Showing posts with label Main Man. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Main Man. Show all posts

Monday, March 10, 2014

Burying elephants in cheese

What is one to do when a Frenchman hates to celebrate his birthday?


Buy cheese.

So I zipped down to Zabar's on Broadway and went to town in the cheese department. Maybe I paid the dried sausage department a visit, too. On the way back, goodies stashed in a khaki backback, I stepped onto the wrong train. Of course. And found myself way west and uptown on the darned 1, at 145th Street, with a lot of other angry commuters. Karma for me, as I'd just given a tourist bad directions. Unwittingly. So we all rode downtown together, in order to go uptown again. 

This evening I hoofed it eleven short blocks south and three long blocks west  to The Winery on 116th to get a quick and cold bottle of Champagne, as a birthday treat. Bollinger special cuvée. And it was delicious. Good things birthdays only come once a year. Mostly. And when I got home I was given flowers. Because it was his birthday.


The cheese tasting was fun, the pate and especially the sausage pronounced excellent.

Some small tarts from Le Patisserie des Ambassades on Frederick Douglass Boulevard finished the meal and almost finished us - lemon, coconut and frangipane. Very good, washed down with the last slurp of Champagne.

I think we'll be eating  cheese for a while...

Friday, March 7, 2014

A cup of coffee

Breakfast at an early-morning water hole south of Satara in the Kruger (now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Peace Park). No one else there. Just a sleepy male lion and a submerged hippo.

It may sound odd that some of my happiest memories with the Frenchman have involved driving. Odd because our New York life is almost entirely carless. But these have been the best times. There is nothing better than getting in a car and heading out, away.

A flask of coffee - our espresso pot having perked earlier while I was still sleeping. Milk warmed, sugar added. Rusks packed, or perhaps some potbrood, cooked in the previous night's coals. Getting into the 4 x 4, and seeing where the road will lead us.

And then just sitting there, and looking, and sipping and chewing our breakfast. Nowhere to be.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day and night

There are poppies in bunches at Pick 'n Pay. Our Limpopo avocados have not ripened yet (R20 - $2 - for eight. In Brooklyn they are $1.50 each). In the greenbelt when I walked the dogs between rain showers this afternoon, a duck sat on the racing brown stream and was swept around a bend. A tree crashed in the pine woods across the way. The rain sweeps over the roof again. It is dark outside at 6pm. I watch Grand Hotel and marvel at how good Joan Crawford is, and how bad Greta Garbo.

Yet she got the best lines.

"The music has stopped."

I had to smile. I felt that way when the Frenchman left. How such a quiet man can leave such silence behind him.

He writes and says: The terrace and roof farm look great [no one has seen the farm for weeks, as neither Amy nor Dinah could manage the heavy hatch]. He says: Blueberries as big as cherries.

My worlds pull apart.

He will take pictures of pots and I will send instructions. Pull this. Leave that. I wonder if the Cape gooseberries survived. They were pinpricks when we left. The cat's grass must be sawgrass by now. How about tomatoes?

Outside, in the wet, frogs click in the reeds.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Back home

Back to green, introspective Cape Town, for a second, interrupting the story of our wide open dusty brown winter trip to the north.

This is the greenbelt on the other side of the garden fence at No. 9. That fence is now completely obscured beneath a tangled hedge of trees, shrubs and climbers, much populated by birdlife.  And on this, public side, these beautiful but exotic poplars crowd the small stream called - optimistically - the Diep River.

This is part of a wide green swathe of grass that runs down several kilometers to the Alphen Hotel (giving what we always called The Bog, the now-grand name of The Alphen Trail). It's really just a glorified dog walking area, filled with invisible heaps of dog merde, so I had to laugh when it featured quite prominently in The Times this year. I was sorry that the author of that article had not been led instead on an indigenous fynbos walk in the mountains just a little higher. This greenbelt is attractive, but stuffed with invasive or exotic plants - loquat, bugweed, morning glory, wild ginger, bamboo, pines and poplars - many of them destructive or obstructive to native plants and their wetland habitat. Sadly, it does not reflect the unique glory that is the Cape's incomparable floral kingdom.

