August 16, 2017

Istanbul. June, 2007


As I write this in August at my desk in Massachusetts, the Muslim world has recently finished honoring the holiest period of the year, Ramadan. This is the time that the faithful read daily from the Koran, fast from sunrise to sunset, are especially devout. And it’s also the time of iftar, the meal that nightly breaks the day’s fast and fortifies people to get them through the next stretch of daylight abstinence. Though the iftar may have had its humble beginnings as a few dates and some bread, it has in some circles become a lavish spread guaranteed to fill the eater for hours to come. Some restaurants expand their normal menus to include special dishes to mark the holy season. Others set up extra tables outside, sometimes under tents, to accommodate the Ramadan crowds. The meals often extend way past midnight, some almost until sunrise when the fast begins again. I wonder if these three waiters, who kindly agreed to be snapped at our farewell meal in Istanbul, have to deal with any especially spikey diners at the excellent Sofyali 9, people whose blood sugar may be low from hours of fasting, testing the limits of even the most gracious traditions of Middle Eastern hospitality.

August 15, 2017

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY. July, 2017


My terrific dinner on my most recent visit to Hazar Turkish Kabab: two skewers of Adana kabab and a double portion of çoban salad. No rice this time: dieting.

August 14, 2017

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY. July, 2017


No trip to visit my friend Nick in Brooklyn is complete without a visit to Hazar. At least one. Always on Christmas Eve. And even on this hot night when the air conditioning was not working at full capacity, the ceiling fans helped out. What's a little discomfort when I'm able to visit my favorite Turkish restaurant in town? Maybe even in the world.

August 13, 2017

Gloucester, MA. November, 2008


Why is autumn my favorite season? The colors? (Too easy an answer.) The schoolteacher in me? (The opposite should be true, no?) I think it may have to do with so many wonderful memories of things happening in this crisp, precise, no-nonsense season. When I was in high school and college, autumn would be the time that we’d go into Manhattan most often, making our student films, buying cheap sweaters, attending recent openings on and off Broadway, tracking museums and galleries. The extremes of summer and winter far off, the rains of spring forgotten. Most of the photos I have from those years were taken in the fall. There just seems to be more energy after summer’s laziness. Oh, and the colors, too, like those seen here in our front yard in Gloucester.

August 12, 2017

Lisbon. October, 2009


My friends Donna and Emilia recently returned from Lisbon where they stayed in a small hotel over a bridal shop. Breakfast included. But they never had breakfast in their hotel, they told me, because each day they toddled on down to this wonderful cafe and bakery, the Casa Brasileira on the Rua Augusta, to try yet another of their seemingly endless assortment of confections. Look at those spikey, sugary things on the lower left up there. You can almost imagine how they’d collapse in a brittle surprise the minute you bit into them. I loved each of my own visits here, slowly learning the names of the pastries, many of them named for different saints, many solely named for their shapes or ingredients or both. Over on the right, can you pick out the “apple snails” and the “fruit rocks”?

August 11, 2017

County Clare, Ireland. May, 1992


I grew up in New Jersey. When we went to the beach, there was no greenery nearby. No lawns, no plants, nothing. Just lots of sand and bungalows with pebbles in place of lawns. So when I came to Massachusetts and visited Cape Cod, I was amazed at having woods within sight of the beach. Lawns and gardens, even densely grassy dunes. But that was nothing compared to what I found in Ireland. Look at how lush this landscape is a stone’s throw from the sea’s edge. And so green, I couldn’t stop laughing. I always find it comic when things are as they’re portrayed in cartoons or clichés. When an owl says, “Who,” for example. Or when, as I found here, Ireland turns out to be really green, the Emerald Isle really emerald.

August 10, 2017

El Charro, Tucson. March, 2011


I maintain a tradition whenever I visit Tucson. I must purchase something to take back to New England with me that is big, breakable and very difficult to pack. I usually have no problem identifying several items that qualify during each trip. For example, these stars, seen at the excellent Mexican restaurant, El Charro. I love them. And I couldn’t help myself from buying an excessively large one several years ago when Jay and I ventured just south of the border to Nogales, Mexico. So large in fact that we could not find a box to contain it for the trip home to the East Coast and had to cobble one together from several cartons on hand. Getting it on the plane was another story as it was too big to fall within the acceptable dimensions. And then transporting it from the Boston airport to my house, well, it was a challenge from start to finish. But now it hangs proudly on my front porch, a little out of place in the Boston suburbs, but a nice reminder of our Nogales visit. It sure would look perfect accompanied by a pair of similar stars like the illuminated lineup here at El Charro. Next time.