Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Adrian Eats

The Lobster Roll

Fine food is not exactly a virtue on the East Coast. They've got more pressing things to deal with, which is to say big coats, long nights, and generally making the world spin. Usually the quality is bad but the heart is good, and there is little more to ask for. You cannot think about food here, you must imagine it. There is no point to comparing the coasts. The bottom line is that there are things which are thrilling to taste and touch in New York, and they are usually filmy, fatty, and full of cornstarch. According to location, fantasies appropriate, shape-shift, and sometimes you are struck with visions of the perfect lobster roll.

Even the sound of it is surreal. The pliability of a doughy roll and the red armor of that wild crustacean, together on a bed of coleslaw. Lily came to visit last week for a couple of days. It was grey, and the air was heavy, wet, but not very cold. She wore a hat because she shaved her head again, but I went without stockings. We walked from Bed-Stuy to Red Hook, and then all around the south leg of Brooklyn. I told her I'd been thinking about lobster rolls again, though I'd never had one -- that creamy meat on a creepy shore seemed just right. She said she'd give up being vegan for a weekend just to dine with me. As we entered Red Hook it began to rain, and we walked slowly. We smoked about one cigarette an hour until we reached the waterfront where the old trolleys are parked and rusting. The ocean was chalky and flat. I bought a lobster roll from the counter at Fairway and we sat in the protected plastic awning, side by side. From our bench we could see the Statue of Liberty, the soft rain, Hoboken. Lily's perfectly culled digestive tract about to give up everything for a moment of charity and sisterhood with me.

It was no more than a Wonderbread hotdog bun. A pile of pink lobster meat mixed with paprika, mayo, who knows what. Underneath it was thick, crunchy cole slaw, a whole heap, and with lots of fennel. Then potato chips. Our feet were damp. We traded off, one bite at a time. It was delicious, the best thing. The meat was so creamy and sweet, and the cabbage was real -- scooped up with the dark orange chips. We both kept looking at each other with shared gastronomical peace. Outside it could've been the Oregon Coast, except for Lady Liberty, who was closer to us there than any other point in the five boroughs.

There are only two ways to get to Red Hook: in on Van Brunt St, and out on Smith. The BQE really made a world out of it when Robert Moses engineered that last leg of the expressway which snips off the neighborhood perfectly. Trying to find our way out later, we ducked into a sandwich shop and asked directions of two cops standing in line.

The cop looked at me blankly. "Oh, I don't know. We're not from around here -- we're from Brooklyn."

"Wait, no, I mean, we're in Brooklyn," the second cop said. "But we're from the other part of Brooklyn, you know?"

"You got dat right," said another man with a phlegmy, gravelly laugh. "It's a different universe ova' heah!"

Everyone laughed except for the cops.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chanelle Eats

We are pleased to present guest-writer, Chanelle Bergeron. Chanelle is is a poet and retired competitive swimmer. She is nebulous, as is her poetic wont. Her verse has been said to be a nebulizer, in that it delivers a fine and delirious mist inhaled as a relief for asthmatic constitutions. She frequently conspires with other officials of The Corresponding Society, has participated in a meadow of related happenings, and her work is featured in Correspondence No. 1, 2 and 3. For some considerable time she did reside in a teepee. She is an autodidactic student of botany. (Bio from The Corresponding Society).


This afternoon, outside my window, there is the bluest sky & only a wisp of cloud, cashew-shaped, rushing nowhere. Barefoot, I trot to the mailbox in my winey sweater & the slip I slept in, leg exposing & breezy. How many birds are singing today, "The sun! The sun! How long have you been sleeping for? You are washing all over me & boy, am I warm..."? Oh, & the drooping snowdrops I mistake for little white crocus heads peeking through the soggy earth & lacey remains of snow. Walking through mud like molasses all over my boots & the paws of Nicola's dogs. I had to take my scarf off. Some thing is hovering around us all, some thing unassuming & cleansing. It is Spring. We are coming upon a transition from the short shivering days into a time of thawing & growing, a "springing of the leaf".

As the ground is beginning to wake from the inside out, we find this happening to ourselves also. Can you feel your roots uncurling & your stems spiraling towards the warming, mother sun? We have been blanket bundled for months. I have been wearing three dresses, an oversized flannel, at least one sweater, thermal leggings, high woolen socks, lined boots, several scarves & a hat that at one time belonged to my neighbor, all at once & since Novemeber.

