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Great Falls

“The Segregational Forest is protected by French gigabytes,” proclaimed John, high atop the outfield wall; minutes later, he had a great fall. He hit the turf with his whole body, and there was a moment of fear on both our parts. He was okay; he cried, he learned, he forgot, he moved on to other mischief, and he’ll do it all again tomorrow. Ah, the life of a 7 year-old…

My mother also had a great fall, last week, on a wet floor in the Kochin Airport; she fractured her ulna and, as a result, she and my dad have decided to scuttle the final week of their India trip and fly home tomorrow night. They saw an orthopedic surgeon in Jaipur who convinced them that she should have surgery on her elbow and the sooner the better if she wants to avoid a lengthy course of physical therapy to regain motion. She will see her doc at Special Surgery on Thursday and have the operation (a small one and not difficult, but probably requiring general anesthesia) on Friday.


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Racy to the Finish

From Ginger East to West: A Cook’s Tour, which my mother passed along to me from one of her journalist friends in the Bay Area, more ginger etymology:

The English called knobs of ginger “races,” from the Portugese-Spanish raices, meaning root. Food laced with ginger camed to be called racy as well as spicy, both of which suggest all of ginger’s qualities. In the United States, the predominant connotation of racy is “suggestive,” while in Britain it can easily mean lively, strong flavored, or piquant— another word that may have broader meaning due to an early link with ginger.

Ginger: it does a body good— in so many ways.

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Gojiisms

The Well of Youthful Living

a cool well beside the monk’s house
a clear spring feeds the well and the water has great powers
emerald green leaves grow on the wall
the deep red berries shine like copper
the flourishing branch like a walking stick
the old root in a dog’s shape signals good fortune
the goji nourishes mind and spirit
drink of the well and enjoy a long life


-Tang Dynasty poet Liu Yuxi (772-842 AD)

Cait & I picked up some dried goji berries from the coop last weekend, while shopping for a salad that included coop fiddleheads, arugula, scallions, strawberries (and shell steak that we later picked up from KeyFood— the meat selection at the coop is still not all that). Thanks to Cait, the goji berries ended up in the salad— they definitely stood out in the salad for their uniquely sticky, gummy texture— but not in our dessert of grapefruit campari sorbet with warm kumquat and blackberry sauce.

Like ginger, goji berries are an ingredient in many Eastern remedies. Their health benefits are well-documented— they contain 19 different amino acids, and are a better source of Vitamin C than oranges.

Perhaps this— and the fact that “goji berry” is fun to say— explains Cait’s decision to start a blog called Gojiisms. I heartily support this venture, as there is more than enough room in the foodie blogosphere for us both. We are not competing; if anything, we are each validated, made stronger for the existence of the other.

Long live Gojiisms!

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B(ack)log

“Loyal readers want more gingerisms.” So says my mother, and Cait, and Jed, and Alisa, and Porsche, and numerous others who have told me, since I stopped posting back in early April, that my blog was “awesome.” Who knew? I almost assumed I was just posting to the ether, to the Twilight Zone, or “Beyond” section of Bed, Bath & Beyond.

But that’s no excuse for stopping. My life went on, and quite swimmingly in its way (though I was rejected by the Teaching Fellows program, despite feeling like I’d aced the interview and rocked my teaching sample on the Food Pyramid). Did my obsession with ginger subside? If so, only slightly. I still order it the most of any rhizome on any menu. Ginger beer and ale are among my favorite beverages, ginger cookies are my default cookies, and on a Thai menu, ginger is the tie- (Thai?)- breaker for me when deciding between entrees of basil or curry. Still keeping an eye out for interesting and unusual ginger products at the coop and elsewhere— while waiting in the express lane the other night, snapped a photo of Peace Cereal’s Ginger Hemp Granola: ‘Coop in a Box,” I called it, as its claims of Omega-3’s, organic contents, recycled paper packaging, 10% of proceeds to “creating peace” are just so coop.

For an idyllic spring day’s picnic in Prospect Park with Cait, with whom I am now solidly back together (perhaps in no small part thanks to the following ginger dessert), I made my own ginger version of the tiny Whoopie Pies we’d had the week before at One Girl Cookies on Dean Street in Boerum Hill (Pumpkin Spice with Thai Crystallized Ginger and Cream Cheese Filling). My homemade ones were much larger, spiced with fresh grated ginger, molasses, and lemon zest, filled with lemon cream cheese frosting and many sliced strawberries, and, I must say, pretty f-in’ awesome. I used a few eggs and plenty of baking soda (adjusting for the bitterness of bicarbonate with extra sugar) to get them roundly cakey, so they were not just delicious but quite attractive.

