Monday, December 19, 2005

Body By Irma

Rombauer, that is. Deviser of The Joy of Cooking. And if I don't stop procrastinating with its pages, there will be some dress size fluctuation in the wrong direction. Did you know that you can use a coffee bean grinder to turn sugar into the superfine sugar necessary to make their master cookie recipe--and the resultant peanut butter cookies won't at all taste like eight-month old Eight O'Clock coffee grounds? The real reason I'm here is that while rustling around the kitchen for ingredients for the above, I noticed this recipe on the side of a box of Key Food raisins.

Diamond Jim's Chicken Hash with Champagne Raisins
3/4 cup Key Food raisins [make sure they're not Sunmaid, because that would totally detract from the feeling that you're eating something out of a church cookbook from the Las Vegas area circa 1959]
1/3 cup champagne [did you ever think you'd see the words "Key Food raisins" and "champagne" this close to each other?]
3 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
1/3 cup whipping cream or half and half
3 cups diced, cooked chicken
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

It will take me too long to type the directions, but the expert chefs among you could probably figure out what goes where. Who is Diamond Jim? Who does he know at Key Food? Do they have chain gang escapees manning their test kitchens? Serve with toast points!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Miracle of Lost Bands of the Nineties on Fifth Avenue

Hello. And welcome to day sixteen. Just kidding! Ahem. Today is--oh, I'll let you all in on a secret. I subscribe to the Writer's Almanac email newsletter. That's how I knew about the James Wright birthday. It is why I know that today is the birthday of Saint Jane--Jane Austen. A moment of silence. Pause. Ok. Here is something from her letters:

"Mrs. Hall of Sherbourn was brought to bed yesterday of a dead child, some weeks before she expected, owing to a fright—I suppose she happened unawares to look at her husband."

You don't know whether to gasp first, then laugh--or laugh first, then cover your mouth. Let's see Franzen, et al. try that.

Speaking of laughing in spite of yourself. Last night my parents drove up to take us all to the Met and then out to dinner. We had a very lovely visit and a very lovely dinner in my neighborhood, and just when it couldn't get any better, my mother topped it all off.

My sister just bought a new hat for the winter. I was with her when she bought it. It cost some dough. It is a marbled pink and white and purple knit, has a little peaked cap with a strap that can button under your chin if you want to. Charmant, right? Well, not if you have cat-eyed glasses and brown chin-length hair. "You try it!" she said. I did, and then whipped it off--my sister, with her long blonde hair, looked like something out of Hans Christian Andersen, but I looked like I should be pushing a shopping cart full of recyclables with a transistor radio and my thousand-page unpublished novel about Catherine of Siena, the Whore of Babylon, Mary Magdalen, and Tammy Faye Bakker being the Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse perched atop. My sister wore it out of the store and then caught herself in a window. "Do I look ridiculous? Oh, well, too late!"

She put it on just as we were about to leave the restaraunt. "Oh, it's cute!" my mother said. Pause. "You look like that guy from--what's the band? Nine Inch Nails?"

"Alice in Chains?" I said.

"Pearl Jam? Nirvana?" said my sister.

"No, no--the Spin Doctors!" said my mother. And we all cracked up. Even my sister, good sport. I think she was so stunned that my mother even remembered that piece of detritus from whatever was on the radio during her daughters' musical youth. I think that blocked out the fact that my mother was essentially saying she looked like a strung-out hippie elf.

Breakfast at Claire's

Yesterday I went out Christmas shopping with my sister. After we parted, I stopped in at Claire’s on Broadway by 8th street. I wanted to get some earrings. At the buy-two-get-one-free rack, I found some “pearl” studs for $4.50. Score! Now, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman approaching her 33d year should probably have some real pearl earrings, but I am not really a woman approaching her 33d year. I am a woman who, when given actual pearl earrings by one of her best friends for her 32d birthday, promptly loses one of them the next evening at a party. Score! And I can’t even say that I lost it because I was dancing on a table or drinking from a funnel. No, it just popped off and scampered into the night. It was expensive jewelry, and knew that it had to reject my person as a host. Hence the $4.50 studs, for another party. An office Christmas party, thrown by the office of a friend, and I am hoping since the office is a Huge Media Conglomerate, it will rival the one depicted in the Tracy-Hepburn vehicle Desk Set--I believe there’s an aerial shot of a network television office with a bird’s eye view of countless cubicles containing riotous, alcohol-fueled merrymaking and a scene where Hepburn and Tracy are getting soused on, or is it under, a fireproof desk with a bottle of champagne. I was born too late and moved to New York to work in The Media too late, clearly. But I digress.

