American food addendum

After my post yesterday my sister sent me this link to point out that there are good American foods. And yes, there are plenty of good American food stuffs.

The list of the 50 best (in their opinion) American foods features such things as Mac n Cheese.

Of course there are all sorts of delicious food that I love and actually do make. Key lime pie, (sadly relegated to #50 on this list), hamburgers, popcorn and potato chips, meatloaf, muffuletta sandwiches and pot roast.

And, God yes, apple pie.

Chicago style pizza, yes, please.

Nachos, ooh mama. Totally.

There are also some less than pride-inducing things like Twinkies, Frito-pie. Twinkies, which by the way, clock in at like #34. We’ve got beef jerky, tater tots, GORP and fortune cookies. While I would eat most of the things on the list I would not challenge some Portuguese guy with a peanut butter sandwich against a pastel de nata. Or a banana split vs crêpe suzettes. I mean would you challenge an Italian holding a plate of pasta (take your pick) with a hot dog?!?

Good luck with that.

American food

Last year I went to a store that sold only American food when I was looking for crackers and I was horrified at the realization that people think American food is all junk only to further realize when I tried to think of some American food that was not junk, that “American food” is precisely junk (aside from crackers and potato chips).

This year we were on a search for anchovies (I know, I know) in KaDeWe (Kah Day Vay) the super upscale department store that I love which has an amazing food court/store/department with a freaking awesome international food area and whilst prancing through it I happened upon this horror. Guess which country is responsible for this mess? I was so ashamed.

And we didn’t even find anchovies.

Shoyu

You may think that shoyu is soy sauce. It is not. In Korea, anyway, it is an alcoholic beverage, and I use the term “beverage” loosely. We went to a Korean restaurant (he’s on a Korean kick now, makes his own Kimchi—🙄).

He insisted on ordering a bottle of this and poured me a glass. I tasted it. Gah!!!!

Gave him my glass.

Side note, the eye roll emoji is my third most used emoji

Not eating this

I am all for plant based. But tuna spread. Why ruin plants by adding fish taste to them?

“Ready to enjoy.” Right.

And here’s a cooking tip: Add extra olive oil so it’s easier to slide into the garbage.

The grape harvest

The grapes are in. (back in the US for a moment before I left) I don’t know why the squirrels aren’t getting them. But I don’t care. They can have them. The point of the grapes is to cover the fence. I did want to be able to taste concord grapes because I love the flavor but I did not plan to make jelly with them. Although, now that I think about it, I had been feeding grape jelly to the oriole family. Hm. Next year.

I did not get a lot because the vines were being shaded by the now-gone peach tree. So they did not produce a lot of fruit, just these 2 bunches. My niece tasted one and said, “OMG, these taste like grape!”

Well, of course they do. They’re grapes. She meant like the grape flavor in soda and Kool-Aid (one of our treasured American foodstuffs). We don’t really eat Concord grapes because of the seeds, I guess. We also don’t make much wine out of them because (Mr Wikipedia here) the skin to pulp ratio is wrong. Or some such thing. But they are very high in anti-oxidants. I hear that word thrown around a lot but I really don’t know what it means. Theoretically, however, I am very much against oxidants

Thinking ahead to next year I am planning one of those harvests when you put your grapes into huge barrels and then you have your friends come and smush them with their bare feet. It’ll be fun!

Cut your toenails!!

Travel. Just kill me

As I suggested I’d have preferred to lie on a rock in an NYC park high on crack and make that my life rather than get on an airplane again. I took a taxi back to Newark rather than the AirTrain preferring not to maneuver my luggage 3 blocks through mid afternoon pedestrian traffic in 70 percent humidity.

I arrived in plenty of time, the lines to get into the place were not long. No hassles with checking luggage. Breezed through security. Got into the lounge which was utterly and completely jam-packed but I managed to find an empty single chair. I was able to witness the parade of people waltzing in. Including a lady who complained that there were too many people and she didn’t feel “special.” Uh, lady, you’re a people.

Also this guy in the suspenders who spent quite a lot of time, energy and furious anger trying to get a champagne cocktail (you can tell by his attire that he’s a champagne cocktail kinda guy). The bartender said they did not have champagne cocktails and Suspenders here begged to differ. He had one here 3 years ago!!! The bartender put her fists on her hips and told him she’d been working in this bar since it opened and they have never served champagne cocktails.

But the thing is I won’t need to do this anymore since hubsy is moving to Wisconsin. Not to Milwaukee, unfortunately, but getting to Madison is less of a hoo-ha than getting to, say, Oslo, Ghent or Berlin.

