So, how did you spend this summer Sunday? This is what HG did. On Prince Edward Island the sun was out full blast. Cloudless sky. Sea was lake-like calm. Perfect kayak weather. HG and BSK paddled happily. The water was very clear and HG saw many lobster and fish plus a giant jellyfish with tendrils three feet long. Surprised some herons sitting on a rocky point. Whoosh!! Up in the air they went and there is nothing more beautiful and streamlined than these long necked birds in flight. Paused for lunch. Spicy Korean instant ramen enriched with some slices of cheddar (a staple dish offered youngsters by Korean moms in Los Angeles). Back to the beach for some reading, strolling, beach glass hunting. Into the sea for a “refreshing” plunge. The sea won’t warm up until later in July. After an outdoor shower, HG shucked a dozen cold South Lake oysters. Chilled vodka aperitif for HG and white wine for BSK. Then a dinner of steamed asparagus with a butter/lemon sauce followed by a salad of sautéed sea scallops and lovely farmers market greens. A perfect Canadian pecan studded butter tart for dessert. HG/BSK have a library of almost 100 classic VCR films. HG has been indulging nostalgia for HG’s New York/Broadway press agent days. Watched Woody Allen’s “Broadway Danny Rose” a few nights ago and on Sunday delighted in “Sweet Smell of Success.” James Wong Howe black and white photography. Bravura performances by Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster. Climaxed a perfect day.
During the economic depression of the 1930’s, HG’s family spent the summers in a Rockaway boarding house. (HG gathers Hurricane Sandy-bruised Rockaway has become a destination for Brooklyn hipsters and surfboarders with some nice restaurants springing up near the reconstructed boardwalk). When HG was a little fellow, Rockaway was cheap and decidedly proletarian. HG’s parents rented two rooms in the boarding house for $25 (July 1 through Labor Day). Not luxurious. Communal bathroom (commode and sink) serving four families. Communal showers in basement (one for women and one for men). No hot water. Soapy five year old HG frolicked under icy water with naked bosomy ladies. (Remembered with much fondness). Here on Prince Edward Island, HG comes off the beach sandy, sun baked and salty. With much foresight, BSK carefully planned a spacious outdoor shower. Not just a place to rinse sandy feet, the BSK shower has doors for privacy, wooden pegs for towels and bathrobes, shelves for soaps and shampoos. Best of all: Plentiful hot water. Yes, the HG/BSK home has luxurious indoor showers and a jetted bathtub. But, HG prefers the outdoor shower as being somehow reminiscent of earlier days by the sea.
Okay, food loving pals, turn green with envy. It’s lobster season here on Prince Edward Island and fresh caught lobster sells for $5 to $7 a pound — it seems that slightly warming waters has expanded the lobster population. The ocean directly in front of the HG/BSK home is teeming with the crustaceans and HG/BSK awaken each morning to the sight of a dozen lobster boats chugging about in front of their windows. Seems to be an early morning activity because by 11 AM they’re all gone. HG is taking advantage of this surplus and devouring many delicious lobsters in a variety of styles: Steamed and dipped in melted butter (garnished with lemon juice and Frank’s Hot Sauce). Mixed with chopped celery and mayonnaise and stuffed into lightly toasted frankfurter rolls. Scooped into Belgian endive leaves. None of this brings joy to BSK. The love of HG’s life is allergic to lobsters and all other crustaceans (shrimp, crab, langoustines). BSK is not allergic to bivalves (oysters, clams, scallops). So, there’s a lot of good sea stuff for BSK to relish. But, BSK still looks at HG with wistful envy as the greedy old guy knocks off some juicy lobster.
Hake is a member of the cod family, HG believes, and this firm fleshed fish is an HG favorite. They catch lots of hake in the waters off Prince Edward Island which means it’s cheap (6 bucks a pound) and always available at the local seafood shop in the town of St. Peters (a quick drive from the HG/BSK home). Hake can be baked, fried or steamed. HG likes to steam hake and HG does it the Chinese way. HG places hake filets on a mix of fresh grated ginger, rice vinegar, soy sauce and white wine. Brings it to a quick boil. Covers the pan. Lowers the heat and simmers for 8 minutes, Tops the dish with slivers of scallion (or fried garlic chips). A dash of Sriracha. Serves it with soba (moistened with sesame oil) plus stir fried baby bok choy. You can do this dish with cod, snapper, filets of sole (cut the steaming time way back if you’re using sole).
