Judy’s birthday

I met her when I was 24. You do the math. I invited her for a celebratory birthday dinner. Sitting at my big dining table just the 2 of us seemed a little barren so I hauled out a folding table and set it up in the window. The table cloth, which I rarely get to use, was made by my mother while we were in France. Which is to say, I bought a length of fabric and she hemmed it with a sewing machine we borrowed from a neighbor.

The meal was fine, I guess, you can ask Judy for her opinion if you’re really interested, but the table looked great. I’m sure of that. I managed to get pix of it but not the food. Which is how I seem to roll.

Tomatoes 2023, the end

The tomatoes in my garden ripen in their own good time. Sometimes there are tons and other times just 3 or 4. However it is, I usually can’t eat them all by any stretch of the imagination. I gave a lot of them away this year but I also devised a method for making small batches of sauce that I canned as they presented themselves.

I have enough sauce to carry me through the winter. It’s not garden-fresh tomatoes but it’s a good enough substitute. Stay tuned for the annual spaghetti and meatball revelry.

Hummingbird cake

I don’t remember the hows, whys or when I heard about this cake but it’s been buzzing around in my head for months. Hummingbird cake is or was popular in the south and supposedly is from Jamaica where the national bird is the hummingbird. Since the main ingredients are bananas and pineapple it could very well be a Caribbean cake.

It’s a carrot cake that uses bananas instead of carrots. Frozen (and defrosted) bananas at that, plus pineapple and pecans. It’s was pretty easy to make but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t an emotional wreck after I made it. Frosting a cake alone is a hideous nightmare. Making something I am unfamiliar with is never without its anxieties.

I think it was good. I am not the best judge of that sort of thing in times of heightened botheration.

It occurred to me later that I could have been serving it in my Caribbean-themed restaurant because I needed another heebie-jeebie-inducing activity to deal with in that alternate universe of disquietude.

If you like making cakes and you make carrot cake you should try this. It pretty much tastes the same and you don’t have to grate carrots, just freeze 5 super-ripe bananas. Essentially they turn into slop as soon as they’re defrosted. Recipe here. And I should say, after all the fuss and worry, it’s an easy cake to make and the frosting was perfect for the size of the cake (3 layers!!) and application turned out to be a breeze. And what I need to keep in mind but never seem to, is that I am making a cake for family and friends, no one will complain. They aren’t customers.

The war has ended

Well at least the Great Squirrel War of 2023 is over. Others still rage on but at least I can lick my wounds and start anxiously worrying about next year.

The detritus of a summer’s battles.

Chop salad sandwich

A lot of useless shit gets shilled on Instagram. I oughta know, I’ve fallen prey to more than I care to admit—don’t buy the liquid stain removing stuff. There are also a lot of fabulous looking but impossible to make food things that get my attention but not all the crap is, well, crap. I watched an Instagram reel which seemed like it was a great idea. And it was. Chop all your favorite stuff up rather than layer it and put it on bread or in this case brioche buns. This circumvents the age old take-a-bite-and-drag-the-entire-contents-of-the-sandwich-out-onto-your-chin-and-lap problem. And the ease with which I can get something into my yap is of primary importance to me.

Pepperoncini, some leftover Italian deli meats, onion, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, muffuletta, capers and lettuce. I can hear the I-don’t-like-onions Greek chorus even as I write this. Don’t put it in. No olives? Fine, don’t put them in. No meat? You get the idea.

I had these buns in house. Yikes. They raised the whole thing to a next level. (I honestly cannot have bread in the house. I’ll just eat it. And not by itself, with fattening and yet delicious things on or in it.)

Imma tell you what . . . go-oo-ood. Mmhm.

So Mario

I’m pretty sure someone is reading my blog and feeding it to the journalistic cognoscenti. This appeared in my in box today two days after I took a pot shot at Mario Batali. He no longer owns Eataly apparently but he is still being dogged by other past transgressions.

There are the sexual assault issues. He was found not guilty of some of these and he paid off the others alla Donald Trump. But he’s making a comeback . . .

(And you can read about that here)

Someone should talk to him about his hair-do.

Not to mention that he got caught skimming tips from his servers. Lidia Bastinach’s son was also charged and found guilty. This absolutely infuriates me.

(Read about it here)

I have a signed cookbook of his. I wonder how much it’s worth.

So, New York

I’m home now and still suffering from the cold I’d had pretty much from the time I arrived until I left. I knew it wasn’t Covid but hacking coughing sneezing my way through NYC is not as much fun as you might imagine and I was self conscious. Not that one needs to be. You could be bleeding out on the street there and people would step over you. Husoor tolerated me and TBH that’s all that mattered.

This was the view from our hotel room. I came to New York when I was a junior in high school. My aunt Florence, God rest her soul, was living there in the Gotham hotel on 5th and 55th and my aunt Mary, rest her soul, too, brought my sister Mary K and me to New York during spring break. It was one of the high points of my life. The first view from our hotel room (The Shoreham) down 55th was just about the most thrilling thing I’d ever experienced. There were more Yellow cabs back then, I seem to recall.

55th. Always makes me nostalgic.

These spiky, needle-y, huge high rise buildings, yikes. The thought of living up so high makes me queasy.

Went to the Met. Puts me in mind of several of my friends.

We went to MOMA to see the Ed Ruchsa (pronounced Rew-shay, who knew?) exhibit. Fabulous.

And stopped by to see an old friend. Always a favorite.

Made it to the American Folk Art Museum. Love it so much.

Street art, gotta love it too.

Just when you are overwhelmed by all of the people, all of the time, all over the place no matter where you are, you turn the corner and, wha? It felt like a Twilight Zone episode. This was Union Square station!

I love Balthazar. It’s how I imagined my life would be when I came here as a teenager. Turns out I’m just a tourist taking surreptitious pix of what my life was supposed to be.

I knew I didn’t have Covid. I just had to be sure.

Eataly, I want to hate it

Mario Batali’s partial ownership aside, I just hate the idea of a place that muscles in and more or less takes over everything. Eataly is such a place. Like Walmart plopping its fat ass down and killing American small town shopping districts. There is an Eataly in Bologna in the midst of scores of small shops that sell the same things. I mean, wedged into a charming food quarter in old Bologna right next to a tiny shop where old ladies (probably younger than I am though) are making pasta and selling it out of their store front and then here’s Eataly selling the same damn thing.

But, jeez, it’s a great store.

It’s different in New York where you may need to go to Little Italy, or what’s left of it, to buy your cavatappi and private label squid ink. This store is cram packed with all things Italian and there are lots of dining options as well. Delis filled with sandwiches, bakeries selling cornetto and then, sadly, there are zillions of prepackaged salads, soups and pasta dishes.

NYC has a garbage problem. There were piles and piles of bagged garbage all over the place. Most of it was in bags into which you could clearly see that New York eats a whole hella takeout. So Eataly selling all that plastic disposable (but not compostable) takeaway food . . . it’s a problem (read all about it). New York recycles only a 5th of its garbage. On the one hand I was won over by Eataly (in New York but not Bologna), on the other I was sickened by all of the future-garbage.