shop Mille-Feuille is located, there is no way I’m not going in for a Macaron or two. I walk down a few streets and find it there between Bleeker and 3rd. Once inside the small shop I seek consultation on which is good today. The salted caramel and a rose are my choice with a decaf coffee-the caramel is the best. I excitedly tell the young staff about the skaters and between customers show them the video I made on my cell phone. They are suitably impressed and happy about it and I leave the shop in search of more pictures. It’s not easy to find good shots, either the lighting is wrong or there is a truck in the way but I persevere. I stop in a Spanish deli and look around, there is an amazing array of oils, olives, sausages of every kind and a whole Serrano ham being sliced paper thin for a customer who talks and waits as his meat is lovingly arranged on butcher paper. The owner offers me a tiny piece and it is magical melt-in-the-mouth good, but a $28 dollars a pound I’ll have to pass this time but I will be back to make some serious purchases some day. By now it’s getting on to about two in the afternoon and I’m hungry again. I wanted to try and find Rivoli Pizza after finishing the painting I felt it would be only right to be able to say I had eaten there once. But I can’t remember where it’s located exactly, so I go around the block to a place I passed before. Roma Pizza is doing one thing and doing it well, pizza on artisinal bread in the tradition of Rome. This is a slab of thinner crust pizza made in long rectangular pans, it’s nothing like Sicilian or Neapolitan or anything else I’ve seen in my life. I go in to a long counter bar with a dozen different pies, I’m greeted by the hipster pizza chef and he tells me what each one has for toppings. I pick the potato and sausage with hot pepper flakes and an imported Italian beer. The pie is cut into two large pieces with “chicken scissors” and brought to me at a small table by the wall. The bread is really nice but too soft for me I like my pizza crunchy, but at this point I just want to eat. I’m actually very hungry after hours of walking and taking pictures. The flavor of the toppings is very good, meaty sausage and cracked peppers provide a salty sharp counterpoint to the mild potatoes and smooth olive oil. It’s good but as usual I went for something I never saw before and I really should have gone with a cheese and tomato slice instead. By the time I was done however there was no room for a second slice. I paid my check and went to the back for a loo break before leaving, there was also an outside dinning area past the actual dinning room. I chatted with a couple from Pittburgh while waiting for my turn and after went back outside to walk the pavements once more.
I spent the rest of the afternoon so wrapped up in shooting that I didn’t actually write any more notes on the trip, and by the time I got on the train going home I was too tired to even try to remember all the places I’d been. This is very unusual for me and I regret now not being able to finish the story of today correctly. The pictures I took offered up about six good choices for my project, so on the whole it was a very good day.
A chilly breezy morning on the platform of the Long Island Railroad and I’m a little under-dressed for a city trip. The temperature is supposed to go up to sixty today so later I’ll be comfortable, but right now I’m cold. The Old Farmers Almanac is calling for a wet and colder spring followed by a cooler summer except for August, followed by a September that will require an Ark to be built in the backyard. But right now the English Sparrows are busily engaged in selecting just the right twigs on the embankment of the tracks, they rummage through the brush and will probably nest along the tracks in the underbrush which never sees human feet, too steep to walk on without tumbling to the sidewalk below. I guess I’m pushing the season a little but this winter was long and hard, it practically seems like another life now, which reminds me I have to run the gas out of the snow blower and put in the fuel stabilizer this week and put it away proper.
I’m a little glum because of the weather and also because I must start looking for a second job, I need to make more money. It’s the only way to get out of my debts and begin to save for the future. I know I’m a pessimist but when your government almost shuts due to lack of funds, then the future doesn’t look very bright. The great middle class in the US has bailed out the banks and now we will bail out our government too, I can feel it coming like a distant train that starts out lonely and quiet-then roars by as it flies through the station with a great rush of wind and garbage trailing behind, only this time it will be our tax dollars trailing behind. I saw a piece this morning about the tax situation over here with the deadline to file taxes only days away, the last President to balance the budget was Bill Clinton, since then George W. Bush and his wars for profit and Obama’s train wreck politics have it so loused up it will take a miracle to fix it. Perhaps they just needed a young intern to help them to think clearly, I mean after all it worked for Bill didn’t it? I can’t imagine how much money I’d have if the near crash of 2008 never happened, especially if I didn’t dip into it. I’m spending my 401k money gradually which I’m also paying back each week so eventually it’ll be back up to what it was, but we will never make up what was lost to us. The fat cats however are enjoying the trickle up economy that has been intentionally put into place ( in my opinion) to separate the haves from the have-nots.
