Friday, November 16, 2012

As Time Goes By

Monday, November 12, 2012
The Hebrew calendar is built upon observations of the phases of the moon, with 12 lunar months. However, because this is not an exact match to the solar year, the sages added a leap month, occurring every second or third year (it’s not easy to be a Jew), in order to align to the seasons. While there is internal consistency, for instance the new year begins on the first day of Tishrei, the Jewish calendar is obviously not consistent with our calendar. Rosh haShana, new year’s day, was September 17 this year; next year September 5; last year September 29. Looking ahead to 2016, Rosh haShana is October 3rd.

The Islamic calendar is purely a lunar calendar with 12 months of either 29 or 30 days. The year is either 354 or 355 days long, the difference responsive to the inexactness of the Moon’s rotation around the Earth. The lunar consistency of the Islamic calendar, however, makes it entirely unconnected to the seasons, which are on a solar schedule. In other words, Islamic events occur on fixed lunar days, which each year differ from solar days by about 10 or 11 days. The most familiar example is Ramadan, the annual 29-30 period of spiritual reflection and increased devotion, characterized by daytime fasting. Each year, Ramadan starts 11 or 12 days earlier than the year before; August 1, 2011, July 20, 2012, July 9, 2013, and so forth.

Why am I telling you all this, you may ask. Because these alternatives, along with the conventional Gregorian calendar used throughout most of the world, were not good enough for Lord & Taylor and Bloomingdale’s. Yesterday, each ran full-page advertisements in the New York Times announcing that their holiday (neĆ© Christmas) windows would be on display as of November 13, 2012. Once upon a time, the holiday season in New York City began with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, obviously on the fourth Thursday in November. Then, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree would be lit on the following Tuesday or Wednesday night and the holiday season would be in full swing. This year, November 22nd and November 28th are the corresponding dates. Since November 22nd is the earliest possible date for Thanksgiving, the mad whirl of Christmas shopping, office parties, doorman tipping and overeating would have its longest duration this year. That is, until Lord & Taylor and Bloomingdale’s decided to adopt their own calendar, eliminating 9 days of relative normalcy and extending the celebration of too often conspicuous consumption proportionally. I can’t say that I wish them well, although I expect that this calendar change will only hasten the advent of merchandise markdowns, my own special form of celebration.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
I’ve noted that a new television series about cops called Golden Boy has been filming around here for several months (including today), and that Lincoln Center is reviving Clifford Odets’s Depression-era drama Golden Boy (previews began last week). Now, to add confusion, Golden Child, a play by David Henry Hwang, originally presented Off-Broadway in 1996, opens tonight at the Signature Theater Company as part of its season-long focus on Hwang’s works. Topping this off is the New York premiere of Golden Age, a play by Terrence McNally, at the Manhattan Theatre Club, previewing on November 15. Now, we need to re-release The Golden Child, a 1986 movie starring Eddie Murphy. At least, I hope one of these works gets a Golden Globe and none earns a Goldfinger.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
I would love to comment on the sex scandal involving the highest ranks of the US military, but I don’t really understand it yet.

Jon Silverberg telephoned me last night to put me on notice of the restaurant review to appear in today’s New York Times. It is a dilly, and, if you do not have access to it otherwise, I’m pleased to share it.

While I’ve announced that I cannot name one favorite Chinatown restaurant to the exclusion of all others because of the panoply of factors involved in making such a critical determination, I’ve considered following in the footsteps of Grand Master Calvin Trillin, and assembling a meal, nay a banquet, of favorite dishes from disparate sources. However, lunch today at Wo Hop downstairs, 17 Mott Street, reminded me how difficult even that would be. I ordered roast duck chow fun ($6.25) with a special request to spare the duck fat. The result was a dish that would have to appear on my special menu, a large quantity of a delicious combination of noodle and fowl. Wo Hop also serves the best crispy fried noodles to be nibbled with hot mustard and duck sauce, or plunge into hot soup. For a mere 80¢, it has to be the first thing you ingest at our notional banquet. But wait, what about Wo Hop’s great shrimp egg foo young ($7.95), the classic Chinese omelette? The portion of three omelettes on the plate is so generous that invariably I insist that a nearby diner (previously unknown to me) take one, having met my rapture quotient. Were I also to credit Wo Hop’s Singapore chow fun and beef chow fun (dry), as well as their honey crispy chicken, it might be game, set, match. So, I must impose a one dish per establishment limit in creating my heavenly banquet, akin to China’s one child per family policy. For now, we will start at Wo Hop with those crispy fried noodles. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 15, 2012
According to Reuters, today is Guinness World Records Day. Previously, I was excluded from consideration in spite of the unchallenged supremacy I’ve achieved in eating at Asian restaurants in the greater Chinatown vicinity. Guinness maintained that the record would have to be conducted on their watch to insure authenticity. Since I began this (ad)venture in selfless fashion, not seeking fame or fortune, I did not approach Guinness until late into its second year. Were I to wage a legal battle to claim my just desserts (in a manner of speaking), my evidentiary trail might be insufficient. I took a business card or takeout menu from every establishment that had one, and now have a drawer full. However, I almost always paid cash and never saved cash register receipts. "Members of the jury, plaintiff’s purported proof of eating at all these restaurants could easily be assembled in an afternoon or two by him or his accomplice scurrying around the neighborhood, grabbing takeout menus or business cards wherever they found an open door. On the other hand, he has no record of ever spending a nickel in any of the places. Ladies and gentlemen, money talks,walks."

Thursday, November 15, 2012
Soup should be our first course after, or while, nibbling on crispy fried noodles at our moveable feast. Fuzhou wonton soup ($2) at So Go Cafe (sans accent) 67A East Broadway is notable for the abundance of delicate won ton, in near-translucent wrappers, floating in the clear tasty broth. Be advised that So Go is crowded, and the low stools do not encourage lingering.

Friday, November 16, 2012
From today’s news wire:
"A Florida restaurateur who operates roughly 40 Denny’s locations and five Hurricane Grill & Wings franchises in Florida, Virginia and Georgia intends to add a 5 percent surcharge to customers’ bills to offset costs from ObamaCare beginning in January 2014 when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented." In case you still needed another reason not to eat at Denny’s.

Next week will feature our favorite egg rolls and scallion pancakes as we build our banquet. After Thanksgiving, when I address main courses, would be the perfect opportunity for someone(s) to join me for lunch, since attacking a steamed or fried whole flounder ($28.95) at Ping’s Sea Food, or a Peking duck ($45) at Peking Duck House is not a one-person (one paycheck) operation.

Stop the presses! Some last minute sleuthing by Cindy Wilkinson McMullen and I uncovered that we knew the owner of these Denny's restaurants over 30 years ago, when he only sought to continue his life as a Cornell fraternity boy several years after graduation.  Apparently, he still hasn't grown up.



  1. What is your secret for getting the chef to hold the fat in the duck chow fun at Wo Hop?

  2. I believe that weekly visits or more have secured me some influence.