Chapter XVII

because you never know someone from the very beginning


August 2009

Subway Time Capsule – this morning’s ride in on the B train.

Morning rush on the B today.  Summary of what I see.

  • Less crowded probably because it's the end of summer
  • In sight, 3 Kindles, 10 iPods
  • About 75 people in the car
  • Hearing Russian and Spanish
  • 1 violin
  • 1 guitar
  • Only two people wearing suits
  • Not one reader of the NYTimes; 1 WSJ; 5 NY Posts
  • Lots of people sleeping
  • 1 VitaCoco drinker; shockingly, no coffee drinkers 
  • 2 September Vogue readers 
  • No kids
  • No empty seats

Don’t pigs hunt for truffles? Ummm, yeah, because pigs are really smart. Keep reading.

Since we were talking about food…

Wait…we weren't talking about food?  Oh.  Well, we should have been.  You see, I think a lot about food and I guess assume you do since you are reading this.

I enjoy things that are high impact, high reward and deceptively simple.  I appreciate complication as well, but high mileage, low maintenance can be extraordinarily satisfying when thinking about food that, say, might work for a dinner party.

Have I got a dish for you.  Fish en Papillote with Julienned Vegetables and Truffle Oil

Awwwww, yeah.  That's French in that there title, so immediately it sounds complicated.  Julienned?  Please.  Just a tricky way for saying sliced thin (sort of – look it up, take your time – it's not hard).  Truffle Oil?  Sounds expensive.  Try a couple bucks an ounce, and a little goes a LONG way. 

Try this recipe – CLICK HERE.  Do not be turned off by the paper folding thing.  Just do your best.  I promise, even if you botch it, it will look awesome when it comes out of the oven.  Your guests will freak.  I modify the recipe – I use white wine (a good one) rather than lemon (though lemon would be fine); I added sliced shitake mushrooms to my vegetables as they were cooking; I use a bit more pepper. 

I would have posted pictures but, well, we ate it all way too fast.

So, for a dinner party?  Start with a soup – maybe a fresh pea soup that you have MADE AHEAD.  You can make it look fancy by swirling a little creme fraiche in it.  Then serve the fish (make the veg ahead of time; assemble the packets before everyone arrives); and for dessert do something like panna cotta with berries (also, NOT hard, looks hard, make ahead; tastes great).

Get ready to answer "How did you do all of this?" and perhaps "Oh my god, did you have this catered?"

New York New York

The theme for this morning is New York New York.

  • On my way to the subway I stop by the Muffin Ladies store to grab a coffee. I just love this place. Three Jamaican women run it – great muffins, mediocre coffee, great people.
  • Many mornings on the subway platform where I start my day there is a fiddler.  He is extraordinarily talented. People easily drop dollars into his case. This morning he played Amazing Grace. People were caught off guard when they were brought to tears. I am not kidding.
  • On the subway itself I notice how many languages people are reading – French, Chinese, Russian. Lots of Russian. This is a sign of where this train starts – Coney Island.
  • The guy next to me gets up, leaves his bags and walks away.  He is checking the subway map halfway down the car.  I note that this is a pretty trusting move.  You just don't really do that in the subway.  Perhaps I look trustworthy.  But even so, this is highly unusual behavior.
  • It is a hot heavy day here in NYC. As we head over the Manhattan Bridge, I think of September 11th. And yes, it is that Manhattan Bridge that Brian Williams talked about a few weeks ago on NBC News.  The one that moves a lot and is really old and needed an upgrade from the day it was first built.  That's the one.  

Speaking of calamities, back to September 11th.  I sit here on the subway and remember the skyline that once was.  Around 8:35 or so that morning, we heard a plane.  I lived downtown.  That plane was really low.  I turned to my then boyfriend now husband and said "Must be a military exercise."

But no.  And then we watched the news.  And went to work.  And my mother was still in the air somewhere, flying on a United Airlines plane back from Paris.  It's not worth re-living that whole day here now, but for some reason this morning I was thinking about how we tried to make things feel normal that night.  I went to my future in-laws' apartment on the Upper East side.  I walked there since getting a bus was practically impossible.  There were hundreds if not thousands of people walking north that day.  I walked up Madison Avenue in a crowd of people – felt like mass exodus.  And it was.  That night, we tried to feel normal and ate dinner on the terrace.  And it was normal.

Except for the smell.  The smell of burning buildings more than 100 blocks away.  It was inescapable and it permeated the City for days.

But here we are now.  The City is more peaceful today and that includes Times Square, where I am headed as I write this.

Can you believe it's been almost eight years?

And so it goes.

Wednesday Thoughts

What are you thinking about today?  Here is what I have rattling about in my head:

I just ran out to grab lunch and saw an older lady (looked to be in her 80s) walking slowly through Times Square with one of those draggable shopping carts.  I must be honest, I look in awe at the older folks who make their day to day lives here.  She was moving at her own pace, did not look rushed or frail, but wow, living here is not easy and I admire those that just keep on going at it.

