Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Walk the Walk

Monday, April 30, 2012
My two favorite cuisines, Chinese and Italian, have the use of noodles in common. Before I proceed, I must note that Mother Ruth Gotthelf’s salmon croquettes, now retired from the field, transcended them all. This culinary confluence of two disparate nations is often attributed to Marco Polo, who traveled between Italy and Asia in the late 13th century, and thus purportedly introduced fettucini to Alfredo. However, a wide variety of noodles appears in commentaries over 2,000 years ago. In any case, I was reminded of the similarity this afternoon, waiting at a bus stop, with a Chinese-American mother and her son, about 10 years old, coming home from school. The kid was eating leftovers from lunch, meatballs and rigatoni, the ridged tubular noodle. It wasn’t the obvious cross-cultural elements that struck me, but the realization that, in spite of the broad array of Chinese noodles, lo mein, chow fun, mei fun, made from wheat, rice, plant starches, hand-pulled, knife cut, extruded, none of them are hollow. Macaroni is hollow; ziti is hollow; rigatoni is hollow. What’s the story? The Chinese invented gunpowder after all. You would think that hollow noodles would follow easily from that.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012
May Day. Workers of the world unite and stuff like that.

Danny Macaroons reminds me that, in New York City, he sells through non-Starbucks coffee shops and cultural institutions like Birch Coffee, Oslo Coffee, Untitled at The Whitney Museum and Bergdorf Goodman. Now, here’s a kid who went to high school in Great Neck who should have paid someone to take the SAT for him. Instead, he has become a distinguished baker. http://dannymacaroons.com/index.html.

I wanted a new restaurant today and the Diamond Hill Café, 127 Canal Street, seemed like the perfect choice. There was no question about its newness, its shiny exterior promised that. The name comes from its position across from a stretch of the Bowery and Canal Street covered with jewelry stores, roughly equivalent in scale to 47th Street, but appealing more to Chinese tastes with bright gold and jade mixed in with the diamonds and sapphires. The hill comes from the slight elevation of Canal Street there that serves as part of the off-ramp of the Manhattan Bridge. The name shows imagination, even if the front door of the restaurant is no more than two feet higher than the nearest intersection. However, Diamond Hill did not get added to my ever-growing list of Asian restaurants in the greater Chinatown neighborhood, because it served Mexican food only, as I learned from a quick glance at the menu in the window. So, I moved on down the line until I got to the Century Cafe (sans accent), 123 Bowery, a large bakery serving some hot food at the rear, beyond the cases of sweet and savory items found in a typical Chinese bakery, usually to be avoided. It was new to me, but it has been around for awhile.

I had shrimp dumplings ($2 for four) and a “combination over rice” ($3.50). It’s hard to explain just what was combined here. A 4"x6" tin of rice was covered with braised cabbage, a fried egg and a variety of small pieces of unrecognizable parts of unidentifiable animals. The many tables were crowded with older Chinese folk (that is, older than you if not me) who were mostly schmoozing or reading newspapers, having made their last purchase an hour or two earlier. I would eat the dumplings again.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012
I was fortunate to have Dean Alfange as a companion for lunch. We went to Dim Sum GoGo, 5 East Broadway, for duck dumplings almost as distinguished as Dean.

Thursday, May 3, 2012
So, Grandpa Alan, where were you at 12:14 AM when Marian Gaborik scored the winning goal for the New York Rangers near the end of the triple-overtime period? Asleep.

Michael Ratner came to lunch today and we went to Wo Hop downstairs, 17 Mott Street. We ordered classic Chinatown food, a bowl of egg drop and wonton soup for Michael, crispy honey chicken, shrimp egg foo young and pork fried rice. We loved it, although we first ordered salt and pepper soft shell crabs, 3 for $9, a steal. Such a steal, they had none although it was barely 12:30 when we got there. Michael is just beginning a major renovation project on a newly-purchased apartment in Manhattan, completing his migration with Marilyn from Westchester. I'm confident that Michael will not emerge from this project as crazed as I might, because he spent over 40 years in the construction trade and probably has faced nearly every imaginable snafu in erecting structures (could I have found one word to use instead of the last two?).

Friday, May 4, 2012
Over the years, I have entered many churches on several continents. More often than not, I was a tourist looking at art or architecture, but I have attended a fair share of life-cycle events, weddings, christenings, funerals in churches. However, I don't recall attending regular Christian church services and have no sense of what an ordinary service is like, or how the congregants behave week in, week out. By contrast, I have become habituated to attending Saturday morning services at West End Synagogue, the home of anarchic Jews, a pattern of behavior that continues to surprise almost shock me, my friends and family.

I have come to realize that I go to WES services not to pray, not to recharge my spirituality, not to seek answers, but to walk. I am a shul walker. I walk into the sanctuary and, before I even sit down, I go over to David G. and give Connie a kiss on the cheek. I see Moshe and poke him in the ribs. I wave to Bliss and Bert, nod to Eva and Jerry. I find a seat, but soon I sidle over to Simon and Alex, those two delightful brothers attending Stuyvesant, and make a feeble attempt to tease them. When it’s time for one of those prayers where we wrap another person in our prayer shawl, I’ll move over to an unattached person to envelop.

If there’s a kid having a B’nai Mitzvah, or the Rabbi is delivering his D’var Torah (Jewish sermon), I’ll try and stay in one place out of respect. But, as soon as someone takes a breath, I’m back in action. There’s Dr. David B., who has probably been to a Mets game this week. “Hey, Martha, how’re doing?” Then, Gary M., to get his view of the Rangers playoff prospects. This is like a candy store. How can you stay still?

Sometimes I just move around without aiming at anyone. I hold the Hebrew prayer book with folded arms against my chest and I avoid focusing on anything, so as to resemble a state of deep concentration. I might nod my head or move my lips a little bit as I walk across the back of the shul, but I try to avoid egregious overacting.

I know that some Christian congregations feature hyper-kinetic conduct, but the typical Jewish service is fairly physically static, aside from standing and sitting and standing and sitting. I’m not looking to flop in the aisles, or even wave my arms over my head rapturously. Just let me walk the shul, which is why I came in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. The primary difference between Chinese and Italian noodles is that the Chinese coat their noodles with fat while the Italians prefer tomato sauce. There were Chinese who used hollow noodles allowing more surface to be coated with fat, but Darwin's laws won out. They died off from heart disease, leaving only the lo mein, mei fun and chow fun eaters to share their delicious food with Jews throughout the world.