Why would a Queens girl root for the Bronx Bombers? It’s a question I’ve been asked many times, and it’s usually accompanied by a look of utter disgust on the face of the questioner, as if I’ve betrayed my tribe or peddled state secrets on the black market.
Baseball fandom is a curious thing. There are all sorts of reasons we latch onto teams, and geography is probably first among them, but thankfully the sport has always allowed for spiritual kinships that transcend those lines on a map. In my defense, I come by my choice of team sincerely, and my commitment to them has never wavered.Read More»
A good friend of mine who works in television passed on her press copy of Gideon Lewis-Kraus’ A Sense of Direction, and I’m sure she sent it to me because, on the surface, it appears to be the story of the author’s participation in the centuries-old tradition of pilgrimage to Santiago, Spain—a place that my friend knows is dear to my heart. (It is the city where my cousin Finita lives and where I’ve spent a lot of time over the years.) But surfaces can be deceiving: shortly after I started reading Lewis-Kraus’ book, I realized that—much like the author himself as he sets out on his odyssey—I had completely misjudged what was about to happen.Read More»
Last night, I attended my first Passover seder in many, many years, joining my dear friends Tammy and Rocco and their extended circle for the prix fixe dinner at Kutsher’s Tribeca. Though we did read from the Haggadah (thank you, Loretta, for motivating our rag-tag group of Jews and Gentiles), it was all a bit, shall we say, “free form.” (I’m being kind.) I’m still not sure if the stares we received for our table’s muffled, off-key rendition of “Go Tell it on the Mountain” were motivated by disdain or pity.Read More»
Regular readers of this blog know that I love Korean food. While there are several restaurants in Manhattan’s Koreatown that I consider my favorites (depending on whether I’m in the mood for bibimbap, BBQ, or tofu), Brooklyn is the place I head to when I want the BEST Korean food in NYC, bar none. The spot in question is my friend Robynne’s dining room. (I apologize for torturing all of you who have not had the pleasure of eating there.) The home that she shares with her husband, Chuck, and their adorable pets, Lola and Cheddar, has been the site of many a legendary meal. Receiving an invitation to one of their feasts is like opening the wrapper of a chocolate bar and discovering one of Willy Wonka’s coveted golden tickets tucked inside.
In addition to the fact that Robynne and Chuck are among my dearest friends and truly wonderful human beings, here’s what else you need to know about them: Rob is one of the best home cooks I’ve ever met (to say nothing of her credentials as a professional pastry chef, caterer, culinary professor, and food writer/editor—we met while working at Gourmet years ago). Chuck used to work as a mixologist/bartender/wine guru for restaurants like Prune and Savoy until he left the hospitality field to do Internet graphic design, and he’s also a talented visual artist. (He is, however, a Mets fan, proving that nobody’s perfect.)Read More»
In the middle of the holiday shopping season, as we stress ourselves to the limit and run around like hamsters trying to accomplish approximately one million things, I just wanted to share with you (and myself) a reminder of what’s really important.
Last weekend, my parents and I went out to my cousin Mary’s house on Long Island to attend a family dinner and watch the local fire department Christmas parade. Every year, the firemen hang lights and other ornaments on their trucks, decorating them as elaborately as any department-store window. After the sun sets and it’s dark outside, they drive the illuminated trucks up and down the streets of the community, delighting kids and adults alike. (Disclaimer: The delight may have been partly due to the candy canes a few of them tossed at us. Never underestimate the power of sugar.) I would include a photo of the trucks, but I was too busy hooting and waving the sparklers that my cousin’s husband, Chris, had handed out earlier to bother with my camera.Read More»
I had a terrific time on my recent trip to Galicia, Spain, and I could give you many different reasons why. Among them: eating my way through the delicacies of the region (oh, the chorizo and empanada); taking a break from daily life (and its daily chores); being surrounded by a beautiful, inspiring city filled with history…and so on and so on. But if I had to highlight the best thing about my stay, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second: spending time with my dear cousin Finita.
Though we’re first cousins, I consider her the sister I never had. We’re both only children, with an age difference of just eight months, and our bond is even closer than that. We’ve shared many childhood summers, spent running around having a grand ‘ol time, getting into mischief, and generally growing up together. It was her parents’ apartment that was home base whenever Mom and I visited. (Though Dad spent time there as well, he often had to stay behind in New York or come back early because of work.) Finita’s mother and father, my dear departed Tío Celso (Mom’s brother) and Tía Mercedes (his wife), were like second parents to me.Read More»
On this Thanksgiving, I would like to give thanks for so many things. Family and friends, of course. Creature comforts. Employment. My cousin Mary and Tía Maruja, for cooking tonight’s feast. But this year, I’d also like to acknowledge the small things that are easier to take for granted. The autumn sun that filters through the trees, casting its golden glow on the orange and red hues that surround us in this season. The enticing aromas that emanate from the kitchen—from all of those braises, roasts, and soups that you finally feel like cooking, now that it’s no longer 80 degrees outside. The twinkling lights that adorn the streets and storefronts of my city, signaling the imminent arrival of another magical holiday. For these and many more things, I am grateful.Read More»
Though I am thrilled that it’s finally feeling like autumn, there is at least one thing about summer’s steamy days that I am sad to see go: the reliable supply of fresh veggies and herbs that flourished in my parents’ small backyard garden. It’s kind of incredible what a tiny plot of land can produce, even in the middle of NYC’s concrete jungle.
Yesterday, Mom and I decided that the time had come to snip the leaves off of the basil plants and make batches of our version of pesto.
Every fall, she and I repeat the same mantra: “Let’s not forget to harvest the basil before the first frost”—or as Mom would say, “Tenemos que recoger el basil antes de que se freez-eh.” (Yes, my mother, father, and I speak Spanglish, and as ridiculous as it sounds, she—and I—would actually say “el basil” and “freez-eh,” which is neither an English nor a Spanish word.) And yet, almost every fall, we act too late. Since I generally visit my folks on Sundays, that first overly cool night of autumn often sneaks up on us, zapping the aromatic but delicate leaves before we’ve had the chance to harvest them. Though we’ve always managed to salvage some of it, this year we were determined to strike pre-emptively and haul in the full bounty.Read More»
I remember that evening like it was yesterday. It was a special night for me. My parents had been married 25 years, and it was their first big milestone anniversary for which I was old enough to do something extravagant in their honor. With the paycheck that I had earned at my job at NBC Nightly News, I splurged and took Mom and Dad out to dinner at a swanky restaurant. And not just any swanky restaurant. Windows on the World.
Being able to take them there was a symbol of my adulthood, of the fact I was now making enough of my own money (not much, but enough) to be able to give them an inkling of how much I loved and appreciated them. To pamper them as I felt they deserved.Read More»
Working on my novel has got me thinking a lot about family lately, specifically the parent-child relationship. Though my book takes place during the Spanish Civil War, at its heart it is not a story about war. It’s about secrets and the damage they inflict on the person who keeps them. It’s about the need to shed light on the dark matters of the past so that we can move forward. And it’s about the good and bad qualities that get handed down to us from our parents and their parents—and that we in turn pass on to the next generation.Read More»