When I agreed to write regularly over at the Paris Review Daily, I asked if it would be okay if we turned off comments: I am just too thin-skinned and something negative can get me down for days. But there are times when I am reminded how nourishing that give-and-take can be.
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about old restaurants for a magazine; it also ran on their web site. I always avoid comments sections, but my dear friend Dan told me there were some nice stories and tips that I’d enjoy reading. He actually took the time to go through and email me ONLY the nice things! Now, that’s a friend.
I’m so glad he did, because in addition to learning about some great-sounding places that were new to me, I got to read about some wonderful memories. There were a lot of terrific anecdotes, but this one stands out as about the most magical birthday I can imagine for a little girl, from Mary Clare Griffin of Sun Valley, ID.
My parents took me to La Grenouille to celebrate my 8th birthday just a few years after the venerable restaurant (too pedestrian a word) opened in 1962. I recall taking the train in from Jersey that December afternoon, thrilled my 4 siblings were left behind with the babysitter. My classy parents were all mine to enjoy as we exited the train near Fifth and 57th to marvel at Bergdorf Goodman’s Christmas window. I held both their hands as we scurried over to Tiffany’s, where waiting for me in a little blue box was a silver heart. Already a night of dreamy wonder filled with the ecstatic feeling of being cherished and loved, I was beyond excited to get to La Grenouille. Wearing my new heart, I asked my parents, might I get to taste a frog? “Only if you want,” they laughed. It was my first real dining experience as a young lady. The memory remains as grand as any. Years later my family moved to California, and I found myself right at home at Tadiches and Jack’s.
My birthday is around the corner.
I have the perfect cocktail dress in mind.
People’s kindness, the sharing of memories, the camaraderie - it really brought tears to my eyes. It also made me want to comment more - it can make someone’s day to hear something positive, and knowing that someone has taken the time to do so is genuinely heartwarming.
Sometimes I amuse myself by making subversive theoretical title pages for corporate powerpoint presentations. This might be my very most favorite hobby.
Mine is looking at the “Diet Delights” section on diner menus.
I’ve neglected writing here for a long time mostly because things in my personal life have felt so chaotic. I didn’t want to write about that, but it seemed dishonest not to - although there’s certainly a grand tradition of such escapism, starting with A Christmas in Connecticut. I love to write about food and domestic things, but I am shamed by my poor photography skills; no filter can hide my inadequacies.
Still: I feel like writing - maybe it is the winter weather - and if a little melancholy seeps in, well, that is not the end of the world either.
Part of it is, I don’t cook nearly so much as I’d like: I tend to make something big on weekends and eat the leftovers, or graze at events, or throw together a salad in the evening like some kind of single-gal cliché. This does not a domestic goddess make.
I will be cooking today. I have Smitten Kitchen’s easy, tasty apple cake in the oven (had some apples going mealy and wanted good baking smells) just for fun. Then I have dinner guests coming Tuesday, which bodes medium-cold. It will still be Hannukah and while I draw the line at tying myself to the latke-pan all evening (I also hate the deep-frying smell, which lingers in my apartment), want to do something vaguely festive. After toying with the notion of brisket, I decided to go with an old standby: the Cooks Illustrated ersatz but worthwhile lamb tagine with apricots, over couscous. Olives to start, and I am seriously considering the ordeal of poaching quinces - it’s the cutting and peeling that’s nightmarish - because they feel sort of Biblical and mysterious and who wants more than a piece of poached fruit after stew? Normally I’d throw in a batch of rugelach (Barefoot Contessa’s are failsafe) but one of the guests has a serious nut thing. I mean, he was the first person I ever heard of - circa 1986 - with a nut allergy,
“In the picture Dominique Ansel took of himself at MoMA, the cronut sits on his fingertips like a king on a throne, a cream-filled Lear surrounded by torrential downpour, still a victim of hubris, but a figure turned tragic, impotent.”
Nikkitha Bakshani on the art of our necessities.
A total time commitment of some ten hours for mere mortals. One assumes the Cronut is something of a Golden Ticket,
I could not be more excited about Sandra Murphy’s Recollection! Support their Indiegogo campaign! Gorgeous pix by the incomparable Rose Callahan!