Friday, July 26, 2013

Picking and Choosing

Monday, July 22, 2013
I had fresh blueberries and raspberries on my Special K this morning. "Big deal," is your response, if, like me, you are accustomed to talking back to video screens. Well, the big deal is that I picked the very same berries yesterday in a field in Massachusetts that I ate this morning. Less than 24 hours from field to table. It gave me a great feeling of satisfaction stepping into the food chain, taking part in one of humankind’s most elemental functions just as our distant ancestors did, although they probably did not transport their gatherings to table in a four-door Lexus sedan.

Having dared to cross the borders into Greece, Bulgaria, Illinois, Macedonia, Massachusetts and Connecticut recently, I thought I was up to a search for a new restaurant today. However, I could only find beverage shops and bakeries that I haven’t been to before and the absence of solid food at the former and edible food at the latter kept me from increasing my restaurant count. So, recalling last week’s meal at West New Malaysian Restaurant (WNMR), I revisited Nyonya Malaysian Cuisine, 199 Grand Street (November 27, 2012), and had roti canai ($3.50) and nasi lemak ($7.50), two highly typical Malaysian dishes. The roti canai disappointed in comparison with WNMR’s because the pancake was more of a flaky crêpe that crumbled when you tried to dip it into the small bowl of curry which had only the rumor of chicken present. WNMR provides a hearty pancake which, torn into pieces, allows you to zzzup up the curry sauce. Nyonya’s nasi lemak was good, though, consisting of a mound of rice surrounded by two small pieces of beef on the bone, two quarters of a hard-boiled egg, raw cucumber slices, ikan bilis (tiny, crisp anchovies), and sambal (a spicy caponata). In Malaysia and Indonesia, nasi lemak is frequently a breakfast dish, although not yet on the IHOP menu. It is usually described as having coconut-flavored rice, but that familiar flavor has eluded me with each nasi lemak.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013
SAC is an unregistered investment advisory firm that controls several hedge funds. It is the creation of Steven A. Cohen (I won’t even try to distinguish him from other prominent Steven [Stephen] Cohens). Recently, Cohen settled civil charges of insider trading brought by your Securities & Exchange Commission for $616 million "without admitting or denying guilt." This remarkable feat even caused the presiding judge to utter, "There is something counterintuitive and incongruous about settling for $600 million if it truly did nothing wrong." Fortunately, your government was not convinced that the matter ended there, and on Friday commenced another action against Cohen charging that he "failed to take reasonable steps to investigate and prevent such violations of federal securities laws" by two senior employees in spite of "red flags of potentially unlawful conduct."

Can you just imagine what a something admission might be worth, if a nothing admission is worth $616 million? According to your Department of Agriculture, in 2012, the average American recipient received $134.29 per month in food assistance through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp program. Even though I don’t have an MBA, I was able to calculate that a simple repeat of Cohen’s feigned innocence could provide food stamps for 382,257 people for one year. Or, let them eat cake.

Dean Alfange and I chose to eat rice as our starch at Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street, which may have the best lunch specials in Chinatown (February 9, 2013, November 9, 2012, October 17, 2012). $4.95 to $6.25 gets you a bowl of very good hot and sour soup, a bowl of white rice and a medium portion of your main course, consistently well prepared. I had shrimps with egg sauce (lobster sauce without the usual pork); Dean chose shredded pork with Peking sauce. I threw in a scallion pancake for good luck, since I have oft touted the superior virtues of Shanghai Gourmet’s scallion pancake.

Speaking of good food, this early evening I met a man who made a turducken from scratch. Sam, a young cashier at Fairway, worked with his mother and brother to prepare a turducken for Thanksgiving about 5 years ago. It took the three of them the entire day before to prepare the three birds, deboning the duck, the chicken and the turkey in order to fit one inside the other inside the other. Additionally, they surrounded the two interior layers with homemade stuffing/filling. He told me that the meal was a great success, but never to be repeated.

I repeat this tale to provide notice to some of my more culinary-accomplished relatives (and you know who are up there in Bergen County) that I intend to pursue the turducken issue. For at least the first iteration, I will seek out a Kosher turducken (see for a ready-to-cook version, leaving only the roasting to us. If all goes well, I will set the bar (but not the bar exam) higher, and expect a completely homemade turducken. In both cases, I will provide the raw materials and supervise their ultimate consumption.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Anthony Weiner has captured the flag for the most public display of persistent futility. However, I don’t want to lose sight of two individuals, acting independently, who serve as an inspiration for the inadequate, unprepared and ineffective among us. From this week’s New Yorker: "According to John McAlary, the executive director of the New York State Board of Law Examiners, there are two people who have taken [and failed] the test [– the New York State Bar Exam –] more than sixty times." Since the Bar Exam is given usually twice a year, February and July, these folks have been at it more than 30 years each. That would make them currently at least 55 years old, if they proceeded directly from a four-year college to the three years of law school before taking the exam for the first time. That leaves no time off for finding themselves, learning the mandolin, spelunking, making French pastry or writing poetry. How could they have known that their cherished goal would continue to elude them? If there were only someone they could sue. Of course, they would probably have to hire a lawyer to represent them.