The air is beckoning us, "Be as light & free as you can see in me!" I desired fruits all day, the soft juice of them & their uplifting energy. We walked for an hour, the woods were full of little walkers & Nicola keeps reminding me that we do not live too far from the beach. The turn of the earth, the return to lengthy days, the sun taking the place of all our artificial blankets, that mud the flower heads have to poke through! Rainage is bursting at the seams. My sister is flitting around like a fairy becoming more & more in love with that boy. That constant laughing I hear on the wind. Joanna Newsom's new album.

Rejoice in the rejuvenation! Get yourself to some woodlands, or the scents of them at least: juniper or pine or cedar or cardamom. Get citric with the grapefruits & limes & mandarins. Whirl around in calendula & neroli. The hyacinth girl fresh out of the rain. Dandelion tonic, roots & all, good for wishes & detoxifying the liver after those nights made long with wiskey & heavy foods. How many layers have you been buried beneath this past winter season? Finish off the dregs of your hibernation, the first day of a new season is in a few weeks, my friends. Soon will be the bustle of blossoms & brooming for Spring Cleaning.

In the midst of all this reverberation, there is a lurking. Remember that April showers bring May flowers. Along with the temperatures fluctuating, we are just waking up & susceptible to all the elements, "... true spring fever occurs when a cool spell is followed by sudden warmth & our bodies are slow to catch up". We must wear our rainboots even when dancing in daffodils. So, if you are feeling a little under the weather, take this potion from my medicine cabinet to keep the spring fever at bay, full of warmers (ginger & cinnamon) & immunity stimulators (ginseng) & godly nectars (pear!). So delicious you won't need that spoonful of sugar.

Umbrella & Wellies Elixir

(makes 1 quart)

2 ripe Anjou pears, peeled, seeded & cored

3 cups apple juice concentrate, unsweetened (100% juice), or juice some yrselves!

3 teaspoons fresh grated ginger

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

20 drops Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) tincture

Cut pears into quarters & combine with apple juice, ginger, cinnamon, & nutmeg in a blender. Blend until smooth; chill. Pour into glass, add 20 drops of Siberian ginseng tincture, stir. Drink 3 times daily. *This type of ginseng is a good, but slow worker. If you are ailing, take this in your drink for 3 weeks, rest for 1 week, then repeat if necessary.*

Ps/ If you gave up Siberian ginseng for Lent & need that special stimulation, I suggest adding some moonly nectars (wiskey!) to taste.

Lily Eats

Confessions about Turmeric

When Adrian and I started cooking together, we were eighteen, and I realized the very first day I must have never eaten breakfast before. Every memory was an empty, extending space, and I was pleased, that being a time in which I very much wanted to follow her lead. So we made oats with fried eggs on top, which I had never had, even if it turns out I had sat down to breakfast before. While we cooked, she told me things about food, things I may have found out either way, but who's counting. She told me. Showed me flaxseed, kept her spices in a cloth-bound box under the sink, used turmeric all the time, and to this day I've never told her I think it's the blandest spice. I don't think I thought of it till I moved back to Baltimore.

Even now, after a year's worth of ardent, solitary cooking, I watch for cues. When I visited her in Brooklyn, she had gotten a mortar and pestle, so I thought of the thousand reasons I needed one. This is a good reason, the kind that comes after you've grown accustomed (read: weary) to the custard of winter, breakfasts of pumpkin and bananas:

Spice Cabinet Oats-and-Eggs

-1/2 cup rolled oats
-1-2 tbsp ground flaxseed
-1 cup unsweetened hemp milk
-1-2 tbsp almond butter (to taste)
-Dash each ground nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves
-1 cardamom pod

Cook the oats in hemp milk on medium heat with all spices except cardamom. Remove from heat when finished.
Stir in almond butter and flaxseed.
Grind cardamom pod and stir into oats. Add more hemp milk if necessary

Serve with eggs on top--any kind of eggs will do, but it's nice if they're cold and the oatmeal's hot, or you have an orange to eat with everything. It's best of all if they're part of a leftover omelet, and the man who brought it to you at the restaurant slipped you his phone number. Not because you're going to call, but because (Adrian told me one day two springs ago, a bad day for her & so I left flowers on her bed) "It's so nice, being seen."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Adrian Eats

