Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sheer laziness

...in other words: Pizza. A BIG pizza. More fast food...(what was the last food I was talking about? Ah, oh yes, those crepes stuffed with a poached egg and bacon...)

Because the Frenchie will turn himself inside out in excitement out at the prospect of eating pizza (I know, something wrong with those French genes...you know his nickname from Club Med days is Vinny-Two-Slices? Say that with a Brooklyn accent!) I have been making it a bit more often than I might have otherwise. And perhaps I like pizza, too. OK. I do. A lot. But you know. Sigh. It's pizza.

So this pizza...I know. Sausages! But let's start on the left. The dough is Patricia Wells' all-purpose version from her Bistro Cookbook. After all these manymany years of cooking I still actually open this book and read it. It's a quick dough and makes a good cottage loaf, too. Yes, I'll post the recipe next door, soon. Tomatoes from a can, wooshed till smooth,  added to some thinly sliced garlic. Merguez sausages. Buffalo mozzarella. And few sprigs of oregano from the terrace. Those were the token greens. Ha. A glass of red wine, and I'm afraid that was dinner.

It wasn't exactly dainty.

Yes, I'll be visiting the tennis walls tomorrow, before the rain. I must see if the man and his dog are there. I must write about them.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The park via Sackett Street

St Agnes Church on Sackett Street.

And chimneys.

And....a black stair carpet?

And fall camellias (the temperatures dipped below freezing last night).

And a view from the Gowanus - razor wire, weed trees (ailanthus), water towers like gun turrets on the Gowanus Houses.

In Prospect Park: our friends, the solitary men. Brisk trade on a cold Sunday, despite leafless trees.

And overflowing trash cans in the eastern woods. The ones on the main paths seemed recently emptied.

And oyster mushrooms...

The ones above are babies. We left them.

Not yet identified.

Ever-present witch hazel. We saw two mature red tailed hawks, flying from tree to tree. They were big and beautiful.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Pictures from one year ago today. Flower District fall boughs. Reminder to myself to go back.

Tomorrow is my father's birthday. Two years ago he almost underwent open heart surgery, then a second surgeon had a second opinion. It is also a doctor's appointment for a new friend, who will hear how his cancer has responded to the treatment he has been receiving. The last news he got was not good.

So a reminder. To be nice. To do the things we mean to do. To undo the things we regretted doing. As far as we can undo them. To smile and say please and thank you.

To eat waffles while we may. Followed by carrot sticks when we can.

The endpapers

 Photo: Bevan Christie

On my 70th birthday

Cocooned in dressing-gown with tea and book;
The Winter sun’s pale rectangles where once,
Not long ago, bright Summer’s edges keen
Gave clear delineation to the shape of life.
So now the pages, words no longer galvanize:
Where once I lived the battles, loves and deaths
I read; I see them now as from afar:
Things dreamed of, not experienced, not mine.
So my own life, somehow, now seems a pale,
A sad palimpsest, barely legible
Scrawlings, worn thin, of what it might have been:
Loves, victories, pain I might have felt, have lived,
Seen from a distance, like this book: the works
And joys of other heroes, not my own.
Nothing real now. The odd infrequent tear
Shed for some other’s pain. Why not then stop?
The end is surely better now cut off
Than fading out as blank endpapers.
Shut the book.

Bevan Christie

Friday, November 26, 2010


The Thanksgiving cocktails (prosecco, Grand Marnier) that I enjoyed so much last year, this year gave me an immediate headache smack between the eyes. Why? In the night I woke up and thought, Angostura Bitters! I did not put in the 3 drops of bitters. Could they be an antidote? We will see.

We ate dinner at dinner time, not 3 or 4pm, so at that time, when the rest of country sat down to eat,  I walked five deserted winter blocks to buy some sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. And corn flour. The cashiers were not sitting down to eat...Few souls on the street. A man with shopping bags, looking furtive, out alone on such a portentous day. Couples standing in doorways, waiting to be let in. From many windows golden light streaming, and inside, tables ready for a meal. Table cloths, plates, and people standing in kitchens. In one dining room a family at the table, the old lady with green hair, the middle aged son looking concerned and prodding a bowl with a fork, the old lady smiling happily. A man, her son, father, perhaps, of the middle aged man, turning up some music in a real record player. The store almost empty - two girls buying what I was. Brussels sprouts and sweet potato. Five young men prowling the aisles and conferring frequently.