I am working with one of my companies to completely re-build our long range plan.  I LOVE this stuff.  Blank screen of Excel in front of me, lots of data to compile, rationale and logic to build to model out our growth plans.  This is good stuff.

When in doubt, as it relates to favors, I subscribe to the "Just Do It" rather than "Ask if You should Do It" way of life.  If you want to buy someone a gift while they are standing in a store with you, it's better to just do it than to say "Would you like me to buy this for you?"  To the latter, I suspect most people might feel a little odd saying yes, so why give them the option.

Are you alive or mearly living? 

I think there is a big gap between what companies need from new graduates and what they are getting.  Our educational system does a pretty poor job of addressing this.  Everyone keeps talking about what our educational system needs, but what I am not hearing a lot of is how it is linked to our overall economy – it's called workforce development.  There is opportunity here for innovation.

Since now my news finds me (RSS feeds, preferences, etc.), when will products find me just as easily?

Happy Wednesday. 

A Little Rat Sympathy, please.

Did you know that rats have the capacity for "executive decision-making"?  More evidence that executives are more like rats than not 🙂

Just kidding.  But that notion comes from this article in the Times today about stress (YIKES!!!!!!!!!!).  Read the article.  It's interesting that as much as I hate rats (practically like hating a neighbor since I live in NYC), that I felt bad at the thought of them being shocked or dunked in water for extended periods of time.  It's just heartless.  Even for rats. 

What really caught my attention was the illustration.  It's priceless.  And it's right here:


Recipe tweaking, my daughter the clepto and a desperate housewife.

Well I just cannot leave well enough alone – and that is good because we all have our own mark to make on this world.  So yes, I am going to tweak a well reviewed, well received, professionally edited recipe from Epicurious.  Here it is: Roasted Chicken Breasts with Paprika, Chick Peas and Tomatoes.  It was good.  It would have been great with one major modification: no oil on the chicken.  Yes, use the spice oil on everything else but on the chicken alone, just shake cumin, smoked paprika, salt and pepper.  Make sure, btw, that you DRY the chicken first.  The key here is crispy skin.  I hate soggy chicken skin.  Truly, what is more vile?  But crispy?  Truly, what is more delicious?  So why add oil?  Oil only defeats your quest for crispy skin.  And yes, I used thighs. I like thighs better because, well, they taste better.  This is a matter of personal preference. 

My 18 month old daughter is a thief.  She lifted a Hershey Bar at a grocery store today as we rolled through checkout.  Oh yeah, that was my kid.  This is yet another sign that she is channeling my dad.  Not because he was a chocoholic (he was – EPIC) but because my Episcopal priest of a dad had a tad of the clepto in him.  Let it be said, post-humous, that he was known to in his words "sample" the merchandise at grocery stores and other establishments.  He never got caught.  Divine intervention.  And for the record, I returned the incriminating evidence (good thing I am a total chocolate snob and only eat dark expensive chocolate).

John Hughes has died and this is a major loss to our culture.  I grew up with those movies.  This calls for a marathon.

I had no child care today so ended up taking a vacation day at home with the kiddo.  How did we spend our time?  Naturally, channeling suburban mothers far and wide, we went to Target.  Damn that place.  Is there a $100 tax upon entry?  Seriously, I went for diapers and left a c-note poorer.  There was that little toy for Avery, the wipes that I remembered were running low, cannot forget the overnight diapers and of course, there was Ina.  I have been holding out on buying Ina's new cookbook Back to Basics but today I caved.  So in her honor, tonight I am making dinner from said cookbook.  Menu: Tuscan Chicken, Asiago Polenta (inspired by her cheddar grits), Confetti Corn.  And then, not inspired by Ina, blueberry turnovers.  For the record, I am barefoot, I was in the kitchen and I am not pregnant, all suburban not working today mom evidence to the contrary.

I don't even know what happened in the market today.

Close to finishing The History of Love – pretty darn good book though I loved her hubby's book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close much better.

And finally, anyone notice that in the children's book Where Is Baby's Mommy, the mom is only found at the end buried in the bed with the covers over her head?  Could she be more depressed!  Anyone else have a desperate housewife moment with that one?  Seriously, they may as well have put tequila in her sippy cup! 

Amusing Image of the Day :-). Poor Cows.


Weeknight healthy dining

Recipe update.  I like this recipe from the NYTimes.

I like it even better with the following variations:

  • Use bok choy instead of the mustard greens. Less bitter. I slice the bok choy so it's more bite size.
  • Add shitake mushrooms.
  • Add some red pepper flakes.
  • Serve over brown rice.
  • Use snapper fillets instead of flounder. Or use salmon.
  • Add some chopped cilantro on top.

That is all for today.  Been slim pickins' lately on my writing, but try this and you will be satisfied.  Trust me.

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