The Sabbath

All winter long we took westbound busses downtown to play folk songs on freezing street corners. We were The Messengers: Austin, Peter, Ezra and I. It started when they showed up in front of the office building I worked in at the time. They were wearing matching dark glasses, harp racks, guitars. They stood on the sidewalk outside my window singing “Gloria” until my boss told me to make them stop. Running to the door, I bumped into a table of merchandise and a large bruise spread instantly across my thigh. When I reached the sidewalk, I lifted my hand to silence them, but Peter instead handed me a tambourine. It was a sunny November afternoon, and the whirring cars on Division Street drowned out my pleas for them to stop. I was laughing, my arms gone limp. My boss watched from the window. I suddenly didn’t care. I could do this until dark. Austin and Peter played louder, dancing in circles, but they had changed the lyrics: A-D-R-I-A-N, Aaaadrian.

I hit the tambourine against my leg and started dancing. They asked me if I wanted to go out and play with them that night. The bruise from the merchandise table grew and deepened. It happened to lie in the exact spot where the tambourine hit for the next few months, and thus never fully healed.

We played for quarters and dollar bills until midnight, picked up transient back-up singers, saw players, Coke-bottle tubas. We gathered crowds, crud, displaced street kids who told us we were taking their spanging spot. It was freezing all winter. We’d play until we couldn’t feel our fingers: “Sister Ray,” “House of the Rising Sun,” everything by Brian Jonestown Massacre. At midnight we’d stop by Voodoo Doughnuts under the Burnside Bridge, and pay for a five dollar, ten-gallon utility bucket of day-olds: grape flavored, maple and bacon, Butterfinger. We’d take the bucket to a twenty-four-hour coffee shop, purchase coffees all around, and take a seat by the window that faced the train station. We’d continue digging through the bucket: butter horn, blueberry, Fruit Loops stuck to the frosting. Austin and I sat on the overstuffed couch and talked until three, happy to let the conversation go on forever. The nights felt endless, the talking never lost its pleasure as long as we didn’t move from our spot. There was a feeling of holiness, of being in exactly the right place, our teeth sunk into cake. The coffee shop was in Portland's Chinatown, where all the methadone clinics are, and we'd hand out doughnuts to the homeless people waiting in the bus mall. We’d catch the night-owl busses home, and one of us always ended up stuck with the empty bucket.

We were The Messengers. Ezra’s family was Jewish. Every second Friday that winter his mother would serve a Sabbath meal after we got home from busking. She would wait for us, sometimes until eleven. We’d come through the door clanging, a case full of cash, and then join them in the dining room: The Messengers and Ezra’s family. His mother cooked four-course meals: stuffed grape leaves, homemade yogurt, empanadas, winter greens, challah, olive tapanade, vegan white cake with black coffee. The meal would last two, three hours, and we, The Messengers, would make doe eyes at each other from our seats wondering if we’d ever been so happy.

At a later date, on the couch in the coffee shop, I said to Austin, “You never know when you’re in the thick of something."

You have a few great nights with a group of people, and the following few months you spend together are in pursuit of those nights. Often, and thankfully, they are usually the only ones you remember. Sometimes you stay together just because of those two or three nights, waiting for a new event to deliver the old feeling. New isn't always bad, but we often miss it being so fixated on one previous moment. We miss it, possibly forgoing a great thing that could have been. Or maybe that was it, and it never happens again.

The last time we played together, it was just beginning to get warm. All winter long, we had thought, if winter can be so sweet, just wait until summertime! It turned out that the prospect of sun was deceptive. As winter receded, so did our attention spans, and so did the buckets of doughnuts and The Sabbath and the holiness and the homemade challah. It was late May. I was seventeen-years-old. We played for a couple of sleepy hours on the bank of a vintage clothing store in a nice neighborhood. We made three dollars, and then wandered around a chain supermarket and spent the money on pink-frosted sugar cookies, hot jojos, deep-fried jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese from the deli counter. After eating all of it around a picnic table at a neighboring park, we felt sick. Austin jumped around the table shaking a maraca, trying to get us excited, though it only darkened the mood when no one stirred. We ran into a friend, and he tagged along, using Austin’s guitar to play Bob Dylan songs, but half-heartedly. We were bored of those songs. They weren’t even the ones we liked to play.