On the walk back two pizzas being delivered to a smart front door. A woman sipping a glass of white wine on a stoop, keeping her smoking friend company. Two men in wheelchairs in the dark, under the rain-dripping porch of the nursing home. The restaurant on the corner closed, chairs on tables. Walking back up the stairs smelling roast marshmallows.

I made fluffy mustard sauce, from a printed email from my mother, stuck into the recipe book she made for me. It tastes better than the pig, even.

Ideas for leftover ham? Potted ham, bean and ham soup, ham-stuffed blintzes, ham and peas, ham sandwiches on thin bread with lots of butter (the best)...we will freeze most of it until we can think about it again.

Christina's corn bread recipe was very good. More like corn cake. Fluffy from the separated eggs. I will cut down a little on the sugar next time.

No space in me for apple pie, but plenty of space in the Frenchie. The cat preferred the cornbread.

Been and gone. Time to move on. Maybe a long walk on a cold Friday.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mr Christie!

 It just don't seem possible. 

Thank you for the memories: every meal and every drink and every book and every cushion cover and every beautiful corner...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November 24th

Good morning from late November. The cat is being trained with a squirt bottle and lavender water to wake us up only at dawn. His previous breakfast call had shifted to between 2-3am and this u.n.a.c.c.e.p.t.a.b.l.e. It seems to be working. He is not actually being soaked at all; after the first misting, which he found outrageous,  he stays well beyond range. He has become quite polite. Do you think this might work with politicians?

There are another five ripe strawberries waiting to be eaten, and the silly things keep making flowers.  It bears repeating that this is an ever(and ever and ever)-bearing cultivar called "Fern".

It was sweet, and very firm, almost crisp; nothing like the soft, warm implosion of a July berry.

The blueberry bush. Wherever I am, I hope to be able to grow blueberries. More, I would like many more. The orange and yellow cages are the tepees (tuteurs, properly) that I brought down from the roof farm during my tidying session the other day.

I checked on the farm and found that the squirrel has been busy. Dug up all my newly sown pots. I see pate in his future. I also saw the late afternoon lights coming on in the brownstones across the way. Something stirs deep in my heart at this time of year, from memories of long-ago stories, when I lived far far south on a continent that had hot summer Christmases and where lights did not stream out, showing the life within. The memory is from books internalized but whose romanticized winters had never been experienced in person. 

Today there will be big terrace clean up. Its bones will show. Hard to believe it ever looked like this.

Reflections of red in the doctors' residence.

The ham is calling.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Raisin bars

There are some very good, spice-rich, old fashioned cookies next door at (the Food).

I have written about them before, but I cleaned up the recipe and made it all neat. This is still the end of my mission to take all the recipes from this blog and transfer them neatly next door, for easy access. Problem was I got side-tracked with new food.

Very simple and not very beautiful, the cookies are perfect for this time of year (cloves, cinnamon, allspice), and comforting to eat when the world is too much with you.

Or when you just want a cookie.

Eat ye cookies while ye may.

Thanksgiving Ham

2007's Thanksgiving Ham

I am in possession of  a ham, described as 'heritage pork', no breed specified, apple-wood-smoked by D'Artagnan. And I bet it will taste no different than the hams I used to buy from the supermarket, made from mass-raised pigs. Seriously, I would love to do a blind tasting of supermarket vs artisinal vs mass-organic (as I would describe D'Artagnan) hams, post two-day preparation, my way.

Regardless, I will feel virtuous on Thursday, which makes all the difference. They say. And poor. That's a pig with a price tag.

The cooking of the Thanksgiving ham will begin tomorrow. This is a contradiction in terms because it is already cooked, but I'm telling ya, the 14 hours per the hotbox method overnight and the mustard glazing the next day render a pig to cry for.

Now we need some lost sheep to help us eat it, or next week will be ham every day till I really cry. Actually, maybe not... Potted ham! Yum, good for picnics right into next year.

Nevermind, sheep.