The whole greenbelt underwent some extensive earthworks and native plant habitat restoration many years ago, but it was never maintained. Improvement projects like this, whether in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, or here in Cape Town, amount to nothing unless there is a budget for upkeep.

All of which is my way of saying that Vince is flying back to New York today, and I am very sad.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Go to Chinatown. Go on, now. There's good food, there.

And the Frenchman's pictures are good. So very much better than mine...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Our tree

Late this afternoon I walked down to the basement laundry before going out to do the circuit of shopping for our supper and weekend breakfasts (Mr Kim's for squash and dill, the wine shop for wine and Stolichnaya, Key Food for milk and eggs). I needed to launder my gym clothes. That's another story. A membership at the nearby New York Health and Racquet Club*. The price tag alone guarantees my attendance.

[Ahem. That should have been New York Sports Club.]

As I passed the basement-level apartment of The Guy Who Has Loud Sex and Spanks his Partner (...I hear it, what can I say?), I smelled Christmas trees. Douglas fir, to be precise. I love this northern scent. Go figure, I thought, Porn Hound got himself a tree.

As I walked down the final flight of stairs the tree smell grew stronger and suddenly I saw not Porn Hound, but my husband, looking up at me guiltily.

I had caught him in the act of decorating a fragrant and apartment-sized Douglas fir.  He'd been hiding there, hoping to install it in my absence.  He was very remorseful at being caught with his tree pants down, but I was very happy. It had been a rare sleepless night, half awake with high winds and ice rain on the skylights, the neighbour's wind chimes hysterical on her terrace, and fretful scenarios in my head regarding books, life, death...and gym memberships. You know, one of those it's-spiraling-out-of-control-it will-never-be-OK  nights of the soul.

I've never had a tree. Ever. In the States, I mean. Usually I am in Cape Town for Christmas. Our six foot tree now presides over the cat's water and food bowls. It twinkles with lights and fragile red and gold and silver globes, and actual tinsel.

It made everything better. Brought to me by the man who dreads Christmas more than a hole in the head.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Rising above it all

Algerian Sahara. Photo: Vincent Mounier

Click the link for a stunning series of aerial images of the Sahara Desert from the Frenchman. Later, I'll post mine.

Our flight in daylight down Africa, from Amsterdam to Cape Town, was unforgettably beautiful. The level of detail and number of topographical mysteries visible in the ancient landscape kept our noses glued to the windows.

What is even more remarkable is that he later found the locations on Google Earth. A massive crater was identified, where a meteor had impacted this planet 100,000 years ago. A sci-fi earth works was revealed to be a uranium mine in Niger.

Mysterious parallel lines and the isolated settlements I photographed still await explanation.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Vince's office building is across the water, a giant nesting amongst the other Lower Manhattan giants, and it is still crippled by the flooding of its electrical innards by the salty storm surge of 14 days ago, that would have put the spot where he is standing to take this photo, quite underwater.

Consequently, his whole company has been relocated to temporary digs in Midtown, where their complicated system of telephone and computer interfaces cannot be replicated - the sophistication of before replaced by constant stress and furious activity. The people in charge of organizing the changes have aged, he says, by ten years. The website, the surface, works perfectly. 

No one calling or emailing realizes that nothing is as before. But beneath that surface everyone is scurrying like ants in response to a pungent stream of gas poured into their nest, keeping one ant eye on the small and curious child approaching with lit match.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pork buns!

Look what just arrived from Chinatown via Husband Express:

My favourite pork buns, still hot from the oven.

The way to a woman's heart...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Breakfast of champions

Breakfast, tomorrow, five years ago. Happy anniversary, Frenchie. The best five years of my life.

Dear Readers: I know, we indulge in many anniversaries.  You may ignore them. Today is the anniversary of our meeting. 

