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!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Unreasonable Hope

It's a beautiful spring evening here in New York. Sometimes when the weather gets warm I get a little restless and even though I've had a full day, the urge to go out and savor the energy of warm weather by immersing myself in it overtakes me. And so it did tonight.

The new season fills me with unreasonable hope--despite the fact that someone whose ad I answered never called when he said he would (probably dealing with all the other responses he's gotten that have turned his head), twice disappointing me. But the disappointment is softer than it used to be--as I said, unreasonable hope! Maybe that's the only kind of hope there is.