I’ve always had that good christian “There but by the grace of God” adage shoved down my throat, and have been made to feel as though my complaining was selfish and childish. But every positive thought I ever had about what I wanted to happen-never came to fruition. Yet every negative thought about what could possibly go wrong-did go wrong.
This year I’m going to grow a few vegetables I’ve never tried before, French breakfast Radish, Globe Zucchini, and Frisee, as well as some fresh herbs and of course Heirloom Tomatoes and anything else I can fit. I am really worried about them because my dad doesn’t remember to water the garden. If I’m out at my second job the garden will suffer and with all the zones it’s a big job, I wish we had gotten lawn sprinklers installed years ago. Maybe I can find an online job so I can look after things and make money when the sun goes down.
Behind me a little boy asks his mom about everything that he sees out the window. “Is our train bigger than that one?” or “What is that yellow thing there do?” I love it, I can’t remember when the world was full of so many innocent questions.
I get off and make my way to the 123 line of the subway to get downtown and decide to get off at 14th St. But I walk through the subway station to the 12th St exit and go topside into the bright sunlight. I make my way easily down the streets and hustle through the taxi’s jammed up at the intersections and find The Little Owl with no problem. It’s not open yet so I scout around and find another place called “Moustache” a few doors down-also closed. This is a little Middle-Eastern place with a good write-up in the paper posted in the window. The prices are reasonable and the menu is interesting, they make “Lahambajin Pitza” the Turkish pizza that I had one night a few years ago. Hummous, Tabouleh, Lentil Soup, Merguez and an array of sandwiches are featured. I make a note of this place but I am here for the whole wheat pancakes with fresh fruit that The Little Owl has to offer. This (according to Chef, TV host and culinary scientist Alton Brown) is the best breakfast he ever ate. He had a show for years on the food network called Good Eats which was part cooking show and part science class, he explained what happens to food when you cook it in an informative fun way, kind of like Julia Child meets Monty Pythons Flying Circus. I have the first two coffee table books that cover the shows with color pics, tips and recipes, plus pics from the show and little bits of trivia about the episodes with anecdotes. But this breakfast comes with his recommendation on a show called “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”, where chefs and TV food personalities and critics talk about their favorites, broken down by category each show is a treasure of eye candy and can bring new experiences, even if some of the places are very far away. It’s still fun to watch.
I wait chilly with a noisy police tow truck fixing to tow a car that has been abandoned, while delivery trucks bring cases and bushels of food. They take the food delivery through the side door and down the stairs, and bring a huge steaming pot of meatballs in sauce up and into the restaurant to the delight of the dozen or so people gathered around this corner eatery. The tow truck shuts off his engine and all is very quiet, save for an occasional car or truck passing by and the conversation of sparrows with their cheerful chirping and gregarious mating habits, like people they are ready at the drop of a hat! They were brought here from the UK ages ago and have spread like wildfire taking over North America and Canada I think too, so along with the people gathered talking I have an ear full as I write and wait. Finally, the doors open and I sit down in the corner facing the window and get my menu and order a coffee. The menu is pretty diverse, Meatball sliders, vanilla French toast, bacon and eggs, fried oyster omelet, oatmeal, etc. I of course order my pancakes and Irish bangers on the side, then go to the loo to wash-up before breakfast. The bathroom is behind the little bar area and is about the size of a closet, before me on the wall are two different color framed silkscreen prints by an unknown artist from 1996, and to my right is a long framed picture of Neil Diamond on stage from the 1970’s! He is dressed in white like Elvis and striking a pose like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. I wish my mom could see this, she would get a kick out of this for certain.
Seated again-I scan the room, it is small and quaint and also trendy and rustic. There is a wall mounted wine rack, which is accessed with a small ladder. The ceilings are painted steel filigree tiles and the floors are ancient wood as is the bar and white linen covered tables. The staff is friendly and courteous and in no time my steaming plate of whole grain flapjacks are in front of me. These are beautiful, thick and fluffy-nothing like the rubbery things I make from a mix which are best suited for taking off stubborn jar lids. The flavor is not like whole wheat either, these taste better than any other I’ve had. They are served with real maple syrup, no synthetic fake corn syrup flavored with chemicals, and my Irish bangers are top-notch! They are a different kind of good, lean and finely ground pork with just the right seasoning. If there is one complaint, it’s in the relatively few pieces of real fruit on my plate compared to the TV show which featured four kinds of berries. Soon after I finish my meal and enjoy another cup of coffee I decide to pay and give others a chance as this place is packed with more waiting outside, not a bad brunch for about $18 with tip and I am full too.