My flight was delayed several hours (of fucking course) and rather than sit in the lounge I sat in the concourse watching (and judging) people. At some point a kid in the concourse had a complete and total melt down. His father picked him up and carried him kicking and screaming away. Guess where he was sitting . . .

After we’d boarded the flight but not yet left, the guy directly behind me (screaming kid was 2 rows behind me) pulled out a large bag of peanuts that then spilled all over hell and back. The woman across the aisle immediately jumped up and ran out of the plane with the flight attendant screaming after her that she had to be seated . . . she was allergic to peanuts. They had to call house keeping to vacuum the nuts up. The doll-house sized vacuum canister held about 4 peanuts so they had to go and empty it repeatedly. They then had to go (the flight was completely full) and get someone in the way-back to change seats with her. All of this causing another hour’s delay. Fun fun fun fun fun.

New York, New York. It’s a kind of a town

I suppose, too, you could say it’s a hell of a town as well. That would be entirely appropriate. I am now in Berlin now and falling desperately behind on these posts.

I spent 3 days in New York before I left for 6 weeks in Berlin. I chose a (an?) hotel near Penn Station since I’d planned to take the AirTrain from Newark and didn’t want the hassle of negotiating my 50 steamer trunks, hat boxes, rolly bags, carry-ons, curio cabinets, shoe satchels and portmanteaux too many blocks to a hotel. Nor did I need a taxi driver to struggle with them (or judge me) so I thought, what the hey, stay near the train station even though several people had told me it wasn’t a great neighborhood (it was fine). I stayed in Koreatown just a block from Penn Station. In the end I did not take the AirTrain, I could not find it and like many American men, or possibly men in general (OK, I may be gay but I am still a man), I was too afraid, possibly proud, stupid, (take your pick) to ask directions. Why is this!?!? I took a taxi. It was supposed to be a “flat rate” It was not apparently.

It was maybe not the nicest part of town but it was more than serviceable. The hotel was good enough and while I did not eat at any of the zillion Korean restaurants it was not for lack of desire. My lack, it turns out, is more along the lines of courage. (I think you can begin to see a pattern here) I was too afraid to go into any of them. They were teeming with people, mostly Korean, who knew what they were doing. I mean, to a man or woman they, each and every one, had some obvious fierce determination when they entered any these places. I could not bear the idea of going in and dithering. “What can I get you, sir?” “Oh, um, well, I . . . how’s the . . . I dunno. Is there an, um . . . can I use a fork”

While I did not use the AirTrain to get in to New York I did manage to buy a Metrocard and use it on both trains and buses. One can imagine the intense pride I had in mastering something tens of millions of people within a 4 mile radius do 50 times a day without needing a pack of Rolaids ® to deal with the anxiety. The first time I used it on a bus I nearly had a crying jag when I finished navigating the entrance procedure (And it was a rigmarole—as I seemed unable to insert the Metrocard correctly into the slot despite 40 attempts, the bus driver to my relief and the relief of the 65 people behind me, yanked it out of my hand and inserted it herself). Fortunately masks were required and it was quite effective in absorbing my tears. Oh, and hiding most of my face. I covered my eyes with my hat.

My hotel was near the Fashion Institute, FIT to those of us in the know, (just sayin’) and there were many colorful and unique fashion “styles” one might encounter at any given time.

My friend Kate who was there in New York while I was passed St Patrick’s cathedral on her way to have dinner with me and told me she said a silent prayer for me nodding reverently (I assume, Irish Catholic that she is) as she passed. St Patrick’s is the seat of the archbishop. Timothy Cardinal Dolan is currently cardinal archbishop of New York and former archbishop of Milwaukee. He is also a world class bigot, jackass and all ’round intolerant and small minded SOB. Consider these tidbits from Wikipedia:

“referred to the non-profit support group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests as a “phony victims’ group”

“In 2019, Dolan was reported to have received, together with other influential U.S. Catholic leaders, substantial monetary gifts from West Virginia bishop Michael J. Bransfield, who had resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct”. (He did not return it.)

“He has said that black lives matter, bracketing the statement before and after with “all lives matter” and “police lives matter.”

I took a little cruise on the Highline which has really matured since my last visit with my niece Madeline who was then newly or about-to-be pregnant with my now 4 year old grand-niece Clara.

I really wanted to eat in Chinatown and coerced my friend Gail into taking me there. She got the recommendation for Joe’s Shanghai from a friend. It was a bit of a wait but worth it. The soup dumplings were beyond fabulicious. I don’t know what that sauce was but OMG. I was afraid to ask for a fork and used chopsticks which made my hand cramp up. I should use chop sticks all the time. I’d eat less.