(I wonder where I found the narcissus? A puzzle.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New York Marathon - solo

How many bridges connect the island of Manhattan to Long Island,  mainland New York (otherwise known as The Bronx) and Jersey?

Don't know. But Vincent ran past ten of them on Saturday.

He didn't tell me he was going to run a marathon. He just did. On his own.

26 miles. 42 kms.

He also didn't tell me until well into dinner that night about what happened afterwards.  In this he reminds me of my father, who turns 80 this year, who sat down to lunch one day (this was a year or two ago) with my mother and me, under the tree in Cape Town, sipped some bubbly, cut his little chipolata sausages methodically, the way he does, chewed a bit and then told us, with some satisfaction, it seemed, that he'd just crashed his big BMW roadbike, and had come off, and would we like to see the bruise? That was the year after he was hit by a car (a slow Volkswagen beetle, thank god) on the freeway while training for the Argus Cycle tour. He likes showing off his wounds. And his bruises are spectacular.

Don't worry, Vince is fine. But I did stop eating. Takes a lot to make me stop eating.

But first, here is the first half of his story about running a solo marathan up and down the length of Manhattan.

I married him to exercise vicariously.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Vince has just left for a short visit to Rockport, north of Boston, where his mother holidays every summer, a much-anticipated escape from Quebec. For writing-reasons I decided I had to be Sensible, and stayed behind. I am rather sad to be missing the journey with him - we travel well - and the water and the flowers and the lobsters, but it will be good for him and his mom Germaine to spend some time together, just the two of them. She doesn't know he's coming, and as he's about to arrive and she is not likely to read my blog, I think the secret is still safe.

We had a celebratory-sad supper of spiedini before he left. I haven't made them for years. The idea came originally from a book of Antonio Bugialli's, The Best of... (good gracious, it was published publisher, yay! Stewart Tabori  and Chang, now an imprint of Abrams) which was the second recipe book I think I ever owned, Stateside, having relied hitherto on my mother's library of cookbooks. Actually, I did have a Rupert the Bear cookbook when I was little. I wasn't impressed. And the first book I bought Stateside was The Cookery of the Eastern Mediterranean, by Paul Wolfert. I opened that recently, after a long hiatus, to discover that she has several recipes for wild greens.   I hadn't noticed before, intent on stuffed peppers and aubergines. The book is as culturally rich and informative as it is stuffed with recipes.

Anyway, back to Bugialli - I threaded bread and good mozzarella onto skewers and toasted them under a flaming broiler. Last night the mozzarella and the skewers parted ways so I had to scrape all the melted cheese up and slap it on top of the bread. No matter. Over that I poured melted butter and anchovies (the little fish really do dissolve), finishing it with a scattering of hot dried chile flakes. We drank cold rosé, and ate an arugula salad for our digestions' sakes. And that was it.

I ordered this once at a place called John's in the East Village. It is a very old school Italian American joint, much loved, even revered. But I was appalled by my spiedini, which filled a plate in all directions and was soaked in oil and indigestible. The portion size was gross, in the original sense of the word. I wonder if Mayor Mike knows about it. He should ban it along with his giant drinks. Fran Lebowitz calls him the mayor of minutiae.

It can be such a good dish. Try it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Goodnight, sun

From a silver rooftop. Chinaco tequila, fresh lemon juice, maple syrup. All shook up. A sort kinda very good Margartia (-ish).

A man and his... What am I saying? Two men.

And three jets, heading south. I wonder who was on them? Were they having a drink, too? Sleeping? Eating? Looking down to see what they could see: the edges of this great city on the edge of the continent, spread around all this water? An ant palace from 38,000 feet.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bon anniversaire...