I leave and start walking toward W. Houston St heading for the East Side but as usual I get pulled toward things. I pass several small eatery’s I haven’t seen before. There is 12 Chairs which is packed, Rouge Et Blanc which has an A rating but is closed unfortunately. I find myself sitting on the corner of 6th Ave and Charlton and watch the world go by a little. I listen with envy to a woman talk about settling in an apartment in the lower 60’s, pricey I’m sure. She’s telling someone who she has to put three months rent in escarole just to secure the place to go to contract. Then goes on to talk about a date she had the other night so I move on, it’s noisy here anyway. I pass The Dutch, a new place I read about online, a man is hand painting the inside of the glass windows with an accent stripe. I ‘m passing Ward Nasse Gallery, this kind of place used to draw me right in, no sadly I walk right past it, feeling like I no longer belong. I stop and think about it and as I do, miss lower 60’s passes me with her head held high loving life, she is followed by another woman who seems to have just had a fight with her man. She’s walking fast talking to herself and you can just hear her saying to a friend later “And then he said blah blah blah!” so I said “Blah Blah” and then he said “blahhhh blahhhh Blah” so I told him to” BLAH BLAH” and left, at least that’s what I think. So I turn around and go in the gallery, forcing myself to relax and let go of negative feelings. The featured work is by Tove Hellerud, Nature and Culture is fantastic abstract work that reminds me of Robert Rauchenbergs late work if not in style then in definitely in dialogue. The prices are astounding! There is one I admire for $14,000, it’s about 36 x 48 deep gallery wrapped. I’m greeted by an older man who is hanging work who goes about his business and lets me slowly walk the creaking floors. There is surreal work that Dali would have been proud of that catches my eye. I make my way around the room and see impressive work of all kinds, sculpture, found objects, paintings, drawings. I speak with the owner briefly and he tells me this is a co-op, a not-for-profit gallery that has been here 32 years and represents 700 artists world-wide. He asks me if I’m an artist and I tell him I used to be years ago, but then started writing. I get the feeling if I was he would have asked to see my work. I say goodbye and a young foreign couple comes in to browse, I grab a card and hope they buy something as I continue my journeys.
I pass my old haunts in the village, I see a few more fast food joints have invaded, I hope they fail. The old cafes should be saved by someone, at least we still have the Minetta Tavern. I decide to go in and have a lunch. It is pretty packed so I wind up at the bar-not very comfortable. I already know what I’m going to have, the much-lauded Black Label Burger. The burger that Anthony Bourdain himself recommended to me a year ago, so I order a good imported beer and watch the show as I wait. The bartenders are busy as bee’s making drinks to keep the patrons happy as the place fills up with more and more people. The beer is good and the music is too, the stool is not the best and I really wish I had a table but soon my burger arrives, it is massive and served with a mountain of frites. The burger is good-don’t get me wrong, this has to be the highest quality meat I’ve ever eaten. I guess I was expecting the top of my head to be blown off, or to wake up slouched against a wall in an alley saying “Gilligan…where’s the coconuts?” or something other than feeling like I just spent $26 on a trendy burger that wasn’t as good as Shake Shacks was last year. I finish the meal and my beer and pay the check with my plastic money and hit the street a little wiser for my experience. I have to remember that just because Tony said so, doesn’t mean it’s right.
I pass the Kimchi Taco truck parked right down the block from NYU, I wish I was hungry. I have heard about this trend to mix Korean traditional food with the Mexican Taco. This is the biggest thing to happen to tacos since the Taco Bell chain brought the taco to white Americans decades ago. These are made with Korean style barbeque pork, chicken or veg and three for seven dollars is a steal! There is a line of people waiting for a delicious lunch but for me it’ll have to be some other time. I walk a little further to find Salon De Tapas has moved around the corner from its old location where I confused so many people while eating squid cooked in its own ink.
