A couple of years ago I was in Parma on a bit of a boondoggle and hooked up with a friend I’d made in Tuscany while we were both photo widows during a workshop. After a pizza lunch at which her two-year-old daughter used the receipt as a mobile phone, we went for a walk in a park where Viola heard birds chirping and said, her mom translated: “That’s the beginning of song.” Too bad Twitter is not the beginning of writing. But I am breaking away after nearly a month to revive this anyway.
Meanwhile, the Big O is showing what government of, for and by the people can do: Buy up the pigs and chickens and (unnoodled) catfish that farmers can’t afford to feed in this drought that somehow happened despite the rabid denial of climate change. And the USDA will be doing that while the do-nothing Congress takes a nice vacation rather than finishing the farm bill. Which is stalled partly because subsidies matter more than food stamps. Because wingnut logic holds that paying people to grow food is naturally better for the economy than helping the needy afford that food: Econ 101R — you grow it, they will buy it. And because this is a nation founded by God, whose first commandment was fuck the poors.
I can never get my shit together enough to capitalize on all my “I remember whens . . .” so I’ll throw this out for free: When I read the CIA was shutting down the Escoffier room, I was transported in reverse nearly 30 years, way back to when I decided to give up a lucrative career as an editor at the hometown paper and train as a chef. My consort insisted we check out the Harvard of cooking schools before I wisely followed my gut right into the New York Restaurant School, so we rented a car, drove to Poughkeepsie, toured the anxious campus and ate dinner in the swankiest of student-staffed restaurants. And jeebus, was it both halt and lame. The sauces were stodgy, the cooking clumsy, the service amateurish to the point of parody. By contrast, back in the spring of 1983, my about-to-be alma mater on 34th Street was turning out gracefully light food that reflected how cuisine was melding French style with American omnivorism. Rather than dropping 20 or 30 thousand grand while taking myself out of the work force for two years, I borrowed 5 grand for 18 weeks at the Evelyn Wood School of Cooking. And never regretted it. Not least because I’m now working on a piece interviewing CIA grads and hearing they got their best education after they left that whole world of the ER behind. No joke.
I was half-joking when I Tweeted to any homeless that I’d spotted a big tray of fancy picnic food — sandwiches, Taleggio, bruschetti, expensive fruit etc. — laid out for sharing atop a trash can near our apartment. But it was reTweeted. Which made me wish there could be some actual way to alert the hungry to easy pickings, because I’ve been thwarted so often in trying to donate perfectly edible food over 31 years in this town. Either pantries don’t want anything in jars or the firehouse has no idea what food drive advertised in the paper I’m talking about or the big-time gatherer doesn’t think I have enough mega-party leftovers to matter or everyone’s just afraid of home cookin’. Maybe the city should just hand out Twitter-enabled smart phones. We might hear the last “I’m honnngrry” hard-luck story on the C train.
Guess I should be flattered a reader took the time to use my own private comment option to advise me to “keep your content current.” But it feels a little like a free-sampler at Holy Foods complaining the schmears of Vermont Camembert are too small under the Dalmatian fig spread.
Just back (well, sorta just back) from Buffalo, I’m obviously having a hard time getting back on my high horse after too many weeks of distractions and deadlines. So I’m posting a few quick thoughts after sifting through a lot of chaff scribbled in a notebook and noted on paper and in Pages. I do hope my outrage meter is not wearing out after nearly 10 years. Or is it that I just need the Twitter version of Viagra to help me write longer?
I haven’t been very cryptic lately, so here are a coupla riddles clumsily wrapped in an enigma: Which shallow thinker was exposed by one of my Twitterspondents who was shocked to find that in person he had nothing, original or otherwise, to say about the big issues he natters on about? Which food-world hero loves a parrot when it repeats just what he says but through a very big megaphone? As far as I know, the ST does not sleep in the boss’s den, so how do those juices “leech”?
But I’m trying to change my ways and am going to start posting every day. Seems as if bile is not so satisfying when served cold.
On my way back from the artificial hip-healthy gym, with the sun barely up, the AA cashier at the drugstore wished me Happy Easter and I wondered what made her think it was safe to say with Passover so close behind us. “Same to you,” I reflexively responded anyway. On my second outing of the day, clouds moving in, I went to the Greenmarket on 97th Street not because I needed any food while home alone but just to say hi to Ray Bradley and his sidekick Hardeep, back for the new season and selling first-I’ve-ever-seen cabbage greens, just picked from the warmed-up fields. I surrendered a hug to Hardeep but left with regret: I forgot to tell Ray that Dirt Farmer Larry in Iowa had Tweeted me to say hello to him (“he’ll know who you mean”). And on my third venture out into the chill light and rampant blossoms I passed a long Good Friday procession of Mexicans very far from Calvary — some on their mobiles, all accompanied by a creeping squad car. Down the block from our place I stopped to buy four bananas for a dollar from the South Asian couple whose fruit cart also returned this week after the wild winter. “I don’t need a bag,” I said (as always). But (for the first time): “Welcome back.” And the wife actually half-smiled.