Why do Jews love Chinese food? When HG lived in New York, HG noted a Sunday exodus of the city’s Jewish population to Chinatown. HG/BSK lived on the Upper West Side which had a very good, spacious restaurant, The Great Shanghai, plus the city’s first restaurant serving fiery Szechuan cuisine. HG/BSK only went to Chinatown to enjoy Sunday dim sum brunch. HG/BSK munched while reading the Sunday Times. SJ and little daughter Lesley were dedicated Chinese foodies from their earliest days. Dim sum was their favorite (This passion is still alive with them and their lovely children, all discerning consumers of soup dumplings). SJ has a theory about the history of Jewish love of Chinese food. SJ theorizes it all began when immigrant Jews from the Lower East Side would stroll to Chinatown to get a break from traditional Eastern European cooking. Their accents and struggles with English would not be embarrassing in restaurants whose staff had similar problems. Also, they could eat pork and shrimp, forbidden unkosher (“traif”) foods they would not cook at home. And, Chinese restaurants were very cheap. In these modern days of New York dining, a curious phenomenon exists. Affluent diners are willing to pay astronomical prices for esoteric Japanese food. But, they rebel against high prices at Chinese restaurants. This may be ending. La Chine restaurant in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel is offering exquisite Chinese cuisine (plus some Japanese style Sashimi) prepared by famous chefs. The ingredients are superior and the prices are very expensive. Pete Wells, The New York Times restaurant reviewer, has given it a rave. HG/BSK will dine there when next in New York. Yes, it means a dent in credit cards. But, self indulgence is only a minor sin.
“Keep it simple, stupid.” That was the mantra that guided the communications strategy of one of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns. BSK follows the simplicity principle in BSK’s daily cooking. HG/BSK like to drink wine before and with dinner. (HG also likes a snifter of brandy, Limoncello or Sambuca after dinner). Following this regime at good restaurants results in a check of $200 plus for dinner a deux. This is too self indulgent so HG/BSK rarely dine out. The exception is lunch at modestly priced Sopapilla Factory and El Parasol (both in Pojoaque, 15 minute drive north of Santa Fe) and Saigon Cafe in Santa Fe. Invariably, dinner is at home. BSK cooks an array of simple dishes that satisfy and delight. Often, cunning BSK enhances these dishes with an unexpected and savory addition. Here’s a partial list of BSK dinner dishes. Pastas: Linguine with oil, garlic, anchovies, parsley, red pepper flakes. Penne with broccoli. Spaghetti with black olives, tomatoes, garlic and anchovies. Spaghetti with tomatoes and Italian canned tuna. Chicken: Marinated, spatchcocked chicken roasted in the oven. Chicken curry (from Vikram Vij’js recipe). Lamb: Pan broiled New Zealand lamb chops. Kefte (Middle Eastern cigar shaped burgers pan broiled or roasted in the oven). Beef: Pan broiled burgers served with fried onions or smothered in 505 Green Chile Sauce. Pan broiled New York strip steak (a rare indulgence). Soups: Sorrel soup (in summer). Green soup (a BSK invention of everything green in the refrigerator plus chicken stock, onions and herbs, all pureed into tasty all season soup). Fish and shellfish: Quickly sautéed sea scallops served over salad greens. Prince Edward Island Mussels steamed with clam broth, white wine, garlic, parsley, olive oil, onions, red pepper flakes. Pacific sole, dusted with fish fry, and quickly sautéed in Canola oil with a bit of butter. Pork: Mo Pu Tofu, a Chinese dish featuring ground pork and tofu. Thick Frenched pork chops dusted with Goya Adobo and pan broiled medium rare. Served with sautéed onions and peppers plus Goya Black Beans covered in chopped sweet onion and Mexican Crema. BSK’s repertoire contains many more simple good things. Main dishes are usually followed by green salad and cheese. Dessert: Trader Joe’s chocolate almond biscotti and Belgian-style butter almond cookies. Candles lighting the table. Flames dancing in the fireplace. Yo Yo Ma on the Bose. Dinner a deux at Chez HG/BSK is celestial.
