1. Digging out, Brooklyn style. This is not fun. My car was plowed in and buried by drifts taller than my shoulders. I’d made the rookie mistake of parking on the right side of the street – the side the plow blades push the snow. It was so completely covered the only thing sticking out of the snow was the antenna. I wasn’t even positive it was my car until I uncovered it a bit.
I began the long process of shoveling by climbing, Everest style, to the top of the drift then standing on the hood and scooping piles of snow off the roof. The guy parked behind me was doing the same. You quickly realize that there is no place to put all of the snow you’re now removing from the car. You can’t really toss it in the street and trying to delicately pile it on existing mounds is especially taxing when you have to raise the shovel above your shoulders to do so. The guy behind me was being careless and snow was tumbling all over the sidewalk. This being Brooklyn, it took exactly 2 seconds for the lady in the brownstone to come out and yell at him. “You’re not being neighborly.” (Okay, I may have cleaned that up a bit. This is a PG blog.) He was eventually able to free his car. He suggested I try to back up into his vacated spot and then pull out from there, hopefully saving me some extra shoveling.
A woman across the street also began shoveling her car, but she had a helper in the form of her strong young nephew, Liam. We got to talking and Liam offered me his services when he was through over there. What Liam and I didn’t know was that a 1″-thick layer of ice was under my front wheels. When I tried to back up the tires spun and spun, and the air was filled with gasoline smell from gunning the engine. We stared for a while, assessing the situation. In my neighborhood, this is a siren call for people to stop by and volunteer their opinions. Before long a man appeared like Clark Kent-turned-Superman with a thick Mexican accent.
Him: Turn the wheel this way. Then go forward. Then turn the wheel that way. Then go back.
Him: Now it’s time to back up. Go fast. Very fast over the ice.
Me: Okay. Here. We. Go!
Him: Why do you keep stopping at the ice? Go very fast.
Me, with a sudden desire to live in St. Thomas: My hands are really cold.
Him: Get out of the car.
It took him one try to do what Liam and I couldn’t and get the car off the ice and into the street. Someone immediately grabbed my spot, but I was able to find another one on the left side of the street in anticipation for the next storm. Now, if you live in the DC/Baltimore area, apparently it is accepted practice to stake claim to your spot with a lawn chair. I didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes. People respect the chair, so when you return your cleaned spot is waiting for you. This is very civilized and neighborly (to paraphrase the woman in the brownstone). In Brooklyn, of course, you’d lose your chair and your spot.
3. Kung hei fat choy. Happy New Year! To celebrate the year of the rabbit, a group of us from work made our annual trek to Chinatown for dim sum at Ping’s. How to describe Ping’s? Let’s just say the restaurant won’t be receiving any Michelin stars any time soon. But we were the only non-Asians in the place and there very little English spoken so if you take that as a sign, then it’s good.
This is one of my favorites. Garlic Chinese spinach. I’m happy to report that any nutritional benefit from the greens is balanced by the liberal dousing of oil. Another favorite also drenched in oil: sauteed eggplant.
Inside this little present is a nice brick of sticky rice.
Normally I find taro bland and off putting, but drown in it a thick salty/sweet soy sauce, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
We call these “hairy” buns. (Hee hee.) Here’s another form of taro, but this time it’s deep fried. Score!
This is what our table looks like 2 minutes into the meal. You don’t actually order from a menu. The ladies wheel the containers by on a cart and they just pile them on the table. You also have no idea how much you’re spending because they put tick marks on the check each time they leave a container. Each tick mark could be $1.00 or it could be $100.00. It’s anybody’s guess.
4. This week’s soup is not exactly a soup. C-H-I-L-I. There are a thousand ways to make it, but only one right one. Mine. Now, if that sounds arrogant, I can tell you that years back I participated in a chili cook-off. I would have won, too, if the voting hadn’t been rigged. That’s right. Rigged. But I digress.
won’t can’t give you my recipe everyone has a secret ingredient. I’ve heard of people including things like cocoa powder, red wine, cheese, coffee, orange juice (?!), pickle juice, butternut squash puree, spicy V8, and anchovies. Most food historians say chili got its start in Texas, which seems odd because it’s the perfect cold weather comfort food, but it’s the best region for growing flavorful chili peppers. In that case it’s even odder that it did not originate in Mexico.
Lisa at Homesick Texan has an authentic Texas recipe (no beans, no tomatoes) on her site.
5. Expanding my horizons. I’ve always had a hard time connecting with poetry. I’d just about given up, but a friend suggested I check out Billy Collins. He’s much more accessible, writing in plain language about everyday things. Here’s one of my new favorites from his collection, The Trouble with Poetry.
Care and Feeding
I will turn 420 in dog years,
I have decided to take myself
for a long walk on the path around the lake,
and when I get back to the house,
I will jump up on my chest
and lick my nose, my ears and eyelids
while I tell myself again and again to get down.
Then I will replenish my bowl
with cold water from the tap
and hand myself a biscuit from the jar
which I will hold gingerly in my teeth.
Then I will make three circles
and lie down on the wood floor at my feet
and close my eyes
as I type all morning and into the afternoon,
checking every once in a while
to make sure I am still there,
reaching down with one hand
to stroke my furry, esteemed, venerable head.