A word to the wise: Don’t watch these videos if you are in the least bit hungry. The mastery of these food preparations earns my great admiration and respect. I am also fascinated by how ingrained and fluid the actions are. I remember not that long ago watching a bricklayer build a wall and was completely hypnotized by the motion. Equally so for the women across the street from us, when we lived in Chinatown, who used make dumplings.
Brilliant yellow plastic egg suitcase for a diehard camper or any lover of hard-boiled eggs. Went out to buy a dozen white eggs because the brown ones looked a little putrid against the canary color. Disclaimer: holder only works with small eggs. Too bad these won’t fit.
“WHAT, you don’t know about the meringue?!!” screeched my brother and H. “HOW could you have missed it?” “It’s been in H’s freezer since that New Year’s Eve party we had back in 1979!” “Haven’t you ever seen it on the door?” John, my brother’s partner, gives us a sideways look. I sense that he is questioning our mental stability.
“Okay, okay…yes I have a vague memory of it.” I think to myself that they are referring to that teacup-size thing, enshrouded in plastic, sitting alone on the shelf of the freezer door. The thing I’ve often been tempted to throw in the trash. I admit to myself that I never really thought much about it and, in a slightly ashamed tone, confess my obliviousness.
How COULD I have missed its significance? Jeez, it’s been there for a good 33 years and counting. It now officially qualifies as an antique.
I ask if I can borrow it to take photographs, but dodge an immediate round of outrage spit at me from both sides of the dinner table. “Are you crazy?!” “You absolutely cannot remove it, much less unwrap it!” “No way.” They are united in their defense of this frostbitten wad of sugar, cream of tartar, vanilla and egg whites. My brother adds that it is PERFECT. He reminds me of that pre-party madness long ago when he made the meringues for a crowd of 25. He conjures up images of a sixteen year old self, hunched over his cookie sheet, pastry bag in hand, piping out the glossy swirled receptacles that will later hold chocolate mousse, orange segments macerated in grand-marnier, all crowned with lightly sweetened whipped cream. He recalls throwing out two thirds of his creations, only keeping those that met his highest standards of perfection. I finally convince them that it’s worth a look. My brother concedes that it’s probably ossified, and that taking the cling wrap off will unlikely compromise its integrity. We rush back to the apartment before dark in order to rig up a quick photo shoot. This is the one meringue that is preserved for posterity. And it is indeed perfect.
I’ve posted about this pasta before, but as part of a larger entry in which I highlighted simple clear packaging. And, even then, I only had the spaghetti and the vermicelli. I’ve been looking for this pasta for awhile. It is rustic and toothsome with a nutty taste. It’s now one of my favorites. It also happens to be Swiss, which came as a big surprise to me. (Although it shouldn’t be, given the great packaging.) I was about to place an order online, until yesterday, when I came upon Formaggio Cheese, a small shop in the Essex Street Market, that regularly keeps this pasta in store. Now, if you live in NY, love food, enjoy cooking and haven’t yet been to the Essex Street Market, I might suggest that you make a little foray as soon as you get a chance. The market itself is, I believe, the longest continuous running retail public food market in NYC, and one of only four remaining public markets in the 5 boroughs. There was a time when many thought the market had reached its end, but in the past few years it has found a renewed vitality (for various reasons, both good and bad) that seems neither forced or temporary. Do yourself a favor and visit Saxelby Cheese while you’re there!
Last week, on a dismal rainy evening, I trekked out to Coney Island Avenue to meet some old friends of mine for an evening of food from the Caucasus. We are an intrepid little band of eaters, and our cravings often take us outside the familiar bounds of Manhattan and Brooklyn. I arrived early, and a good 10 or 12 blocks from the restaurant, so took my time in getting there. As I was walking towards my destination, I passed by a large Russian supermarket and jumped at the chance to get out of the rain. Plus, give me a supermarket or a hardware store and I am at my happiest. I ended up walking back and forth through the entire store. Everything was printed in Cyrillic. No one spoke English. The odd shaped biscuits caught my attention (and were far easier to transport than the 50 types of feta, countless canned goods or the giant cow heart from the meat display). So familiar and yet totally strange. From the shape of the Russian writing baked into the diamond-shaped cookies to the green string holding together a necklace of vanilla scented, donut-like sweets. Always amazed at how the most mundane item can be such a clear reflection of another place.