HG/BSK’s son-in-law, Massimo R., is a man of many talents and distinctions. First of all, he is a distinguished scholar: professor of Italian Studies at Brown University, author of a number of books; a pioneer in making Italian literature and culture available on the internet. The Italian government honored his contributions to Italian culture by naming him a “Grande Ufficiale” of the republic last year. A tall, handsome man with an imperious Roman nose, Massimo has impeccable style, cutting “la bella figura.” He is fluent in Italian, English, French and reads German and Spanish. And, if all this wasn’t enough, he is a warm, caring husband and father. Plus, he has a history of being a tennis champion in his youth and is still a formidable force on the court. Yes, Massimo is formidable. But, he has endearing, humanizing flaws. He has an infinite capacity to lose, forget and misplace: keys, wallets, papers, directions, etc.. He meets technological challenges with impatience and heartfelt cries of “Madonna!!!”. HG has enjoyed many wonderful meals with Massimo in Italy, Canada, France and the United States. His wine judgment is excellent and, unlike most Italians, he is an adventurous diner, relishing the foods of India, the Far East, Middle East and South America. He has encouraged HG to eat horse carpaccio, donkey sausage and other hearty, unlikely Italian treats. HG and Massimo have only two food disagreements. HG prefers pasta a bit more cooked than Massimo’s rigid al dente version. And, once Massimo cooked risotto with bubbling Guiness Stout. HG thought this an unfortunate marriage of a beverage and an ingredient that should remain strangers. Thus, HG faced dinner one night during HG/BSK’s recent Rhode Island visit with nervous trepidation. Massimo had prepared Ribollita. This is a classic poor person’s dish, a Tuscan soup that is a hearty potage of left over bread, cannellini beans, cabbage, onions, carrots, potatoes, broth and whatever other vegetables are lingering in the refrigerator. No need to fear. Topped with chopped parsley and garlic, grated cheese and good novello olive oil and accompanied by red wine, it was a nourishing, comforting winter dinner. HG/BSK will add the dish to their repertoire. And,while they’re at it they’ll give some other Tuscan bread dishes like Pappa al Pomodoro and Panzanella some special attention. These should be great in the summer when sun is hot and tomatoes are ripe.
Happy night Chez HG/BSK in New Mexico. Big time cold snap in the Land of Enchantment. Not only bone chilling cold, but intermittent snow flurries. Nice to be indoors with a fire blazing in the fireplace. Dinner called for comfort food. BSK answered the call with a big pot of hot mushroom and barley soup. HG/BSK and glorious pal and neighbor, Karen K., dusted the soup with Parmesan, Malden Sea Salt Flakes and Aleppo pepper. Whole grain bread and butter. Green salad. An array of cheeses. Red wine. The meal came to a magnificent conclusion. Karen K. is known as “The Dessert Queen.” Her glorious reign continues (HG/BSK are The Dessert Queen’s loyal subjects and grateful beneficiaries). HG will say without equivocation, her dessert of the evening set a new standard of lush excellence. Chocolate Pot de Creme topped with ethereal whipped cream–each portion in an elegant ramekin.. HG/BSK took tiny nibbles. They didn’t want the pleasure to end. The generous Dessert Queen made an extra Chocolate Pot de Creme so HG can relish it as the climax to another meal. Can hardly wait.
Surprise. Israeii cuisine is hot. The trend started with Yotam Ottolenghi and his London restaurants.–Ottolenghi’s in Spitlafields, islington, Notting Hill and Nopi in Soho. All very successful. In addition, he has spread the word about Israeli cuisine with a number of very good cookbooks (Jerusalem by Ottollenghi and Sami Tamimi is HG/BSK’s fave). In the United States, Michael Solomonov’s Philaelphia restaurant, Zahav, got raves from the critics and is always packed with happy foodies. (Solomonov’s cookbook is Zahav-A World Of Israeli Cooking). There are three casual Israeli restaurants in New York and HG predicts there will be more. SJ reported from a recent trip to Berlin that Israeli restaurants are the trendiest eateries in that city. Last night, BSK looked in the refrigerator and found eggplant and Greek yogurt on the shelves and ground lamb in the freezer. Pignolia nuts and Israei couscous in the pantry. All the makings for stuffed eggplant with lamb and pine nuts accompanied by Israeli couscous (recipe from “Jerusalem”). Even though HG/BSK’s wondrous pal and neighbor, Karen K., was a dinner guest, the group did not dance a spirited Hora after dinner.
