Friday, November 14, 2014


Monday, November 10, 2014
The New York Times has again found a way to utilize the predominantly self-referential (and often self-reverential) data from Facebook to provide some interesting information.  It aggregates, by county, the “likes” for any college football team, to assess the level of interest in college football generally.  
With Alabama leading the way, it pretty much correlates with where in the United States you don’t want to live.  “And the five counties in the United States with the lowest rates of college football fandom are the five boroughs of New York City.  Manhattan manages 2 percent, and the other four are all below 2 percent.”  There is an independent indication that it isn’t just the water locally.  Cook County (Chicago), Illinois also scrapes the bottom of the barrel, along with the counties surrounding Boston.  Significantly, these areas have an abundance of professional sports teams with passionate fans (present company included).  It’s likely, therefore, that we are willing to wait for the finished product before getting all aroused by the athletic accomplishments of our supposed student-athletes.  
As I wrote the other day, there have been two major changes to the Chinatown/Little Italy ecosystem, the first, Baz, a bagel joint on Grand Street, just a few feet off Mott Street.  More revolutionary is the appearance of Beijing Pop Kabob Restaurant, 122 Mulberry Street, right in the heart of Little Italy.  Until now, even as the borders of Little Italy shrank under the pressure of Chinese inflow, Mulberry Street remained intact and integral, Italian restaurant after Italian restaurant, interrupted only by T-shirt shops.  This, after all, is the home of the Feast of San Gennaro, held in mid-September each year to celebrate the patron saint of sausage and pepper sandwiches.  Held for more than 88 years, San Gennaro attracts under age drinkers from miles around. 
Now, a Chinese restaurant has replaced Positano Risorante, sitting right next to Buona Notte Ristorante.  You might as well be selling knishes in the Vatican.  Not only have the walls closed in on Little Italy, they have been breached by the Chinese hordes.  Fortuitously, Beijing Pop is also the 300th Chinese(ish) restaurant that I have patronized (and documented) since January 2010.  To remind you, I limit myself to weekday lunches in nearby Chinatown – not Flushing, not Sunset Park, not Upper East Side.  Admittedly, I have broadened the cuisine to all of East Asia, thereby including Japanese (10), Malaysian (5), Korean (2), Indonesian (1), Thai (4), Vietnamese (13).  India and Pakistan, and all of the Middle East, however, have been excluded from the count.  
I was joined on this special day by Stony Brook Steve.  There are 16 two tops, mostly pushed together, in this narrow joint, whose cream walls are decorated with Chinese scrolls and vivid wall hangings.  Respecting the restaurant's name, we ordered lamb kabobs and beef kabobs ($3.50 per order of 2 skewers), scallion pancake ($1.75), pan fried buns with beef curry ($3.75 for 3), and beef with tofu ($5.75) as a lunch special with rice and soup.  The food was quite good, on the whole.  The lamb was fatty, but lamb fat charred is still tasty.  The scallion pancake was small in diameter, but crisp,  greaseless and so inexpensive.  The three inch round buns were well-prepared, not doughy, but too mild for my taste.  Steve risked the tofu and found it edible.  
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
We have the day off in observance of Veteran’s Day (once Armistice Day), but I wasn’t idle.  I stopped off at my periodontist’s office, to help his children continue to acquire the finest private education available.  Then, I had lunch with the Feingold assembly, where Joe Berger, notable New York Times reporter, discussed his newly-published book, The Pious Ones: The World of Hasidim and Their Battles with America.  These very orthodox Jews challenge and embarrass me and most of the wishy-washy Jews of my acquaintance.  The challenge arises from the suspicion (or fear) that they are doing it The Right Way, that is, that their lives, their customs, their worship, their values represent authentic Judaism.  The embarrassment comes from viewing their lives, their customs, their worship, their values so at odds with the modern world.  
I put contemplation aside for the evening and went to Madison Square Garden to see the New York Rangers dominate the Pittsburgh Penguins, a fitting end to the holiday. 
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
The article contends that many of us harbor an aversion to the traditional Thanksgiving dinner for two reasons: the company and the menu.  I won’t touch the first subject.  For most of us, the Thanksgiving table is populated by the acorns off the family tree.  The selection process ended in the maternity ward.  I’m not going to challenge it now.
On the other hand, I love the Thanksgiving menu, the turkey, the stuffing, the sweet potato concoction.  Aside from a good Passover seder, I can’t think of a meal at home that I anticipate more.  However, the Times describes the event as burdened with “unbending tradition, family expectations and dietary totalitarianism.”  It claims that, for Thanksgiving, Americans “want lobster. They want Alaskan king crab and West African peanut stew, Peking duck and pad thai, Neapolitan pizza and Brazilian feijoada. In some cases, they want any form of meat that doesn’t gobble: osso buco, rack of lamb, suckling pig.”  What’s wrong with this is that these items are best enjoyed in a restaurant, where you can expect practiced competency.  You never order turkey in a restaurant, because you ate it at home and your mother did it better.  
In contrast to the dishes rattled off by the Times, turkey is relatively easy to prepare, and the basic effort is the same regardless of the size of the crowd.  You need not visit out-of-the-way ethnic emporia or specialized provisioners to gather your ingredients.  Plus the wonderful leftovers.  Mother Ruth Gotthelf always purchased an oversized bird (recognizing her oversized sons undoubtedly) and made a wonderful potato salad to accompany the turkey for days afterwards.  My beloved Calvin Trillin has long advocated spaghetti carbonara as the national dish for Thanksgiving, but that is not even sufficient to separate me from my Pilgrim heritage.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
A diamond may be forever, but a name on a wall may be gone with a check book.  Lincoln Center announced today that Avery Fisher Hall, named for a wealthy audio equipment mogul over 40 years ago, was going to be renamed as part of a major fundraising campaign.  Following the advice that you have to spend money to make money, Lincoln Center is giving back $15 million to the Fisher family to free up the space over the doorway.  For its first dozen years, the building was called Philharmonic Hall.  Now, anything is possible.  Maybe downtown Louisville, Kentucky won’t mind us borrowing the name of the KFC Yum! Center from its multi-purpose sports arena.  Or, Sacramento, California may allow the NBA’s Sacramento Kings to revert to the ARCO Arena or the Power Balance Pavilion, so that New York can have the Sleep Train Arena.  Less bother would be involved with the use of KitKat Crescent, which lapsed as the home of the York City (England) Football Club in 2010.  On the other hand, I appreciate the swell of enthusiasm for Grandpa Alan’s Place, but I have to ask you to desist in promoting this choice.  

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