The HG/BSK Prince Edward Island home, perched on a bluff overlooking the endless Gulf of St. Lawrence, is oceanic heaven. More than 50 feet of windows and glass doors provide an ever-changing panorama of whitecaps and clouds tossed about by salty breezes. Sunsets are spectacular and, here in the north, they are long lasting (doesn’t get truly dark until about 10:30). Now in residence for the summer, HG/BSK are enjoying the sea level serenity (a change from the high altitude serenity HG/BSK experience in New Mexico). The local sea food store (By the Bay in the town of St. Peters) and BSK’s herb garden are providing taste treats. BSK’s crop of sorrel is abundant. That means sorrel soup plus grilled salmon nestled in sorrel sauce (BSK’s version of the soup and sauce is better than the over creamy stuff you get in Paris). HG/BSK have been steaming freshly caught cod and hake in Chinese sauces. Dinners have begun with a half dozen incomparable PEI oysters. Heaven, indeed.
American chain hotels/motels. HG finds them wonderful. Holiday Inn Express is HG’s favorite. Clean rooms. Working AC. Flat screen TV. WIFI. Shower with good water pressure and plenty of hot water. Abundance of towels, shampoos, etc. A competent toilet that does its job efficiently. Comfortable bed with high quality mattress. Swimming pool and fitness center. Free coffee. And, the price for all this is quite modest. To find something comparable in Europe, you’d be paying lots of dough. Yes, the USA can’t handle the guns problem and the Land of the Brave and the Free likes to indulge in needless, expensive wars. But, when it comes to weary wayfarers wanting an affordable nightly accommodation, Uncle Sam rules.
Depressing fact reported by The New York Times: The Bronx, with a population of 1.4 million, contains two movie theaters (multiplexes with a combined total of 23 screens). When HG grew up in The Bronx, there were scores of movie theaters ranging from palaces (Loew’s Paradise, The Interboro, etc.) to intimate art houses (The Ascot). Fordham Road, in a six block expanse, contained The Lido, The Concourse, Loew’s Grand, The Valentine and The Fordham. “Going to the movies,” like rooting for the Yankees and eating pastrami and pizza, was an integral part of Bronx life. HG/BSK are fortunate to live in Santa Fe. “The City Different” has a population of 80,000 which supports three multiplexes (and another in a nearby community) plus three cinematheques. In terms of movie going, it’s almost like living in Paris. Santa Fe also has opera housed in a spectacular setting; live theater, dance and concerts at The Lensic (a beautifully restored old venue); live music in lots of clubs ranging from the raucous to the sophisticated. And, of course, Santa Fe has art: A dozen museums and numerous galleries plus world famous annual Native American and Hispanic art markets. And, the weather is great. Plus you are never far from a breakfast burrito smothered in green chile sauce. Heaven.
Here’s a recipe for a perfect night. Start with a dinner of barbecued, Adobo dusted chicken breasts accompanied by a melange of olive oil gilded, grilled vegetables (Belgian endive, red bell peppers, Vidalia onions). Drink plenty of red Malbec. Settle down in the Eames lounge chair with a snifter of Bushmill’s Irish Honey Whiskey. Watch The Leopard on TV (the three-hour Italian language subtitled director’s cut version). Directed by Luchino Visconti and starring Burt Lancaster (adroitly dubbed into Italian), The Leopard (Il Gattopardo), was made in 1963 and is one of the few films that deserves the term “epic.” The final 45-minute ballroom sequence, exquisitely and subtly acted by Lancaster, is a cinema masterpiece, combining social commentary, visual splendor and individual experience. Movie magic. The film is faithful to the great novel upon which it is based, The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomaso di Lampedusa, a Sicilian of noble lineage. Read the book. See the movie.
HG gathers the lethal cocktail, The Martini, is making a comeback among today’s hard drinking generation. A dangerous trend, fears HG. Dorothy Parker, no stranger to strong drink, summed up its fearful effect on women: “One Martini. Two, at most. Three, I’m under the table. Four, I’m under the host.” HG recalls, from his younger days, many embarrassing incidents caused by two Martini lunches and three Martini cocktail hours. HG’s football coach at CCNY tried to inspire HG by saying: If you’ve got the ‘want to’ you’ll have the ‘can do.‘. Well, in terms of amorous adventure, Martinis inspire the want to but diminish the can do.
Last night clumsy HG broke a water glass (market value: 10 cents). This brought to mind some more dramatic events in the history of smashed goods. At a dinner party at a Colorado mountain home, HG saw a guest break two fine crystal wine glasses. “Sorry,” the guest said. The hostess replied: “They can be replaced. They cost $40 a piece.” The hint was not taken. No check was forthcoming. At a New York dinner party, HG’s friend broke the host’s (who happened to also be HG’s friend’s boss) valuable vase. Said the boss: “The only two others are at the Smithsonian.” The event — no doubt — diminished the unfortunate fellow’s chances for promotion. HG’s favorite breakage anecdote: The Hollywood screenwriter and wit Charles Lederer was at a fancy London dinner party. The hostess made a number of hateful remarks about Jews. Lederer strolled to the sideboard and picked up a priceless Ming Dynasty pot. “You certainly dislike Jews, Madame,” he said. “No, I don’t,” the hostess replied. Lederer dropped the pot and as it shattered, he said: “Well, now you do.”