All of the waiters we interacted with and the others I’d heard speak were Chinese. Or at least native Chinese speakers with strong accents. I became aware of the white Americans who went to great lengths to tell the waiters how delicious everything was. On the one hand I appreciate that they were thoughtful enough to do that. The guy across from us waited for quite a while until the waiter came back so he could inform the waiter how good the food was (Never mind the 90 million people waiting to get seated). On the other hand it seemed so, I don’t know, self-important. That the waiter have their good opinion was so important and somehow condescending. I just told the waiter thanks and fled.

Ashish suggested (in a manner that seemed more like a threat) that I go to the Met to see the Chroma exhibit which was a recreation of how statuary would have actually been painted in ancient times and various civilizations. It was mildly interesting but really, it just looked like the most unimaginative painting colors you could muster. I went also to MoMA with my friend Kate (who was also there from Milwaukee) where I got to visit some of my old friends, Richard Diebenkorn greeted us as we entered. He’s an all-time favorite. The next morning before my flight I went to The Ruben Museum of Tibetan art and history. Here Ashish would have been very useful. I can look at the stuff and read the explanations they’re providing but it would have been easier to just have him tell me. I’m super lazy that way.

Although on the whole the hotel was very tidy, this eyelash was in the elevator for the better part of a day. I want to try one on just to see how it feels. It seems so uncomfortable.

This is totally how I felt about getting on an overseas flight which I was doing in about 4 hours. And how I felt on it as well.

Gone gone gone

Today I leave for 6 weeks in Germany. I started my trip with 3 nights, 2 days in New York. I really decided to do this because, as I was thinking about making the trip which involves once stop somewhere—you cannot get from Chicago to Berlin on one flight—there’s gotta be a stop . . . . Copenhagen, Dubai, Newark, Paris, somewhere. My friend, Mary in Milwaukee, sent me a video podcast of an interview with a New York chef/restaurant owner suggesting I’d like the way she, the chef, thinks. Coincidentally, on that same day, my friend Gail, who lives in New York and knew I might be planning to stop there (in Newark where the flight to Berlin actually flies from) sent me a link to the website of this chef’s restaurant thinking I’d be interested in it.

I was. Shukette which mean little market or something like that and was middle eastern, was hard to get in to being a hot NYC restaurant. But I dogged the internet attempting to get a reservation for more than a week. Eventually I did. And we went.

This fabulous soft, puffy, fragrant bread (Frena) with pistachios and garlic confit. So lovely.

Then came these two dips, (spreads?) the first one looked like hand lotion but was whipped garlic. This is not one of my favorite things, raw garlic. OMG it was exquisite. I didn’t even realize it was garlic. I could have just eaten just that and the bread. The other stuff was red pepper and stuff. Not sure but delicious. Not hot either.

Oooh mama, these fries, shwarma spiced. Could have made these and the garlic stuff dinner.

Middle eastern pickles . . . you gotta know I’m gonna be all over that shit. They lulled me into a false sense of security. The vegetables were not spicy hot, until I got to an actual pepper. And then the people at the next booth asked me to stop sobbing even though my face was buried in my napkin, shirt, a mask and the back of the booth. (just kidding, I weathered it like the man I am but the top of my head was sweating). And grilled corn that was so good, so different and luscious.

Gail ordered the steak skewer but then was not so thrilled with it. She was just eating the steak though, I wrapped each piece in the bread it came on with the fruit/cucumber salad and it was amazing.

The place though, was unremarkable, so, OK, fine I don’t need that exactly. But it would have been cooler if it looked more like an Arab market and less like Wendy’s. Plus it was freezing cold and so loud we had to shout. I came to find that this is a trend in NYC restaurants, cold and loud. The service was great though. Loved our funny and attentive (but not too attentive) waiter. I’d totally go there again and bring a parka.

You can read more about the restaurant here (https://www.shukettenyc.com/about-us) or you can listen to her podcast here (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/ft-weekend/id1179847741?i=1000574908554).

Ticking all the right boxes

I screeched to a halt when I passed this in the store pickle aisle. Pickles . . . jalapeños . . . good jar.

Unfortunately the jar box was the only one that got ticked. The pickles were fine. I guess, but they were just pickles. The jalapeño, though, nope. Just hot, no flavor. And I can take it, but hot for the sake of hot is not what I am after.

Still, nice jar though.