Got okra? A staple in the Turkish diet, the tiny seed pods (seen here at an early Sunday morning farmer's market) receive a mixed welcome in the US of A. Mostly because, I suspect, people slice them in a way that releases their slimy interior, making eating them somewhat of a grisly chore. But when done right, they are superb. Never had an unctuous one yet. At least not in Istanbul.
March 30, 2015
Our friend Kevin, at his and his partner Rich's going-away party last week, thanking all of us "for making my worst nightmare come true: having all of the people I love in the same room." Lots of good people, lots of good food, lots and lots of laughs. They're on their way now, off to Illinois. Off to the future.
March 29, 2015
In case you didn't have enough dessert from yesterday's posting, here's some more for you. My friend Marin's Opera cake, the star of the sweets table at last weekend's going-away party for our wonderful friends Kevin and Rich. Would that the sweetness of this confection were enough to keep our friends from moving away to Illinois. Today, alas.
March 28, 2015
Our beloved friend Paul displays the dessert to top off his mother's St. Joseph's feast -- zeppole! Some filled with sweetened ricotta, some with whipped cream, some with "yellow cream" aka pastry cream. And, once again, even though we all "couldn't eat another bite," we all did. Another great evening at Mrs. A's table. Grazie mille.
March 27, 2015
One benefit of this winter's record-breaking snowfall is that three deer have come out of their secluded home to munch on the few greens available in our yard. Mostly evergreens, but they're not picky, as evidenced by this yearling whose boldness has allowed it to prance across our patio, finding the remains of last summer's parsley plants under the snow in our big wooden tubs. We love the deer and spend hours watching them from inside the house. Thinking wishfully, we believe they seem to have adopted us. And why are we so attracted to them? Is it because, as our friend Donna suggests, that, like cows, they have kind eyes?
March 26, 2015
Well, just a little more than a week left before Easter, which means that those of you who've given up something for Lent can start counting down until you return to chocolate or wine or pastry or whatever you may have forsworn. Here is my glamorous late friend Dali (she thought she was Audrey Hepburn; her friends thought Angelica Huston was more like it.) I asked her one year what she was giving up for Lent, and without missing a beat, she answered, "Some eye makeup."
March 25, 2015
My friend and WGBH-TV colleague Tamsen (upper right) invited about two dozen of us to her family's ski lodge in snowy New Hampshire one weekend. And here are three of us. Left, Claire, who grew up in Rome where her father was a diplomat. Right, John, an animator and film teacher at the Massachusetts College of Art. What I remember most about the weekend was walking into a darkened dormitory on the second floor where someone had left a trap door open. I fell down a complete flight of stairs, tumbling into a living room of shocked late-nighters. I was black and blue down one whole side of me for weeks. A doctor friend later told me that I probably would have been hurt had I not been intoxicated. As it happens, I got sober five months later.
March 24, 2015
When I first read Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust, I remember thinking that his description of the mishmash of fantasy architecture in Los Angeles was fanciful and exaggerated. And when I visited L.A. for the first time, I realized that it wasn't. This gnomish cottage is on a street that also features Bauhaus buildings, Spanish haciendas, houses that look as if they've been created by a pastry bag full of pink plaster, you name it. Of course, a jumping picture was required.
March 23, 2015
My friend Ernest recently commented here that he hoped my discovery of boxes of old slides would yield many jumping pictures. Well, here's one, Ernest, in a context of which I'm sure you approve. Even if the lady who's passing me on the sidewalk didn't.
March 22, 2015
One of the issues surrounding the finding of a box of old slides, most of them unlabeled, is that for some of them I have no idea where or when they were taken. For example, this one. I'm guessing that this was an artist I may have come upon when my friend Artie took me to Venice Beach on my first visit to the West Coast. Whatever or wherever or whenever it may have been, I do like the patterns and the colors here.
March 21, 2015
I found this slide recently in a box with many others. I'm not sure about the date, but I remember the event vividly. My friend Patti and I decided we were going to make calzone. Probably with a spinach filling. And what I remember best about our afternoon is that Patti's long fingernails kept piercing the dough as she attempted to roll and pinch the edges. Jay and I still talk about it.
March 20, 2015
Oh, my late friend Dali. How I miss her. She took me on my first trip to Italy and my life changed forever. Dali, when she saw people she found amusing, would stand next to them and have me take her picture so as to capture them as well. Naughty girl. Here she is in the Piazza Navona with some (other) American tourists. Click here for some other examples of this maneuver of hers.
March 19, 2015
Today is St. Joseph's Day. And I have to confess that all of my thoughts are centered on the pasta with breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic and a little sugar as served by my friend Paul's mother, Mrs. A. The traditional pasta dish (breadcrumbs representing the sawdust of the carpenter saint) is followed by Mrs. A's sausage, fritattas (both potato and asparagus), daughter Andrea's antipasto, and so much more. Zeppole -- big doughnuts filled with whipped cream, pastry cream or sweetened ricotta -- appear just as everyone is saying, "Oh, I couldn't eat another bite." But we always manage to. (This photo was taken by my friend Dan on an earlier St. Joseph's feast at Mrs. A's table. To see even more, click here.)
March 18, 2015
March 17, 2015
After my mother died, I took my father to Ireland, a place he'd always wanted to visit. One of our stops: here at Curragh Camp, where his mother was from. It's a military base and the guards, very official, stopped us at the gate. But when we told them that it had been the home of my father's mother, they waved us in and gave us free rein. Mothers. Ireland.