Good news/bad news/euphoria/ecstasy day for HG. The good news is that HG (cross fingers and knock wood) seems to be at the end of his pneumonia bout. The bad news is that a typical old age pain had to be relieved by a very painful medical procedure. Luckily. HG has a group of doctors HG can rely upon for professionalism and sympathetic care. Nevertheless, HG had much trepidation. Procedure went swiftly and efficiently. Forty days of pain ended. Euphoria ensued. HG had always thought about old age as a serene time, a mellow conclusion. HG was wrong. One has to be brave and optimistic to endure all of the physical things that go wrong as one ages. HG is very fortunate to have only minor league ailments (and having a loving supportive family makes a very big difference). Euphoria segued into ecstasy as the day proceeded. BSK prepared BSK’s very special New Mexico Green Chile Stew. HG is in awe of BSK. As an artist (potter/painter), BSK seems to get into the very heart and essence of a region. BSK’s color field acrylics of Fire Island projected the sky, sand, foliage and sea of that magical place. BSK has done the same thing for Prince Edward Island. Here in New Mexico, BSK has been hand forming and firing crosses that evoke, in spectacular fashion, the passionate religiosity and the vernacular design forms of the state’s historic Hispanic population. BSK has captured (much to HG’s benefit) the lusty, fiery, flavorful cuisine of New Mexico in her Green Chile Stew. While it’s not for the timid, every ingredient sings. An evening of ecstasy. Big bowl of the stew topped with chopped sweet onion, pico de gallo and a dash of Mexican creme. Accompanied by beer (Non-alcoholic, alas. The alcohol ban ends in a few days). While HG reveled in the stew, HG watched the Alabama-Clemson national football championship game. Best college football game HG ever watched. Came away with the conclusion that Nick Saban of Alabama is a very smart and very lucky coach. Smarts, heart and luck. Tough combo to beat.
HG has been a fan of professional football for many, many decades. As a youngster, HG would be glued to the radio listening to the play-by-play feats of New York GiantsTuffy Leemans, Ward Cuff, Mel Hein, Al Blozis, Hank Soar and other heroes. When HG was a journalist in the 50’s, HG often attended Giants games and wrote “color” reports about them for Hearst Pre Date Services, a Hearst syndicate utilized by weekly newspapers. Best football players HG ever saw: Running backs Jim Brown and Marion Motley of the Cleveland Browns; Defensive back and punt returner Emlen Tunnell; and Arnie Weinmeister, defensive tackle,both of the New York Giants.. HG may be accused of old fogeyism, but HG preferred the old style pro football. Yes, today’s players are bigger, faster, more skilled. But, the level of violence is unacceptable. And, many players face Early Alzheirmer’s and other ailments after retirement. HG thought about this while watching a vicious, disgraceful game: the wild card playoff between the Steelers and Bengals. Helmet-to-helmet spearing. Punching. Cheap shots. The NFL has to review this and make appropriate reforms. There was one, happy memorable moment–the extraordinary, acrobatic touchdown catch by Pittsburgh’s Martevis Bryant. That’s one of the reasons to watch pro football–not to get a vicarious thrill out of brutality.
HG/BSK’s Gorgeous Granddaughter Sofia R. is spending a week with Nonno and Nonna (Grandpa and Grandma in Italian). Superstitious HG is worried. Sofia is just too gifted. Beautiful in face and form. Intellectually advanced. Good athlete (soccer, tennis). Funny. Fluent in English and Italian. Serviceable in French and Spanish. Doing well in Columbia University’s super selective and demanding International Studies program–two years in France (Reims) and two at Columbia’s New York (Morningside Heights) campus. At Casa HG/BSK, Sofia seeks cozy and snug comfort. (That’s why The Big Guy in the Sky made Elderbuddies – as they were called at the progressive Gordon School in Providence, RI, where Sofia received her primary education). This means dips in HG/BSKs’ indoor heated swimming pool. Cuddles with Toby, The Wonder Dog, who is ecstatic about Sofia’s return. Sofia spent her senior year at Desert Academy in Santa Fe and lived in HG/BSK’s casita. She helped BSK’s adopt Toby from a Pet Shelter. Toby might need therapy when Sofia leaves. Sofia reads poetry or watches TV while prone on the big black leather sofa near the fireplace. There are visits to Santa Fe and Pojoaque to meet Desert Academy friends and eat Menudo and New Mexico Green Chile dishes. BSK has met Sofia’s requests for comfort food. Lots of tortillas with melted cheese and salsa. Egg and cheese casserole smothered in green chile sauce. BSK’s robust chile made with grass fed organic beef. Chicken curry. Anchor Steam Beer from San Francisco. HG/BSK will miss this magical young woman.