The work is still going on in Washington Square Park, it won’t be done till 2012, just in time for the end of the world if the predictions are right.Right now though there are so many people out on the streets, everybody is hungering for the nice weather and a chance to be comfortable in less clothes. Some girls are already wearing shorts and on the grass in the park one girl was in a bikini on the grass. I don’t get it, I’m chilly in my button up denim jacket and scarf! I pass an older guy who works hard playing “A Hard Rains Gonna Fall” and tries to get the few people around him to sing the chorus. He plays guitar better than me but it’s hard to take him seriously. I mean really, how can you even try to capture that emotion 40 plus years later?, when the rain’s been falling hard for so long? The sand man is doing his thing as usual as I pass the Arch and head west to 9th Ave. I’m looking for any organic fruit stalls I can find on the street, I recently discovered I can eat nectarines, plums and probably peaches and apricots too, as long as they’re organic! If not then I get an itchy irritated mouth, a friend assures me it’s the pesticides and I should just wash my fruits in a little peroxide and water but organics are better for you anyway. I am so happy to be able to eat fresh fruit mixed with plain Greek yoghurt, topped with honey-that’s lunch some days. It may not be low in calories but good for you in so many ways.
I arrive at Chelsea Market and sign a petition outside to keep the powers that be from building a double skyscraper over it. The developers want to make every block of this city a congested, loud, fully developed urban blight. Inside it’s a hive of activity and I make my way to the information desk and ask for the loo. The guard says “On the left just past the waterfall.” The waterfall? They have a waterfall here? I start walking through the crowds past Amy’s Bread, the Butcher, the wine shop, produce market, and a hand-full of eateries. I find a fenced off area where a large pipe in the ceiling opens at a 90 degree angle to allow water to drop into a well below, and it is here that the bathroom line ends. I don’t know who designed this place but they should be throttled once a week-just on general principles. There is a long hallway with 5 single occupancy loos, but the first door is just a few feet away so the long line has people standing right next to this waterfall listening to running water! It’s absolutely diabolical. No one even bothered to tell us there is another loo at the far end of the market, I would find this out myself later. I resume my trek through the market to find a bookstore, kitchen supplies, a portable knife sharpener stand, and a Middle Eastern housewares seller going out of business, selling everything at 50% off.
I take a fascinating spin through the produce market seeing things like wild ramps and fiddle head ferns, many things that Emeril picked up for his old show. The wine shop was offering a tasting but the prices of many of the wines was enough to drive me off to the butcher. They are offering pork rillettes and a tongue and leek terrine, so I buy a little of both and go across to Amy’s Bread to get a baguette. I run the gamut of hand crafted baked goods in the display case that are enough to make you drool, pay for my baguette and reluctantly leave the market. It is indeed one of my favorite places, other that the open air market at Union Square. This has been the best part of the day other than my morning meal, and with a mental nod to CoBa as I pass I head up 9th Ave in the warm sun of the late afternoon. By the time I get home after my long walk back to Penn and my train ride I will be ravenously hungry again. I will enjoy this simple supper of meats and bread with some Dijon mustard, cornichons, and a nice glass of Rose!
If you close your eyes…you can almost see it. A group of primitive humans are gathered in a large cave, it has been home for many years now. In the center a large fire burns keeping the cave warm and illuminated. This fire is a relatively new discovery for the group, and all are responsible to tend the fire and keep it burning. There is much to be happy about as all eyes are on the fresh kill that the hunters have brought back this dusk. The clan leader carves the portions from the bones and gives each member their share on a large leaf which is quickly taken back to feed hungry families or consumed alone. A young teen male only just allowed to go with the hunt waits his turn , his first kill and he is especially proud. He is given his share by the leader and dashes off to his corner of the cave, but as he does so, he see’s the object of his desire sitting with her family to his left. In a bit of bravado he leaps over part of the fire, but the young fool does not stick his landing, and as he falls in a tangle of limbs his portion of meat slips into the flames and begins to sizzle and pop!
He falls hard, and is immediately aware that his food is no longer in his hand, he turns and is horrified to see to see it roasting in the flames, he tries but it is too hot to reach in and get out, he doesn’t know what to do, all eyes are upon him as he panics-there will be no second helping for him, as the minutes go by all you can hear is the sizzle and pop of cooking meat. The clan leader strides over with spear in hand none too pleased, determined to make an example of him he grunts his disapproval and raises his spear! The young fool cowers looking down waiting for the fatal spear to strike. The leader thrusts down into the cooking meat and laying it down on a leaf commands the boy to eat. Everyone watches as he takes up the hot meat, it burns his fingers a little but the smell of roasted flesh is inviting. Yet he is still afraid and as he brings it to his face, he looks up pleadingly at the leader, but he stares him down waiting. He folds his arms and commands him”EAT!” The young fool brings the warm meat to his mouth and takes a bite and begins to chew, expecting to become ill or die and meet the ancestors.