March 16, 2015
So civilized, those Spaniards. Whenever you order a drink, they regularly give you a little snack to accompany it. For example, this combo served at El Brillante, one of our favorite spots in Madrid. Jay had ordered a beer to go along with his fried calamari sandwich for lunch, and it came with a tiny plate with two pieces of marinated sardine and two olives.
March 15, 2015
As spring approaches, it's nice to remember places we've visited that are not covered with several feet of snow as our Massachusetts homes still are at the moment. For example, this autumn morning view in Madrid's beautiful Parque de Retiro where we'd gone for an early run.
March 14, 2015
The sidewalks of Lisbon are so distinguished. All made of individual cobblestones, sometimes in staggering designs of black and white. I'm told that these are often the work of Brazilian stone workers, and that similar designs can be found in Rio de Janeiro. What you see here isn't the best example of Lisbon underfoot. But I include it here to show how America has contributed to the mix: the discarded wrapping from a McDonald's "apple pie."
March 13, 2015
Our friend Erin, whose job has landed her in Paris for two years, recently asked us what she might do given 48 hours in Lisbon. It was a wonderful question to consider because of all the terrific memories that surfaced. The food. The beauty of the city. The gentle pace. The music. But our best memories are of the people we met. Like this lady, a vendor at the central Ribeira market. We'd met her on our first trip to the city in 2009. And here she was again on our return four years later, still stringing tiny hot peppers, still selling garlic, onions, herbs and other items from her home garden. Still as charming and warmly welcoming as on our first encounter.
March 12, 2015
March 11, 2015
Unlike the flashy American cars from the 1950s that glide nostalgically along the avenidas of Havana, this gaudy gas-guzzler was parked on the streets of this depressed and depressing city, just asking for trouble. Look at the crumbling surroundings and you'll get an inkling of what I mean. We saw this car on our way to the central market in town. And we were conned and relieved of some 70 euros shortly thereafter by two thugs posing as policemen and demanding to see our papers. Alas, tops on our "never return" list.
March 10, 2015
As I write this, New England snowfall for the winter of 2014-2015 is approaching the record amount since such things were tabulated. (We've already broken the record for the month of February.) I have mixed feelings about this achievement. Sure, it's always nice to be "the winner." But weighed against having to shovel some 107 inches of snow this year? I think I'd rather be the winner at something else.
March 9, 2015
Hooray! I'm finding lots of nice memories in the old boxes of slides I've recently uncovered. Like this one from my first trip to the West Coast. My friend Artie knew exactly where to take me. And he patiently helped take all of the many jumping pictures I requested.
March 8, 2015
I was interested to learn that this traditional Portuguese standard, Carne de Porco à Alentejana, was developed during the Inquisition to identify Jews. Those who refused (avoiding the forbidden trayf) to eat either pork or clams, much less both, were marked for persecution. A true story? Who knows? What I do know is that this Bairro Alto restaurant’s fancy “deconstructed” version of the dish was a little too precious for my tastes. Give me a funkier, closer to home-style take on it any day.
March 7, 2015
There is a certain pastry shop in Lisbon that I pass several times each day when I’m in that beautiful city. At some point, I decided to stop each time and try a new pastry. For research purposes, of course. Here is an interesting one. These travesseiros are puff pastry “pillows,” filled with almonds and custard and dusted with powdered sugar. One bite and the pastry shatters, showering the eater with both crumbs and sugar. A small price to pay for such rewarding homework.
March 6, 2015
OK, who's been to Luxembourg, hands? Why? Well, I realized recently that I've been there twice. This time as the first stop of the student trip on which I was a chaperone. And then another because the cheapest way to fly from the US of A to Europe back in the 1960s and '70s was on Icelandic Air via Reykjavik with a final destination of this little country nestled among its bigger neighbors. I must admit I thought it was a beautiful, unspoiled place. And I remember clearly this view from a belvedere down into a valley in the center of a town park.
March 5, 2015
My late, great friends Dali and Bernard at the Boulevard Diner. Our friend Patti was there, too, on this central Massachusetts joyride which must have included some art, some shopping and, of course, lunch. The always sassy Dali, looking oddly beatific here for some reason (probably being ironic), could not pass a diner without stopping. Bernard, a self-proclaimed "schoolmarm," knew how to pose. I love the nostalgic and almost sacred light on my friends here. Among the golden memories of that day, a lily-glass dish of grapenut pudding. And one of bread pudding. Two desserts that I cannot see on a menu without ordering. Sue me.
March 4, 2015
Skinny legs and all. My first trip to Mexico. Well, yes, it's a border town just an hour south of Tucson (where I was visiting my friends Simon and David), but it's still Mexico. I love how much blue there is here, not a color I would normally think of as "south of the border." I remember the thrill of leaving the US of A for a few hours, the religious knicknacks, the beautiful glassware, of which I brought back many samples that I still use today, all filled with memory.
March 3, 2015
Look at these kids. They're closing in on 60 now. Yikes! How can that be? The label on this slide indicates that it was the Drama Club picnic at the first school I taught at. We'd just finished our limited run of The Boys from Syracuse and must have had this little outing (with cake) at a nearby park. I don't remember the event, but my teacher's mind can still remember some of their names: Margen Kelsey, Guy Zannelli, Loren Salvato, Gerry Appel, Norm Chester, Charles Payne, such nice kids. Where are they now, I wonder?