Friday, May 27, 2016

Sweets To The Sweet

Monday, May 23, 2016
Decades ago, my doctor diagnosed a condition that was aggravated by sugar and asked me to curb my intake.   Fortunately, I outgrew that horrible affliction, but I have continued to read labels on food products with care since then.  I was surprised how many things contained added sugar, often where you would least expect.  The most outrageous example that I recall was salt, specifically Lawry's Seasoned Salt, described currently as a "unique blend of salt, spices and herbs [that] tastes great on prime ribs, steaks, chicken and casseroles."  Sugar is identified as the second largest ingredient on its label.  Go know.

The Food and Drug Administration has just modified its requirements for identifying sugar in food products, since plain English provided cracks and crevices to hide the sweet stuff.   Another retreat from greatness.

A few weeks ago, Sam Sifton, New York Times food critic, printed a recipe to emulate his "most favorite sandwich . . . fried eggplant, mozzarella and roast beef on an Italian hero, with hot peppers and a slash of mayonnaise. . . . It is a beautiful torpedo of food, crunchy, silken, sweet and spicy all at once." He found the original at Delfonte's Sandwich Shop, 379 Columbia Street, Brooklyn.  So, Stony Brook Steve and Little Ken joined me on a road trip today.

While Columbia Street runs right through scenic Brooklyn Heights, Delfonte's is much further south in Red Hook, a neighborhood of old clapboard homes, light industry, auto mechanics and small businesses.  We pondered how soon the march of multi-million dollar condos, designed by starchitects, will arrive.  In fact, next to the long-entrenched sandwich shop is a parking lot with 5 picnic tables for those who choose to eat "in".  

I ordered Sam's sandwich ($10.50 for a small, which was large enough), although I forgot to add the hot peppers for another $1.50.  The other guys ate fried eggplant with mozzarella ($9.95).  Should I return, I'll try the meatball parmesan with fried eggplant ($10.50).  Again, these are all size small.  Maybe right after Yom Kippur, I'll go for the large.

Delfonte's is definitely worth a visit, but be advised that getting there easily may require being born in the neighborhood.  The Metropolitan Transit Authority recommends taking a subway to downtown Brooklyn, catch a bus and then walk 5 more minutes.  If that's too complicated, you can stay on subways and walk 14 minutes from the closest stop.  Car is a quicker alternative if you are willing to pay $8 toll each way, $5.54 if you have E-Z Pass.  Using the kind of no-toll route that I favor adds a lot of time to the trip from Manhattan.  Maybe you have a great aunt who lives nearby.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Happy Birthday to the Oakland Heartthrob.  And, remarkably, today is Bob Dylan's 75th birthday.  While no longer viewed as the radical innovator that he once was, he remains vital and productive after so many years in the biz.  I don't claim to have caught him in a Greenwich Village basement in 1961, but I vividly recall attending his concert at Cornell University in 1965.  Then, almost exactly a quarter century later, I heard him at the Concert Gebouw in the Hague, Netherlands.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016
It is our wedding anniversary today.  Thirteen years ago, America's Favorite Epidemiologist became my personal favorite.  I thereby assumed a supporting role in the world of infectious diseases.  To celebrate appropriately, I met the Boyz Club in Chinatown to have lunch at Wok Wok Southeast Asian Cuisine, 11 Mott Street.  The happy couple were honored by the consumption of roti* wrap with beef, roti wrap with chicken, K.L. Hokkian Char Mee (thick noodles in a dark sauce), tangerine beef, and eggplant stir-fried with‏ dried shrimp, fresh chili, cilantro, garlic.  As always, we tipped generously, spending $15 each in total.

*Roti, a/k/a chapati, is a thin pancake widely used in South Asian cuisine.  Population movement entrenched it in the Caribbean as well, cf., Ali's Trinidad Roti Shop, 1267 Fulton Street, Brooklyn.

Going to Chinatown allowed me to inquire of the fate of Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street, now closed.  It had been my original destination for today's fête, before I learned of its demise.  I found that the space is not now vacant; New Style Handpulled Noodles is the new operation at 23 Pell Street.  I'll get there soon and see if they have built on the strengths of Shanghai Gourmet (excellent soup buns and scallion pancakes, among other things).  

Thursday, May 26, 2016
At first, I chuckled when I read a review of a new Broadway show this morning.  The critic wrote that the show "achieves the singular feat of being simultaneously frenetic and tedious."  Then, I thought how apt a description that is of so much that surrounds us today, beginning, of course, with the American political scene.  