While at the rack, a woman entered the store. “Welcome to Claire’s,” a clerk said. “Can I help you?”

“I need a boa,” the woman said. “Do you all have boas?”

“No,” said the clerk. “We’re all out.”

“Well, do you have tights?” Here I zoned out, trying to determine whether the “sensitive solutions” silver was going to turn my ears green. Then I heard the woman say “But where do all the divas get their tights?”

“You should try 8th street,” said the clerk. “You know, where all the shoe stores are. I think they’ve got all that stuff.”

“What about,” said the woman, “something silver. Like a silver cape or a shawl or something. I’m not afraid to look like a hooker. I’ll go there.” Where is it you're going, I thought, that you need a boa and tights and something silver? Take me with you!

The clerk laughed. “I’m sorry. We don’t really carry that sort of thing either.”

Even though Claire’s had been found sorely wanting, the woman was still in good spirits. “Where are all the queens when you need 'em?” she asked, shaking her head, and then going off into the night.

The clerk turned to me. “Did you hear that?” She was laughing. “The things you hear in this store. She wasn’t afraid to look like a hooker. I am not that sort of girl, though. I hope she wasn’t insinuating that I was.”

I loved that the Claire’s clerk got huffy about her standing as a virtuous woman. I guess working at Claire’s isn’t like working in Spencer Gifts, where there would be penis-shaped pasta, hardy-har-har, on the shelves, or Victoria’s Secret, which, I suspect if it did not exist, mob guys would not know what to get their wives and girlfriends for gifts. I have luck at Target, but where do all the divas get their tights?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Two By James Wright

I just discovered that today is the birthday of poet James Wright. He was born in Martin's Ferry, Ohio, in 1927, and died in New York City in 1980. I was also reminded that Wright, round-faced and salt-and-pepper bearded, looked like one of my very favorite people in the world--a college professor of mine who introduced me to the second poem. So, two poems by Wright.

From a Bus Window in Central Ohio, Just Before a Thunder Shower

Cribs loaded with roughage huddle together
Before the north clouds.
The wind tiptoes between poplars.
The silver maple leaves squint
Toward the ground.
An old farmer, his scarlet face
Apologetic with whiskey, swings back a barn door
And calls a hundred black-and-white Holsteins
From the clover field.

Lying in a Hammock At William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year's horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Also, while I'm here, a shout out to M. and A., two of my other favorite people in the world. They had birthdays yesterday. Sagittarians from Berkeley unite!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Miracle of Canadian Bacon on Fifth Avenue

I bought a Christmas tree this week from the French Canadian elves who are selling pines from Nova Scotia on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn. Those of you in the 11217 zip code, you know the ones--they're camped right outside Key Food. The guy who sold me my tree said he was born in Quebec City, raised in Montreal, and told me that he learned a lot of English by watching Growing Pains and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I walked by their camp last night and I swear I heard "Take Off" by the McKenzie Brothers coming out of the radio they had in their tent. Maybe this is only making me laugh. Maybe I'm the only one left on earth who, when this time of year rolls around, prays that she will chance upon hearing their version of "The 12 Days of Christmas". ("Good day. And welcome to day twelve.") It cheered me up because earlier in the evening, on the way to meet a friend, a homeless guy in a wheelchair asked me for change. I was in a hurry and, of course, didn't feel like I could stop to see what I had in my bag. Although I certainly could and should have. I knew I would pay for it. And I did. "I'm gonna tell God on you, lady," he said to my back. I wanted to say something like "God already knows I'm a shithead," but that would not have helped anyone.