Can you imagine the first bite of cooked meat? How it must have tasted to him, the warm juices flowing in his mouth and down his throat, dripping down his chin. The meat, so tender and warm, so different from the meat eaten cold by the time it was carved. The leader is astonished and grabs the meat from the underling and takes a big bite and chews, he too discovers the joy and taste of cooked food. He declares the young man to be Master of Fire Meat from now on and soon all are enjoying cooked food, especially the young girl who is by now at his side. Over time the young hero teaches his sons to cook meat and use spices and herbs that he has discovered by taking risks, and finding whats good in nature to cook with the meats and roots they live on. I wonder if there is cafe on the spot where all this occurred so many years ago? It may not have happened exactly like that, but the next time you’re in a natural history museum, look close at that ancient skull staring back at you, he may know why it’s important to cook well…because it tastes so good.
To cook well is to pull the best out of the freshest ingredients, yourself and your recipe. It takes a commitment to creating food that tastes good, looks good, and is hopefully good for you. Unless of course your making Cassoulet Toulosain or Thanksgiving dinner then it’s all good. When you cook food well you create an emotional bond between you and those who enjoy your food., and when you succeed-people remember your cooking long after your gone. I would give anything to taste my Aunt Dora’s Roast beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Roasted potatoes fried in lard again, with gallons of gravy. The fact is that when you have passion for the cusine and respect for the ingredients the result is being asked to make your signature dishes again and again. I always want my cousin Donna to make her crab dip for Christmas, even though she gave me the recipe and I made it to rave reviews too on one occasion. I think that she just makes it better than I do.
The only way to get there is through years of practice, and when disaster strikes as it most certainly will, taking note of what went wrong and why. Then not repeating the same mistake twice. The first time I made Pan Seared Salmon with Puy Lentils in Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil it was a mess, the salmon stuck to the pan, the lentils saut’eed with red and green peppers were too oily and the Balsamic could do nothing to save them. The second time around the fish came out perfect with a nice browning on one side but not too done and the lentils were balanced just right. Thanks Emeril for the recipe from the book you signed at Borders in Westbury for me, lots of good easy recipes. If you are workmanlike in your approach and chef-like in your observation of the food and how it reacts to the cooking process-then each each dish should get better with practice.
The greatest thing about learning how to cook is that almost anyone at any age can begin to learn cooking. Even if you don’t have thousands of dollars to go to culinary school, you can still for a small investment start learning the art of cooking well on your own. The internet has video demostrations by journeyman cooks to help you, and the shows available on TV/DVD can open a Pandora’s Box of information that wasn’t available when I was young. I still remember my mom and Grandma watching Julia Child and the Galloping Gourmet, they thought that Graham Kerr was charming and fummy. I watched an episode of his old show recently and I was bored beyond belief, half the show was spent telling a long lame joke before he cooked amything, and yet I remember the audience was enchanted by it all. How could we have known what would happen thirty or so years in the future. Where a TV channel would be created just to showcase clebrity chefs and later a second channel for lesser known cooks to have a chance at stardom, either way it wound up being a school for amateur cooks to learn and grow, and other channels would feature healthy cooking demonstrations and the Travel Channel focusing on the foods of distant lands.
It seems as our world got smaller, our palettes got bigger. The mac & cheese or franks an beans didn’t do it anymore for most. But I’m sure we all return from time to time to that special place where old time comfort food still lives, in our memories and that’s why we sometimes cook something just to taste it again. Yet, in these times of fast food, fast cars, and faster internet it’s become inportant to cook well. In order to win the heart of someone or impress the boss and his wife, or even your hipster crowd of friends. cooking is the modern equivalent of being a Renaissance artist, the best of them were held in high regard, but even the journeyman were recieved recognition as being on a higher plane. So we are all riding a culinary rocket that has no end in sight. Just as long as we take care of the planet, it will take care of us and that will ensure that plenty of fresh food and water will be available for all. But perhaps the biggest reason why we should cook well is, because our taste demands it.