What else? Oh, mmmm. I went to a barbecue in late April— my first of the season— with some friends of friends, one of whom had brought Korean-style short ribs that he had tenderized prior by marinating in ginger ale. I don’t know exactly what was in the subsequent sweet and spicy sauce, as it was an old family recipe— to the buried location of which, it was joked about, his father would someday leave a treasure map— but it was inarguably delicious, and, as a testament to that, was rapidly consumed by a standing group of semi-strangers who were already semi-full, at least.

So yes, ginger continues to inspire and delight me in all its forms, and I apologize to you, dear readers, for depriving you of the daily dosage of joy and wonder from my childlike mind. I promise you more words— and photos, though my digital camera is on the fritz to the point of being nearly totalled, and now only takes pictures that seem to be wearing, as Lei put it, “weird movie glasses,” making it appear, in one series, that I am making ground pork, fiddlehead and ramp pasta aboard a flying saucer— soon.

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Whoa, Man

I really didn’t expect that TV/film production assistant training program to be so competitive. But really, it was SO competitive.

Not only did they want people who were ABSOLUTELY SURE they wanted to devote (at least) the next 2 years of their lives to 16-to-20-hour days as a gofer on movie sets, they were giving special preference to those with demonstrated need— i.e. people who’d made a dramatic comeback from being incarcerated.

I stuck around for the interview, but really I was pretty sure they wouldn’t even take a second look at me. They only take 10 or 15 people out of about 200 applicants, and there were a few people there in the room who clearly outshone me: people who’d done their research and demonstrated hunger.

When my interview came, I made the fundamental mistake of admitting I was looking at a few different career paths and really wasn’t sure, which was the exact thing they told us at the start to walk right out the door if we felt.

So, this is not to say I’ll never PA. But I think this particular program is out.

Okay, now I can concentrate on my Teaching Fellows interview tomorrow.

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Crafting a Career

I used a family connection to get in touch with the pastry chef at Craft, who is responsible for the Stout Gingerbread that inspired this blog, as well as an impressive array of other desserts, which vary from season to season. To name a few:

Meyer Lemon Beignets

with Lemon Crème and
Vanilla Ice Cream

Maple Custard
with Brown Butter Waffle and

Pineapple Cardamom Caramel

Warm Chocolate Tart

with Coffee Crunch Ice Cream and
Cacao Nib Granita


Milk Chocolate

Praline Panna Cotta

with Rosé Poached Pear and
Hazelnut Brittle

Her message, included in the family friend’s email to me:

Hi-
We can always use an extra hand, so it is no problem to arrange an internship for Christopher at Craft. … Stone Park Cafe is right in my neighborhood, and I have had several nice meals there- another reason why I wouldn’t mind bringing him into my kitchen.

I spoke to pastry chef Karen on the phone this afternoon, while I was riding my bike up a hill. I had just come from signing up for the “Made in NY” Production Assistant Training Program, developed in conjunction with Brooklyn Workforce Innovations. It’s a full-time 4-week program in TV & Film Production.

So we will see which one sticks. Maybe I could do both. I’m going into Craft next Thursday to see how it goes.

I’m also reading scripts for Young Playwrights, Inc. Some interesting things going on the minds of this nation’s under-18 set. Not all expected.

And I have been asked by my lovely friend Momo to write a spoof of Quamut.com’s “How To…” manuals for Forbes.com, where she works. Hope her boss also wants me for this— the pay is good, and it would be a sweet clip to have.

So a lot going on for me these days, not all (but some) ginger-related. Ginger remains in my heart even as I sometime have to put it on the back burner, so to speak, in order to work at becoming a productive member of society.

In that vein, I have to prepare a 5-minute lesson to teach at my interview for NYC Teaching Fellows next Tuesday. A program about which I am now having second thoughts after hearing from many friends who actually do have strong work ethics (unlike me— the OLD me, I mean!) that it is way harder than anything they’d ever done, and way harder than they expected.

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Happy Birthday to Me

I turned 30 yesterday and I must say it was pretty damn bittersweet. Not that I care about turning 30, really… I think I will only get handsomer, and gain authority, maybe even a little respect.

30 actually feels like a new beginning, but the rough part is the thing that’s ending, or has ended, with Cait. It actually looked like we were going to work it out as recently as last week, but we had one atrocious night— St. Patrick’s Day, when the plan had been to do something totally UN-Irish, there was instead too much drinking and bad behavior on both our parts; in fact, VERY Irish— that, for her, symbolized a lot of reasons why we are simply not compatible. (For me too, in a way, though I was not prepared to give up hope.)

It’s not so simple for me, but even in the midst of my sadness over her decision, there is some sense of relief. That I won’t be emotionally jerked around anymore. That I can do things I want to do without worrying about her approval— go to school, write a novel, take a glassblowing class.