A birthday in the sunny Saturday house for the Canadian-born. A case of tissue-wrapped wines for private tasting sessions. Shiraz, Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc, sparklers, from South Africa, New Zealand, Chile, France, Italy and California. New wine glasses. Xeroxed score sheets. Edible gifts from the cat: chocolates and a saucisson sec. A cream and egg omelette for breakfast folded over grated Gruyere. Espresso with fluffed milk. Plans for an empty beach on a New York weekend. Back in time for steak tartare at Les Halles.

Happy Birthday, lovely husband.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Jamaica Bay in Winter

While I sit in a cool room on a hot day in Cape Town with the blinds drawn against a noonday glare, preparing to write an article with tips on taking a good picture (, may I direct you to some cool white winter images of one of my favourite places in the world: The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

The real photographer in the family (no, not the cat), hiked out there on a snowy day last week to see what he could see. And through his lens the world is wonderful. The pictures are silent and cold and austerely beautiful.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Anniversary, dear Frenchie

Four years ago, after knowing each other for four months, you and I were married here at my parents' house at 4 o' clock.

You are, without any shadow of a doubt, the best thing that ever happened to me. I am in love, and always will be.

We may not be together today, but I feel privileged, and more lucky than I can say, to miss you as much as I do.

Min dae.

(And, as is often the case, the Frenchie says it better).

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Manhattan's waterside

Some beautiful New York images over on the Frenchie's website. A beach...on the East River. Who knew?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Going home, leaving home

In Cape Town I look forward to:

My mom's smile
My dad's hug
Tipsy's voice
The wriggling, grunting happiness of two corgi dogs
The fanning tail wave of an old black lab
Driving a real car (yes, that surprised me, too)
Sitting on the patio with a drink (longing, with all my heart, that Vince was beside me, gulp, and he won't be)

Perfect coffee at Melissa's - called a flat white, which might be South African karmic humour
Buying boerewors anywhere
Cashiers in supermarkets who smile and greet you and seem to mean it
Picking flowers from the garden to put on the table
African sunshine
My mother's effortless light lunches

Seeing my old cream bedroom with the long curtains
The sound of birds in the morning
Hadedas yelling as they fly over the house
Tasting the best, red-fleshed figs
Smelling the fynbos on the mountain
Buying the first, muscat-y hanepoot grapes of season

It is a bittersweet trip. I long to share it with Vince, and we just can't this time. We spent a lot of time apart when we first met, separated by this huge continent and a border, and we have been very lucky to spend three consecutive northern winters in South Africa together. So I'll just make the most of it, which is of course not hard to do, lest I sound spoiled. Hunt some stories, take a lot of pictures, and have the pleasure of introducing a friend who has never set foot on the continent to her first taste of Africa.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dear Frenchie...

Happy Fourth Anniversary of our meeting.

You were worth waiting for, you were worth all the mistakes, you were worth every panic attack, you were worth every minute - and there were many - without you. You were worth dreaming about. And you came true.

Love, always.


On August 12th, 2007, I wrote to Vince trying to tempt him towards me from Vancouver, BC (it had been five days since we started to email each other):

I could lay a trail of very small saucisson sec from Vancouver to the East Coast. Light a fire in the desert  in the Karoo in three weeks that you can see from Canada, sparks flying into the sky. Base jump with my Peugeot from the Brooklyn Bridge and get wet because it's not high enough but at least make the front page?

And he replied:

Whether it leads to one last email and nothing more, ever, or a few polite follow-ups, or to an avalanche of biased and shameless comments on our respective blogs, or even a meeting in Utah, a fondue in the Alps or a night by a fire in the desert, or somewhere or something I haven't even thought of, thank you. Thank you for the spark, thank you for the echo to my words. Thank you for this moment. Thank you for the black paw on your foot. Thank you for being honest. For being the kind of person I'm irresistibly attracted to. For talking about cooking all the time, when I totally lack the cooking chromosome. For owning a Peugeot and a Le Creuset pot. For having a cage that I could rattle (I'd rather open it). For being able to grow into my mind from a complete stranger into a strangely familiar face with the only use of words and ideas (ok, and a few pictures).

You own my heart, Frenchie.

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