Today, I had lunch with a visitor from further afield than North Leverett, MA, Dean’s home. Sarah Nabagala is a third-year law student from Uganda, who has been in the United States this summer attending a camp for Jewish African students. Because Sarah observes Kosher food rules, we ate at Vegetarian Dim Sum House, 24 Pell Street (February 2, 2011), accompanied by friend Ken Klein, whose wife Harriet Bograd is president of Kulanu, Inc., an organization supporting dispersed Jewish communities around the world. We ordered spinach dumplings ($3.45), (not really) mini vegetarian spring rolls ($3.45), vegetarian mock roast pork buns ($3.45), fried rice noodles (mei fun) in Singapore style ($8.95 small, $10.95 large), and mango pudding ($3.45). No meat, seafood or fish are served in the restaurant, and the menu has sections labelled mock chicken, mock pork, mock beef and mock seafood. Some dishes, as noted above, also take care to explain themselves. Everything was very good, fairly priced except the tasty mango pudding which could have been a buck less.

After a brief walk around the nearby streets of Chinatown, I took Sarah to my regular Wednesday afternoon gig, supervising conferences on civil actions involving New York City as a litigant. The conferences themselves are rarely interesting, focussing upon scheduling and exchanging information between the parties, often months after first promised. However, I asked several attorneys to explain the case they were working on and their role to Sarah. She sat next to me for one hour while the attorneys sorted out the steps needed to move their lawsuits along. Since Uganda models its legal system and education after the British, Sarah got a brief look for the first time at our form of civil litigation. What seemed to surprise her the most was the sheer size of our legal establishment, demonstrated by the half dozen or more courthouses immediately around Centre Street. She was too polite to ask just what are all these people doing.

Thursday, July 25, 2013
Quiet lunch at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, beef and chicken fried rice ($7.50), always a huge portion. I only had Wednesday’s and Thursday’s crossword puzzles as company. Finished the first, will aim to finish the second on the train home.

Anthony Weiner has demonstrated very bad judgment, but consider N. Gonzalez, a Department of Corrections officer (prison guard), who had several sexual encounters with Ronell Wilson in prison while he was awaiting retrial in the murder of two New York City police officers. A baby boy was born to Ms. Gonzalez on March 22, 2013. She will return to her child after serving a 10 to 18 month sentence. Mr. Wilson’s time with his son, established by test and conceded by the parties, may well be limited because, yesterday, a jury found Wilson guilty again and voted for the death penalty.

Friday, July 26, 2013
I’m not proud, I’m proud to say. I will admit defeat or error within moments of being discovered. So, I won’t hesitate to confess to a major shortfall on my part, yesterday’s crossword puzzle. The New York Times Thursday puzzle almost always has a gimmick. Yesterday, it declared itself openly. The answer to 14- Down emerged quickly as DOUBLEFEATURE. Then, 4-Down asked for "14-Down starring Jack Lemmon" and 21-Down asked for "14-Down starring Frank Sinatra". At first, I thought that two movie titles would run serially for each actor. Then, as I solved, I found that every answer that crossed 4-Down and 21- Down contained two letters in one box. Some examples, 1-Across contained GT in one box, 22-Across contained PP, 46-Across contained SN. These two-letter groups were stacked vertically, meaning that the answers to 4-Down and 21-Down consisted entirely of the pairs. I was stumped. I had everything that I needed to know, yet I knew not. There was a lot of empty space around 4-Down and 21-Down. Fortunately, America’s Favorite Epidemiologist did not ask me "How was your day?"

Today, at lunch at Nom Wah Tea Parlor, 13 Doyers Street (March 8, 2011, November 20, 2012, February 7, 2013), I examined the answer to yesterday’s puzzle and learned my lesson. I was erroneously reading the two letters in a pair together, yielding PPYAOR, for instance, or EYASNA. But, you had to separate the two letters, left and right, and read each after the letter above, thus:
P       P                       E       Y
Y       A                      A       S
O       R                      N       A

With that, GRUMPYOLDMEN and THEAPARTMENT, and OCEANSELEVEN and GUYSANDDOLLS jump right out at you.  And how could I not get Grumpy Old Men?

To end the week on a pleasant note, please rush to Trader Joe's where Saturn peaches (their name for donut peaches) are on sale at $2.99 for 20 oz., 1.25 lbs.  Enjoy.

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