Monday, April 9, 2012

Crossing the Desert

Monday, April 9, 2012
As it happens, a dear friend has a nephew with a featured role in a very successful television series, which was on last night. In a scene set in an Italian restaurant, the young man, 30ish in real life and before the camera, appeared with his wife, her mother and his parents as a dispute arose which seemingly ended his marriage. Don’t jump ahead and think that I found fault with what they ordered for dinner. Rather, I observed to America’s Favorite Epidemiologist, at my side in the Bridal Suite of the Palazzo di Gotthelf, that the actor’s mother was portrayed as a dumpy, lumpy matron while his real-life mother is quite attractive and always well-turned-out. Is this actionable?

Chinatown does not offer much in the way of Passover-observant meals. However, I do not bring my own hard-boiled eggs, matzoh and pieces of turkey left over from the Seder, as I did in days of yore. However, I try to avoid the more egregious alternatives during these days and stick with relatively-simple foods. I ate lunch at Teariffic, 51 Mott Street (March 31, 2011, August 2, 2011), because they serve yakitori chicken skewers ($3.75), five skewers to an order, about six inches worth of chicken on each skewer. No rice, no breading. Very good.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Every major city has an emporium that is as vital a landmark as its grandest cathedral or best stocked museum. In San Francisco, it’s Gump’s, 135 Post Street; in London, Fortnum & Mason’s, 181 Piccadilly; in Paris, Fauchon, 24-26 place de la Madeleine. Since I know New York much better than any other place, I admit that I cannot glibly anoint one establishment over all others. Zabar’s, 2245 Broadway, is great, but you can’t buy clothes there. Century 21, 22 Cortlandt Street, attracts customers from all over the world because of its low prices on fashion items. J&R, 15 Park Row, is actually a block of stores with a great selection of cameras, audio equipment, appliances, computers, telephones and recorded music at competitive prices, and where can you buy recordings on a thing today? Without making the agonizing choice of the ultimate New York store, I must add for consideration Jack’s 99 Cent Store, 110 West 32nd Street.

The latest reason for me to offer this commendation was my acquisition there of three 6 oz. boxes of Manischewitz Dark Chocolate Covered Egg Matzo Crackers Drizzled with Mint Chocolate ($.99). These two-inch square beauties are not like the flimsy full-sized chocolate-covered matzohs (my preferred spelling over matzos and matzahs). The dark chocolate covering on each side is thicker than the matzoh itself, which I take as an expression of the natural order of the Universe. I gave one box to Boaz as a Passover gift, leaving me two. Because moderation is my middle name, I have not rushed off to Jack’s to try to get another 6, 8 or 10 boxes, although it would be perfectly defensible as further affirmation of my Jewish faith. It’s unlikely that Jack’s supply would outlast the Passover holiday period, so, on my next visit, I’ll just have to look for Barton’s dark chocolate-covered pretzels, usually in stock at 99¢ for a package of two. After all, you can’t be religious all year round.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Allan S. Gotthelf is a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh. No, not Alan Gotthelf, half of the Upper West Side's Power Couple, but my cousin Allan. We were born 10 months apart, attended PS 159 and Stuyvesant High School together, although separated by one grade. Our paths intersected much less frequently in adulthood. I thought about Allan this morning because of the news report today about the situation on the Pitt campus, where, since February, 57 bomb threats have been made, "some written on walls, and some sent by anonymous e-mail to Pittsburgh news outlets," according to the New York Times. There is no indication that Allan S. Gotthelf is a person of interest, as you hear on BBC crime dramas so often, in this matter. Of course, he might run such a tough class that students have taken extraordinary measures to avoid being randomly called upon. With the arrival of Spring weather, he and other faculty might choose to hold classes outdoors, under the spreading chestnut tree. Oops, the web site a/k/a "Common Trees of Pennsylvania" reports that the American chestnut was "[f]ormerly the most common and arguably the most valuable tree in Pennsylvania for both its wood and nuts. It now persists as stump sprouts and small trees due to the chestnut bark disease commonly called chestnut blight." So, my advice to cousin Allan's students: Bring sunblock.

Thursday, April 12, 2012
This morning, the trucks, trailers and vans parked in the neighborhood of the courthouse belonged to a production entitled “Dior.” Naturally, I looked on-line to learn more about it, but found nothing pertinent. Next month, the Christian Dior museum in Normandy, France is presenting an exhibit “Stars in Dior,” showing Dior gowns worn by the likes of Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly. But, it would seem far too late or too attenuated to be shooting scenes in lower Manhattan for that show. Nothing else popped up in my search, so you heard it here first: somebody is making a movie/television show/television series/music video/training film about Christian/Pierre/Murray/Etienne/Claude/Irving Dior. Enjoy.

This is the fourth day of the work week during Passover and I’ve barely mentioned food. Breakfasts and dinners at home have followed the traditional holiday guidelines, matzohs, gefilte fish, eggs, fruit and carefully rationed pieces of Manischewitz Dark Chocolate Covered Egg Matzo Crackers Drizzled with Mint Chocolate. The challenge comes at lunchtime, when, surrounded by the tantalizing food that sustains a couple of billion Asian people on this earth, I have chosen to exercise a modicum (maybe a minicum) of respect for the ways of my ancestors. As a practical matter, this has meant chicken – grilled, broiled, barbecued, roasted, but never breaded or coated with any grain. Aside from the skewers at Teariffic on Monday, I have found tasty chicken at several “salad bars” nearby, without any side dishes. I won’t pretend that I have kept to the Hebraic straight and narrow in this regard, but it’s not like I’m eating a ham sandwich.

Friday, April 13, 2012
Ittai Hershman is known as a talented scholar and genealogical researcher, but last night he displayed his culinary talents. He prepared a very delicious roast chicken with such a simple recipe that I must share it with you as he shared it with us. Rub a roasting chicken inside and out with soy sauce (but not on Passover), chili powder, personally-squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, and paprika on the outside for color. Throw the squeezed lemon into the cavity of the chicken, truss its legs to keep it compact and roast in a 500° oven, very hot, for one hour. That's it. The high heat makes the skin crispy and keeps the bird juicy, believe me.

That made 5 chicken meals in four days, for me, this Passover week, but, with the benefit of stuffed mushrooms and a spinach kugel thrown together by Linda Rich, all strictly by the rules, last night's dinner was the one to recall. Lunch today was easy; I ate in shul after the memorial service that occurs on the seventh day of Passover. Then, off to work for the afternoon with the Promised Land looming larger by the hour.

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