New York, 2010

How do you pick your favourite pictures of a city like this? Close your eyes and point, that's how. There are hundreds more, but for now, here are some that will give you a glimpse of 'my' New York. Everyone has their own New York. Mine tends to be full of plants.

So here are 121 images taken from January till yesterday...February is missing. We were on the road in South Africa.

The images are Brooklyn-heavy, since I live there, even so, there are big parts I have not explored yet. And I am extremely conscious of the fact that there is precious little of Queens (only Jamaica Bay), nothing from Staten Island, and just a smattering from the Bronx. The fault is mine, not the Boroughs'. Next year.

Still, most outsiders tend to think that New York is Times Square and Midtown. While bright lights and crowded pavements might wow some of the visitors, the city can be far more subtle, and far more friendly... I hope you get to know and love it a little better, here.

Call this my love letter to New York.

If you would like captions click on the figure on the left.

And if there is a part of New York you would like to see, let me know! I like assignments.

And since we have quite a few weeks to go, I will add pictures to this as the year draws to an end.

I am hoping for snow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bedbugs in Brooklyn

It's not what you think.

I am cooking the books.

Just in case.

Everyone is freaking out about bedbugs in New York. They have landed. It came to the mainstream consciousness only lately. I remember reading Miss Heather's diatribes about bedbugs years ago.

If only they had listened then. Now there's been a run on sniffer dogs and reports of sniffer dog false positives! And we're crawling with bedbugs!

So, the nice practise of putting books you no longer want on the sidewalks, neatly arranged, for others to adopt, has suddenly become a little problematic, I think. It occurred to me that the critters may hide in the spines? I mean, I would see them, but I'm as itchy as the next person when I think about them, so I elected to bake two recent adoptions. Paul Prudhomme spent a few hours at 200'F to no ill effect, in fact maybe it did him some good. But then he went back to the sidewalk the next day. The food didn't inspire me as much as it made me feel heavy.

And the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. I don't think anyone ever read that book. I might not, either.

And I wonder if anyone baked the books I put out recently? A perfectly new Gary Shteyngarten, and two Andre Brinks. I think I'd read the Brinks twice and that was enough. I know I will never read them again, and to me the only good books are books I read again and again and again. What would I do without books? Go mad, I think.

Perhaps the cat could be trained to be a sniffer cat? He is an excellent smoke alarm.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Grand Army Plaza grass in the cracks.

Cobble Hill paper spam.

A book for foragers at GRDN in Boerum Hill.

Zelkovas on Henry Street.

Christmas coming early to Court Street.

Pacific Street window box.

Prospect Park farmer's market.

Roof farm

I had been looking at the skeletons of the tomato plants for weeks and weeks and went up to the roof yesterday to do something about them. Clad in flip flops, jeans,  two sweaters and a woolly hat, I snipped and clipped and yanked and burrowed, and stuffed them into the flapping plastic bags held on my wrist against blowing way over the roof tops. Next door, on Raccoon House, a man with a dust mask went mysteriously up and down the fire escape, with a big broom. I think he is sweeping away the raccoon.

I lowered a big bag of trash down to the terrace along with the cages. 

As I bent over, gathering the greens growing in two pots, a shadow glided by and I looked up in time to see the spread dappled wings of a raptor as it flew no more than a foot higher than the bubbled tar roof of Raccoon House. A squirrel scampered away in the gutter. This same bird startled Estorbo the other day, who was also watching the squirrel, and who had just jumped up for a closer look. The three animals must have been equally surprised.  It is too big for a kestrel, too small for a red tailed hawk. Possibly it is the latter, but a juvenile.

This is a doctors' residence across the way, owned by the LICH. This apartment has been burned out since late spring, I think. We did not see it happen, but noticed the tarpaulin over the blasted windows. Now it flaps open to the elements. Bizarre. They are not big on upkeep.

The spicy microgreen mix left in one trough was fat and lush. So I planted some more. We will see what happens.

The mesclun mixwas a little ragged but still gave enough for a supper salad, along with two nice radishes.

Cold. Time to go in. Feet not responding.

Floated the leaves in a bowl of water, but no worms this time.

The leaves tasted very good, some of the mustard greens sending wasabi-like heat up through the nose.