Saturday, July 31, 2010

Roof living

I pureed some white peaches and added prosecco. Yes, I know all we seem to drink is prosecco. It's because all we drink is prosecco. For now. It's a phase. I took it up to the roof while I watered the farm.

I sat on the parapet wall between us and Raccoon House and looked at the sky, which was beautiful. A late-season, cool air, not-summer sky. Clean blue, high cumulus passing overhead and billowing upwards, buildings painted in precise lines. I over-watered and sloshed my peach puree and prosecco a bit.

Then I took a lot of pictures of the terrace. In the kitchen below, celery soup was cooling, sage was waiting to be frizzled for the ravioli, and in the bedroom my very tired husband was having a nap.

Last night I dreamed I was flying. Me, myself, not in a plane. As long as I believed in it, I could fly. When I stopped believing, I sank. It was like swimming underwater but better.

I am not tired of the terrace. I thought I must be. But I'm not.

There is still plenty to see and do and say.

Later I went and miaowed at the bedroom window and Estorbo came and miaowed with me, quite confused. What are we doeen'? he asked. Miaowing, I said. The tired husband woke up with a jump and soon I had a friend to drink Bellinis on the roof with me.

The naked cat joined us.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Of temptation and capitulation

It is 38 days after the fig guessing game:

Now suffer the fig eaters to come unto me...

I find it unlikely that Eve, if she had existed, would have risked so much for the sake of an apple. Especially since it probably tasted a lot like the crabapples we know today. And while the fig and the apple share the distinction of being domesticated very early, the fig seems to be winning, at around 11,400 years ago.

No. I think it would have been a fig. I would behave foolishly for the promise of a plump, perfect, ripe, soft-skinned fig.

Or perhaps it was a pomegranate? Since Eve would have been naked she wouldn't be risking the staining of white linen by cracking open the garnet-juiced fruit.

Anyway. I have been watching my figs ripen slowly. I am not sure how many I have lost to shrivel, perhaps ten? And till today I had eaten three. Two publicly and one on the sly.

Here is one of the ones that has not made it. They drop off quietly, and are quite soft but dry inside...I'm not sure why my ring was back to front.

I have had my eye on this fat one for a couple of days.

And yesterday I picked one from the far side of the tree. It involves standing on a chair and stretching.

Then I had to decide what to do with my picked fig.

Eat it in lonely splendour?

I put it next me while I wrote.

I resisted. Waiting for two more figs to join it and make it a party.

Today they ripened and this evening was the party.

We sat outside and sipped prosecco from Jay and Guy's glasses and ate sweet figs.

[Update: August figs by the bowlful. And a surfeit of figs.]


It's hard to believe that of the three roses on the terrace this one, the Abraham Darby, so near death in the spring, has performed the best. My pink Eglantyne is looking for a home. She is not happy. Not enough sun. Maybe I should move her to the roof. But then I will have to farm with her petals or it won't be a farm anymore.

Vince was home early from work and so we had a rare early dinner outside, with the air actually very pleasant and the humidity bearable. There was a pink sky.

Pork tonnnato, with pork loin  that I poached with carrots, onion, peppercorns and terrace thyme. Whizzed up Italian oil-canned tuna, mayonnaise, capers, cornichons, lemon juice and pepper for the sauce. It is a pale-looking meal, but delicious.

Brown baguette from Sahadi's, sweet butter and a real garden salad.

From the little roof farm I brought down some courgette (zucchini) blossoms, and from the terrace I snipped chives and picked parsley.

Cat: I see my deenhair, bod where is jours?

The hard life of a cat. He hates the gravel so I put down a cloth for his pawpads.

I smell feesh!


I yam steel here an' I yam goeen' to faint!

(The shirt is to cover the spot where he has licked his fur off.)

In the interim the cat fainted and we had some peace. Later he went to the roof to hunt cicadas.

We finished the last of the sparkling wine and ate some peaches.

We finished up with petit fours mouthfuls of freakily delicious Marukawa gum.

I'm looking forward to more terrace-weather. It's a good place to be.


The Cooks, by Sophie Blackall

Departing in my morning from menus and months and seasons (The Project I am working on) I frittered away almost an hour looking at blogs written by Sophie Blackall, thanks to the Sourcerer in Cape Town, who links to one of her blogs.

I wonder if anyone doesn't know her, but until that hour ago, I was one of the unknowers.

She is an illustrator living in Brooklyn, and I am hooked. It is rare for me to find drawings I respond to viscerally, as I am so historically attached to the ones that saw me through childhood, but she taps into that vein of nine year old happiness, as well as supplying plenty of fodder for the big, curious, sceptical me.

Dark Skinned Well Spoken Lady, by Sophie Blackall.

So if you don't know her, have a look at her Missed Connections NY blog, where she illustrates real Missed Connections personal ads that appeal to her, look at her own site, Sophie Blackall
and read the interview Seven Impossible Things before Breakfast for a glimpse inside her studio and process.

She also loves Moby Dick, needs strong coffee and hates the word veggies. Naturally I feel there is an instant connection.

If that black cat of mine ever writes a book, this lady would be his dream illustrator. I think she would see right inside his black cat heart.

