SILENCE HAS A NAME - Poetry Chapbook and CD, with Music by Mark Hanley

Friday, December 23, 2011

Shameless Self-Promotion and the Art of Blogging

One of the side effects of joining the blogging culture on the Internet is that it tends to provide you with the illusion that you are heard and seen by minions, when in fact the minions you suppose are attending to your mighty words may be two or three fans that are family members or the equivalent.

I don't have such illusions, but I do enjoy blogging about issues and subjects I care about. Those issues include the literary culture; spiritual events and transformations; the arts. The Internet has provided us with many freedoms, and one particularly delightful (as well as loathesome) one -- depending on whose thoughts you are viewing -- is the freedom to post your ideas in blogs and let others see what you think. In addition, venues like this one, offer (at no cost) decorative options with which to lay out your musings.

It's a gift in a way, a byproduct of a culture that places much value on opinions, while attending to virtually none. Blogging not only provides you with a platform from which to present your thoughts and feelings, but a place to put out information about one's creative work and that of others.

With that in mind, this holiday season, you may want to peruse Allbook Books for unusual and sophisticated literary gifts. The publisher Walter E. Harris III, otherwise known as Mankh, was kind enough to accept for publication and recently put out a chapbook of my poetry, JEWEL FIRE. Mankh is very interested in eclectic material, work from various spiritual or world traditions, and does an excellent job of packaging in the best possible way what he deems valuable. I encourage you to peruse and linger over his Web site, read some of his highly intelligent and timely essays, and buy some of his books.


May all of you, my minions, have a healthy, happy and prosperous 2012!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Tribute to the Beauty and Magic of Silent Films

If you see no other film this year, see Hugo, Martin Scorsese's homage to the transcendent magic of silent film. Hugo was adapted from Brian Selznick's children's book, The Invention of Hugo Cabaret, and is about a wily, sensitive orphan living inside a Paris train station at the turn of the 20th century whose exchanges with a toy store owner become life transforming.

Hugo is based on an actual filmmaker, Georges Méliès, who was best known for the special effects of his silent films that combined magic and theater at the turn of the 20th century. Méliès became fascinated with the medium after seeing a demonstration by the Lumière Brothers in 1895. Subsequently, he ran his own studio and made hundreds of films, the most famous of which, A Trip to the Moon (1907), is referenced several times in Scorsese's tribute.

Silent film buffs will relish not only the actual snippets of great silent movies, featuring Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton among others, but the many references to famous silent movie moments in imagery in the actual story, and the use of classic techniques, such as slapstick. But, like the machinery discussed with so much fascination in Hugo, everything is finely tuned here, with no extravagance or excess. Hugo is a major work of art about a medium and the magic it captured.

Hugo is in 3D, which only helps to place you in the story (as opposed to freak you out, which sometimes seems the point of 3D), and features 14-year old Asa Butterfield; Cloe Moretz, who looks in the film like a very young Ingrid Bergman; Emily Mortimer; Sir Ben Kingsley as Méliès himself; Jude Law; and a standout performance by Sacha Baron Cohen, the wildly funny and often brilliantly wacky English comedic actor (of Barat fame), who lends quiet ferocity and tenderness to his role of a Clouseau-like inspector with a squeaky metal leg and a rusty heart of gold. Cohen looks a bit like Freddie Mercury, and, as it turns out, is scheduled to play the rock artist in an upcoming film about QUEEN. Supposedly, Executive Producer Johnny Depp -- whose greatest film portrayal in my view, Edward Scissorhands, echoes the human beauty of the artistic automaton in Hugo -- plays the part of a painter who helps the children out on their adventure in the film. But if so, I missed him. Darn!

As a friend and I discussed after Hugo, there are so many occasions where a scene might have gone wrong, resorting to modern tricks or dirty innuendos, but Scorsese's tribute never fails to please and never steps down from its perch of high artistry. There is, for example, the moment when two characters who are attracted to one another introduce their dogs to one another in a cafe, a moment when, being well versed in American modern cinema, one might wince imagining what tackiness might ensue for a laugh. But the scene is played gracefully. There is the moment at the end of the film when, during a close up of the automaton, with its curiously human and moon-like visage, you half expect to see it wink at the audience for a final special effect. Thankfully, this doesn't happen either, for Hugo is a film of classical nuances not cheap tricks; it's about film's hopeful beginnings and its potential, not its tacky reprises.

Let me say one more thing about ambience. It's what silent film focussed on and what has been all but forgotten in modern movies, where pyrotechnics and visual spectacle are all the big deal. Ambience, many filmmakers forget, is what places one in the heart of a story, and makes the experience of it, real and lasting. Hugo has it in spades. You will feel a part of the Parisian milieu at the turn of the century; you will feel like Hugo himself, lost in the conundrum of a clock, in the machinery of time, in movies themselves.