"Prisoners of War," the Israeli original that bred "Homeland," by contrast, is intense and compelling.  We just completed the first season on discs borrowed from the library and I have requested the second season.  A third seems to be in the works.  Note that the violence is vivid and frightening, but I hope that does not deter you.  The ethical and psychological issues that are presented will stay with you a long time.

Friday, May 27, 2016
I explained the Cuban Chinese phenomenon recently (May 2, 2016) when I went to La Dinastia, 145 West 72nd Street.  Today, I went to La Caridad 78 Restaurant, 2199 Broadway, a long established joint that is a model of its type.  It offers a wide variety of Chinese and Latin dishes at a corner location mostly enclosed in glass.  I took a middle ground, or maybe an off-the-road path, by ordering a fried chicken lunch special ($9), more Norte Americano than Chino or Latino.

They called their fried chicken "crackling," as La Dinastia did.  The lunch plate had four chunks of white meat in a crispy coating, needing more spice both inside and outside.  A hefty serving of rice, white or yellow, and beans, red or black, came with it.  I chose yellow and black.  The meal was filling and satisfying, but not special.  Next time, I'll try to make a more distinctively ethnic choice.

The movie industry is focused on a battle of battles right now.  Warner Bros. released "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" on March 25th.  Disney followed six weeks later with "Captain America: Civil War."  It seems that Captain America has proved to be a greater favorite worldwide, grossing over $1 billion in less time than Bat/Supe has taken in $871 million.  While I will not seek either venture for entertainment, I have some mixed feelings about this confrontation of confrontations.  

Captain America is, pardon the expression, foreign to me.  While he originated in March 1941, according to Wikipedia, "the Captain America comic book was discontinued in 1950, with a short-lived revival in 1953," and revived again in 1964.  I was at the peak of my comic book collecting period in the early 1950s, when the Captain was mostly retired.

On the other hand, along with Donald Duck, Superman and Batman were the object of my affections for at least half a decade.  I spent dime after dime acquiring each comic book issue as it hit the shelves of Joe's candy store, one store in from the southeast corner of Pitkin Avenue and Crescent Street.  I not only joyfully read and reread these works, but they became sort of the contemporary version of Bitcoins, used in trades and as ante for poker games among us prepubescents.  

With my history of early devotion to Superman and Batman, I am distressed by the thought of them battling on the screen.  Clark, Bruce, step back, chill.  Can't you find a way to get along?

Speaking of getting along, I am intrigued by this situation in Switzerland, where schoolchildren customarily shake hands with their teachers each day, "considered an important sign of politeness and respect."

Two teenage brothers, Muslim Syrian immigrants, have refused to shake female teachers' hands on religious grounds, subjecting their parents to fines.  This behavior is not entirely unfamiliar to me, because some orthodox Jews also bar any physical contact between the sexes outside the family.  Alan Dershowitz, for once making someone else the center of attention, tells of a friend who, as a devoted Mets fan and an observant Jew, would purchase the seats around him at Shea Stadium to avoid unwanted contact with strange females.  

I remember meeting a friendly neighbor in the lobby of my former residence who beamingly introduced me to his fiancée, a nice Jewish girl newly arrived from Belgium.  I stuck out my hand to greet her, with the enthusiasm of a politician on the campaign trail, causing her to hurl herself against the wall of mailboxes behind her, risking whiplash.  As my neighbor started to explain, I indicated that I understood.  He was a much shorter guy, so he probably was unable to see how high my eyebrows rose.

In the Swiss instance, the case for moral relativism was substantially weakened, in my eyes, by the comments of one of the young men that, as paraphrased in the newspaper, "the brothers were trying to protect the dignity of women with their refusal to shake a woman’s hand."


  1. We must have collected comic books in the same years. There was a second-hand comic book store on Amsterdam Ave. near 93rd, right near Joan of Arc Junior High (my alma mater). My favorite heroes were the Blackhawks, six international aviators who dispensed justice from Blackhawk Island, plus a seventh (Chop Chop) who flew behind Blackhawk in his plane because, as we all know, Chinese people may be able to cook, but they cannot fly.

  2. I read comic, as well, but I read Marvel. Spiderman, Daredevil, and The Fantastic Four were the big ones that I bought and read every month. And read and read and read over and over until almost nothing was left of them. My mother was worried, (may she rest in peace, may her memory be forever a blessing) telling me I would "ruin" my eyes. Turns out, I found out later at library school, only the smartest kids read super-hero comic books! That's you and me.