Cherry clafoutis

...ranks high on my list of favourite summer desserts. It's basically a loose, cream-based pancake batter with very little flour, poured over pitted cherries and baked till just set. My mom always made it with canned cherries, the real thing being in short supply in South Africa, and we called it platvoetjies (which translates as 'little flat feet') - I forget how that started...

It's pretty good for breakfast, too.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Subway photography

From time to time I take pictures inside subway stations. How can I not? They are an integral part of my New York life. What I hear is often more interesting than what I see, but only once have I recorded a conversation, on my phone. Two old white jailbirds discussing the various perks and hazards inside area prisons. I don't know what I thought I would do with the recording. Their idiom and accent riveted me, as well as the absolute lack of self consciousness about their subject. And the fact that, on the subway, you can ride peacefully beside two career criminals.

Then again, we've been riding beside bankers for years, haven't we? Same but different.

As many New Yorkers will know, photographing trains and subways has become a touchy affair. It bears reminding people that it is legal. There is no ban on subway photography.

This article in today's Times recaps some of the absurdities of the endeavour.

Above, the station where the little girl chased the departing train, as it carried her mother away from her.

This is a cool guy. Why? Because this car on the 3 train I took to the BBG last week was air conditioned. So what, you say: It's July, the temperature above ground is nearly 100'F, and on the platform it's got to be well over. Of course it is air conditioned.

You'd think. But this is the car I'd stepped into initially, expecting a grateful blast of iciness. But leaning back into my nice bucket seat a sense of intense warmth pervaded my clammy body, fresh from the stifling platform.


I touched the seat back beside me. Hot. Then the next one over. The one across the aisle.


Winter heating was on full blast. I swapped cars at the next station.

What's the hottest station in New York? At the moment I vote for Herald Square, at 34th Street. We spent half an hour in its bowels in the wee hours of Sunday morning in our wedding finery waiting for the F home to Brooklyn. Sweat ran in rivers down me, and I was wearing a strapless dress. The poor Frenchie was in long pants and sleeves, with draped jacket over wilting arm.

(Yes, Knithound, we took a car service to the wedding: $32 with tip and worth it, but we decided to be troopers on the way home)


Marukawa Gum. Photo: Cindy at Asian

Three years ago today I left a comment on a blog belonging to a Frenchman in Vancouver. He had the decency to come and look at my blog to see who this commenter was. To my everlasting good fortune, he liked what he found, in spite of having been looking for a long time. After some Marukawa gum, some banter, a story about black cats and the first of many, epic-length emails, the rest is happy history.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bush cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, remix

Popped up onto the roof this evening to pick some tomatoes. Found a cucumber, too, and a ripe black cherry tomato, which had split.

Took them back down and applied the Opinel knife. Added some torn up mint and basil from the terrace. And French feta...

Salad for supper.

My man

Yes, there are meals that are eaten at the edge of the lips and the edge of the fork, with the little finger in the air, the spine erect, and with a somewhat dazed air. But that is not me.

Roger Verge, Entertaining in the French Style (1986)

Lamb chops

Bah ram ewe:

There's some grilled lamb over at (the Food). Please don't go there if you are a vegetarian.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Frank's Farm

Photo: Frank Meuschke

"I make it rain with electronic valves and gravity, near the ground and at regular intervals.

This is smarter because no matter what anyone says about farms in the city, I will not be slave to watering or rain. I am a city dweller and I long to escape for two weeks at a time, to see the land and its produce, to marvel at the broad expanse of forest and field, to bathe in the cool moist understory of air seeping from woods on hillsides without ever worrying of his tomatoes or green beans -that is in the contract! You -in the countryside will have great expanse and distance between you and others, neighborliness and drive by wavings, a slow pace, cleaner air and honesty. We -in the city will be free from rising at dawn to milk the cows, will have variety in all things, hustle, bustle and irony, and never, ever, will we have to worry about the state of the food growing on our little 'farms.' Because I am a city dweller, I must tend to other pursuits."

Frank, at New York City Garden

Planet Green favourite

Thanks to Colleen Vanderlinden, founder of the Mouse and Trowel Awards, and garden writer for Discovery's Planet Green blog, for including 66 Square Feet in her Planet Green favourite garden blogs for small spaces.

2010 is a good year for top tens. Yee ha!


Even flies like to relax in nature. Out here on the fennel stalk he (?) looks quite cute.

The most frequent visitors to the fennel flowers are hornets. Touchy creatures.

The fennel seems to be blooming early, and I think it has told me what will be for dinner. Branzino, grilled on the coals, stuffed with...


I took my walk-run (one block walk one block run one block walk etc) down over the Gowanus Canal on the Carroll Street bridge and saw the 9 million dollar aeration pipe now submerged in the greasy waters at slack tide.

I ran along deserted 3rd Avenue, a strip that remains undeveloped and pleasantly derelict.

Below: Architecture. On 3rd Avenue and 3rd Street. Googling the intersection I came upon several remarks about the building which led to this Landmarks' decision.

I turned back to my hood of Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill by running over a bridge I didn't know about, on 3rd Street. A man climbed over and under a fence, carrying shopping, and walked along the canal. I think he must live there.

New graffiti and well established Queen Anne's lace, but no butterflies.

I exercised in a window of coolness, after rain, where we came out from under the stinking humidity of the last few days and into an atmosphere of breathability. Last night someone described living in New York at the moment like being trapped inside a dog's mouth. Amen.