Of course it’s tough on me that she doesn’t even want to see me, but I guess that’s the way it goes when someone wants to make a breakup real. I really wanted to talk things out, but she thinks talking will only make things worse. Not sure that’s true, or that this philosophy will help her in future relationships, but maybe I’m holding onto something that isn’t there anymore. There’s no way that’s good for me. And I’m #1 in my book.

I must be #1 in Lei and Nems’ book too, because they treated me with kindness uncommon last night. I cabbed down to Lei’s place after my rehearsal for the plays I’m working on this weekend (The 52nd Street Project’s semi-annual Playmaking extravaganza— ten plays by ten year-olds, produced by adults) finished up.

I was greeted at the door with a Brandy Alexander, and then was presented with a small, elegantly wrapped gift with a card from both of them. I opened it up and it was a box of Ginger Green Tea.

While I enjoyed some with the Bananas Foster Nems made— blew out my own candles before remembering to make a wish, so I blew out theirs as well while making two good ones— I got a text mesage from Cait: “happy birthday i hope to buy you a drink or two this time next year in the meantime know i wish you everything good.”

“Not my favorite birthday message ever,” I said to Lei.

“What is your favorite birthday message ever?” she asked. “Do you remember any?”

I couldn’t, and realizing that, saw that Cait’s was actually a fairly nice message under the circumstances. Not something I felt I should reply to, but nice to know she’s not gone from my life entirely, and that we could maybe even be friends at some point when it hurts less.

Kept getting messages from my 3 years-older friend Nate, who shares my birthday and had had a birthday dinner in Brooklyn, so I cut out of Lei’s and cabbed it to Patio on Fifth Ave, where a few well-wishers were still reveling quietly when I showed up just before the stroke of midnight to a round of applause.

Jed bought me an approximation of a Dark ‘n’ Stormy— I say approximation because it was made with ginger ale rather than ginger beer. I actually had to go over and walk the bartender through the steps; when she had finished, she told me it was on the house since I’d taught her so much. “It’s my birthday too,” I informed her, for no good reason other than to further justify the free drink.

The group was nice enough to go several blocks out of their collective way to walk me home. A great guy like me shouldn’t be all alone on his birthday, and thanks to some really good friends, I didn’t feel that way nearly as much as I could have.

Don’t get me wrong— I’m still holding out hope that next year will be better. Maybe next year I will receive my favorite birthday message ever.

•••

P.S.

This one, sent along to me by my mom, almost qualifies for sheer topicality:

It’s the birthday of Tennessee Williams, (books by this author) born Thomas
Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi (1911), author of more than 24
full-length plays, including Pulitzer Prize winners A Streetcar Named Desire
(1947) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955).

He said, “I have found it easier to identify with the characters who verge
upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, who were desperate to reach out
to another person. But these seemingly fragile people are the strong people
really.” And, “A high station in life is earned by the gallantry with which
appalling experiences are survived with grace.”

It’s the birthday of Robert Frost, (books by this author) born in San
Francisco (1874). He cultivated the image of a rural New England poet with a
pleasant disposition, but Frost’s personal life was full of tragedy and he
suffered from dark depressions.

He graduated from high school at the top of his class but dropped out of
Dartmouth after a semester and tried to convince his high school
co-valedictorian, Elinor White, to marry him immediately. She refused and
insisted on finishing college first. They did marry after she graduated, and
it was a union that would be filled with losses and feelings of alienation.
Their first son died from cholera at age three; Frost blamed himself for not
calling a doctor earlier and believed that God was punishing him for it. His
health declined, and his wife became depressed. In 1907, they had a daughter
who died three days after birth, and a few years later Elinor had a
miscarriage. Within a couple years, his sister Jeanie died in a mental
hospital, and his daughter Marjorie, of whom he was extremely fond, was
hospitalized with tuberculosis. Marjorie died a slow death after getting
married and giving birth, and a few years later, Frost’s wife died from
heart failure. His adult son, Carol, had become increasingly distraught, and
Frost went to visit him and to talk him out of suicide. Thinking the crisis
had passed, he returned home, and shortly afterward his son shot himself. He
also had to commit his daughter Irma to a mental hospital.

And through all of this, Robert Frost still became one of the most famous
poets in the United States. He said, “A poem begins with a lump in the
throat; a homesickness or a love-sickness. It is a reaching out toward
expression, an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an
emotion has found its thought and the thought has found the word.”

And, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it
goes on.”

Of course I wouldn’t deign to compare my own petty trials and tribulations to the Job-like suffering of (my distant cousin) Tennessee or Frosty, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little validated by it, and encouraged by their patience, fortitude, and wisdom. It does go on. And I can go on, with grace and gallantry.

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