Saturday, July 26, 2008

August

My favorite month, August, is on the horizon. I've already bought corn, and Jersey tomatoes are starting to be available. I also want to make a crisp of peaches and blueberries. Such abundance! My life is feeling very abundant as well: good friends, rewarding work, new possibilities, many pleasures large and small.

I can never eat corn without remembering what an event it was at home when I was a child: my father would peel the husks and corn silk from the ears he had gotten, freshly picked, from a local farm stand. My mother had the water boiling in the pink enamel former baby bottle sterilizer (true to New England thrift, not much got discarded--I seem to have picked up this habit as well! There is a New England saying: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.") Then a few minutes later our dinner was ready--we just ate corn, nothing else. Preferably slathered with butter and pepper--still my preferred way of eating it. We might have had ice cream later, but I only recall the corn.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

February Musings

I'm recuperating from the flu/bronchitis that laid me low last week--it really was a knockout punch! However, I had a lot of time to think about things, which I don't usually have, so that was good. What emerged from all my ruminations is a lesson I've had to learn many times, namely, that no matter what you do, other people are going to be who they are, not who you might want them to be. Also, that it's a stroke of luck when one meets folks who have a generous spirit, truly able to give of themselves. I've found that most people are self-centered and that's been hard to accept. Recently, I was out with a friend at a play and she took out a candy from her purse, unwrapped it, and popped it in her mouth. She didn't offer me any nor say, "I don't have any more, sorry," or any other acknowledgment of my presence. Such behavior makes me wonder what the world is coming to.

All I can take from these experiences are lessons of how NOT to behave. Gandhi's dictum "Be the change you want to see in the world" really hit me recently with a force I've not felt before. All one can really change is oneself.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The New Year

The excitement of a new year was dulled for me by the sudden passing the last week of 2007 of a colleague and friend who was the same age as I. She struggled for many years with multiple sclerosis, but was passionate and determined to live as good a life as possible. She adopted a child from Bulgaria when she was 45, and mothering was a great adventure for her as well as the "hardest thing" she'd ever done (her words). Her death has put a pall over my usual mood of anticipation for the new year, as I imagine other losses to come.

I have also been feeling a bit depleted by a slow-moving virus I've had for nearly 2 weeks--it's almost out of my system now, but it did cut into my holiday delight and partying (probably a good thing, for since I couldn't taste food as well as I usually can, I didn't eat as much).

I sent out this poem as a new year greeting to some friends:

A BRIEF FOR THE DEFENSE
by Jack Gilbert

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered caf├ęs and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Happy New Year to all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Father's Day: Memories of My Father

Father's Day is coming and this is the first year I will not have my father alive. However, I think of him often, especially when I shop for food. Growing up poor and unable to get the education he wanted, my father took pleasure in his ability to be a good breadwinner and put food on the table (and in our bellies). He would go to specialized stores as they do in France: the bakery for bread and pastries, the butcher for meat, the fish market for fresh fish, the appetizing store for Jewish delicacies unobtainable elsewhere (several kinds of smoked fish, pickles, flavored cheeses, and other items). I can still remember the smell and ambience of that store with a wooden floor that might have been dusted with sawdust. He would drive out to a country farm to get the freshest eggs and go to a special farmstand or two for the best vegetables and seasonal fruits. I remember him sitting at our kitchen table, qvelling (relishing) over our pleasure with the food he bought. Is it any wonder I enjoy eating and cooking and am somewhat of a foodie?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Small Pleasures

Today was the long- and impatiently awaited reopening of a local supermarket (West Side Market) that closed a couple of years ago when the building it was housed in was demolished and a new spiffy apartment building arose in its place. The market is in the same location as it was before, but it barely resembles its ancestor. Oh, there are still the outside bins of fruit and vegetables beckoning one to touch and buy, but inside everything is brand, spanking new. There is still the same wonderfully eclectic selection of provisions--they carry items you've never seen before but suddenly have to have (my inaugural purchase--a treat on this humid night: tangerine frozen fruit bars).

It's the kind of place where neighbors you haven't seen lately stop to chat with you--something I've never experienced at the nearby D'Agostino's (which was eerily rather empty I saw on my way past it going home)--although tonight it seemed everyone was on their cell phones!

Welcome back, old friend, from this unrepentant foodie!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Robert Moses and the Forward

It has been my custom if I'm in town on Memorial Day to go to the Museum of the City of New York, which is open on holiday Mondays like today. A smallish museum, it's wholly devoted to all things New York. And since today was the last day of the exhibit about Robert Moses, which I wanted to see, off I went.

What was fascinating was his single-mindedness. He was responsible for some wonderful things, like Jones Beach and the number of parks and public spaces in New York City, but he also wanted to build more bridges and highways, many of which were voted down and later denounced by the citizenry and the like of Jane Jacobs. (I learned afterwards that he had never learned to drive! Interesting, then, that he wanted to Los Angelescize New York. I wonder what he would have thought now with gas reaching $4 a gallon and the poor air quality in New York....) Like many larger-than-life men who achieve things, he pushed forward the things he wanted, including many public swimming pools (he was a swimmer).

The exhibit about the Forward was enthralling in a different way--interesting to see how important this newspaper became to new immigrants, especially its Bintel Brief (translated from "A Bunch of Letters"), which was an early advice column predating Dear Abby! It was also interesting for a politically liberal paper to give this advice to a man who wanted to marry a non-Jewish woman: "Don't do it. You will have nothing in common with her because of the difference in your backgrounds." So even though the focus of the paper was on helping immigrants assimilate, there was only so much assimilation actually acceptable.

Robert Moses was the middle child of a very assimilated family who most likely did not read the Forward.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Satisfying Dinner

There is nothing better than a satisfying, home-cooked dinner with a glass of good wine (Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay 2005). I picked up some wild perch from Lake Victoria at Fairway today on my way home from the gym. I have vowed never again to eat farmed fish since I read that some farmed tilapia from Vietnam comes from the polluted Mekong Delta--eww!

Anyway, I adapted Emily's flounder recipe to cook the perch--here's how it goes: Marinate the fish in a shallow dish in which you have combined about a tablespoon each of lime juice and soy sauce. (You can also add some chopped parsley if you have it.) While that's marinating, saute 3 sliced button mushrooms in some oil, then put the fish and marinade atop the mushrooms, cover, and cook a few minutes until the fish is done and flakes easily. If you have company, increase the ingredients accordingly. Tonight I dined alone.

I also took the rest of the baby carrots and asparagus and roasted them with a little olive oil in the meantime. After they were done, I sprinkled them with Chef's Salt (a homemade mixture of late chef Louis Szathmary consisting of 1 cup salt, 1 tablespoon Spanish or Hungarian paprika, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon white pepper, 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt). This makes a lot, but never fear--it doesn't spoil and is especially wonderful on scrambled eggs.

I could really taste the difference between this wild fish and the farmed fish I had the last time I made this--long live all wild things!