Tough day for HG. Pneumonia is back. Big time. (“Mother of God. Is this the end of Rico?” — words from Edward G. Røbinson in the 1930’s gangster film,”Little Caesar.”) Fear not. HG will hang around. And, the reason HG will hang around is because he is married to the best woman in the world. Beautiful. Chic. Sexy. HG and BSK have been married for 52 years. HG is not an easy companion. HG believes BSK deserves a Congressional Medal of Honor with an Oak Leaf Cluster for putting up with HG for more than a half century. Her golden virtues have not tarnished. BSK is a wonderful mother and grandmother, loving, helpful. BSK is much loved and BSK deserves all their love…and more. BSK is an efficient household manager. As the old country song puts it: “If my woman can’t do it, it can’t be done.” Splendid cook, decorator. Excellent judge of wine (HG confesses.BSK is HGs’ favorite sommelier). A brilliant artist, BSK’s hand formed pots are in demand. Sold a beautiful cross yesterday to artistically knowing collectors. BSK shines when the going gets tough. During HG’s pneumonia, BSK has supplied HG with antibiotics, other drugs, water, tea and biscuits, Kleenex. BSK has created a comfort zone before HG/BSK’s bedroom Kiva fireplace. Computer. Phone. Pad. Pens. HG’s Mom, Chaika (Ida) Kopkind was parsimonious with praise for women. Not impressed with fine manners or elegant graces. She was down to earth. Her highest praise for a woman was to call her ah guteh nashumeh – “a good soul”. This has nothing to do with anything superficial. It has to with deep down goodness, HG must confess. HG’s Mom was not “ah guteh nashumeh.” Her life was just too tough. Chaika Kopkind died without really knowing BSK. If she lived longer, HG believes, she would have acknowledged BSK as an authentic “guteh nashumeh.”
New Year’s Day is the best day for hours of guilt-free, wintry enjoyment. HG is very fond of politically incorrect cheerleaders; huge bands going through their dopey maneuvers; thousands of passionate fans. It is acknowledged and forgiven by BSK that on New Year’s Day, HG joins millions of red blooded American he guys getting prone and watching hours of bowl games. HG missed two games–Tennessee vs. Northwestern and Michigan vs. Florida. However, HG was gratified by the results. The Vols and Big Blue romped. Then, on to the day’s grid feature–Ohio State vs. Notre Dame. HG loves Ohio State for these reasons: HG’s late cousin Morris, a flight instructor with the World War Two RCAF, died when a student panicked, seized the controls, crashed) was the manager of the OSU football team. BSK went to high school in Galion, Ohio (dated a high school football All-American) and attended OSU before graduating summa cum laude from Hunter College in New York. BSK, strangely, is not interested in OSU’s athletic fortunes. HG is passionate about the Buckeyes because they made money for him when money was needed desperately. HG’s partner had embezzled substantial money and disappeared. The IRS was after HG. The Mafia was after HG (the partner was a degenerate gambler, owed lots of dough to mob bookies, and that’s what led to the flight.) The bad boy partner hadn’t paid the suppliers to HG’s public relations firm and had flim-flammed many of the firm’s clients. HG was desperate. His solution was to scrape together a lot of money and place a very big bet on Ohio State in the 1968 Rose Bowl. (HG, in the sixth year of his marriage to BSK never told BSK the amount o the bet–$10,000–since some of the money came from a mob “Shy”). Despite O.J. Simpson’s heroics (an 83-yard run) in the first half, OSU won handily. O.J. had HG’s curse upon him. Fumbled three times and all were recovered by OSU. Also threw an interception. HG/BSK were on the road to solvency and within two years bought their first Montclair, NJ, home and had the IRS lien lifted from their joyous Fire Island home.And, that was the end of money worries. Thank you Jack Tatum and other OSU heroes. Farewell, memory lane and back to 1/1/2016. HG thought it unjust that OSU wasn’t among the Final Four. Powerful defense. Creative offense (nothing like this old Woody Hayes teams). As HG anticipated, OSU overwhelmed a very gallant Notre Dame team. Then watched Stanford’s Christian McCafferty put on a spectacular show against Iowa. This back is the real deal. Loved to watch his father, Ed, play as a Denver Bronco. The kid surpasses his dad. Deserved the Heisman. Finished football day. Oklahoma State vs Ole Miss. Mississippi is a powerful SEC team. Too tough for the Cowboys.