Cheers to Scorsese and all who had anything to do with Hugo. I smell multiple Oscars!

Thursday, November 24, 2011




Open up the streets
Let them be
For pedestrians again
Protestors with tall signs
Whose yelling can be heard
From one block to the next

Open up the streets
Let the people

Let the people’s voices
And footsteps be heard
All across the cities
And suburbs of America
Wherever White people and
African Americans, Latinos, Asians,
American Indians, wherever friends
From anywhere across the globe
The streets are the plains
And they are open to everybody 

The streets are the great table
Across which we lay out
The feast of our hopes and
Our anticipation

I say, Come
March with us
Come, eat with us
Come, let us create
A new America together 

Open up the streets!


Everywhere is home 

The fountains

Are open to everybody

And so are the parks 

No exclusions anywhere –

How’s that for a revolution?

-          by Arya F. Jenkins

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I spent more money than I should at Barnes and Noble last night, as I have been doing more and more recently, knowing this bookstore too is going to close shortly.

I feel like weeping, I really do. I will have to get on a highway just to find a bookstore. That place of solace, comfort and refuge I used to thrill taking with a demitasse of espresso will be miles away from where I live.

The other reason I feel like weeping is the realization that books and the art of reading and talking about literature may become defunct in my lifetime.

I'm so glad my mother, whose love of literature and writing inspired my own, didn't live to see this -- although, of course it didn't happen overnight. It's been decades since The New Canaan Book Shop closed its doors. It proudly displayed my mother's books, had a sophisticated selection, and its saleswomen were sharp as university profs. And it's been decades since the pink Remarkable Book Shop in nearby Westport with its slanted wood floors and endless nooks full of literary charms, closed. No, it's been part of the steady decimation of our culture, which, sad to say, will soon bypass language, art and conversation in favor of the most expedient message, the bottom line -- until we are all dots, as in a computer program.

You would think it's because nobody cares about books that B and N is closing, but that's not the case. The cashier at Buns and Noodles informed me that "every single customer has been telling me the same thing you are -- they're all upset."

Maybe all those customers weren't buyers all along as I have been. I've looked at book buying somewhat like supporting my favorite charity, for a few years now. Any time I go into a bookstore, I spend money. I buy espressos and desserts; I sit with magazines that I usually purchase. Inevitably, I buy at least one book.

What do we do with books anyway? It used to be that after reading one, I tossed it aside. After that, it would be open to lending, even getting lost. Once, after I had moved back to Connecticut from Ithaca, I went back to get my storage and found I had way too many books to lug back with me, even with the help of a friend. I got rid of the excess by setting the books in piles, according to category, around the Commons, hoping students and avid readers like me would pick them up eagerly, enjoying the surprise. In one stack were Plato and Nieszche. In another, Millet and Steinem. In yet another, collections of short stories and essays. There grew to be so many piles, I began to wonder if I might be arrested for a new form of littering.

I can't fathom giving away a book now. I am already treating them like collector's items.

Now, I read a book, and if I like it at all, place next to me on my nighttable, where it is likely to get a second read, and be perused at random.

And now I will lend favorite books to no one.

I've read Gabrielle Hamilton's exquisite and inspiring (for a writer) memoir: Blood, Bones and Butter at the Kitchen Table twice. And other books. Patti Smith's remarkable Just Kids is next for the second time around.

It's not as if I imagine that the writers whose works I read will know my private actions, know that I respect, value and appreciate their work. It's that I understand especially now how great literature really does open up spaces of knowing, care and intuition in one's being, and helps one to grow. I appreciate how magical literature is, and I want it always to be a part of my life, in whatever form.

What would we do without words, the art of them on a page? Even letters are beautiful to me, each one a caricature and a unique possibility.

I admired the quills on sale at Barnes and Noble last night, everything on a 30 percent discount. I thought, Wouldn't it be lovely to write with a quill, make calligraphy out of a story or a poem, make it look as precious as it really is? For, as we move forward into the future, it's possible, it really is, that we may forget to take note of who we are, may no longer care to leave traces of ourselves in letter forms to our children. It's possible, just possible that all that may remain of what I once loved, this mammoth, centuries old experience called literature may be symbols and short cuts, texts in a nonverbal and nonliterary age.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Revolution On Its Way

Zuccotti Park: A young girl reads alongside a painting. People gather in twos and threes to talk about politics, the priorities of the day. A group begins to drum. It isn't the kind of drumming you dance to. It's the kind that announces something important, demands that you listen, reminds everyone, near and far -- we are here, we are not going, it is time for a change.

Young, old and middle aged from all walks of life and places around the country have converged on Wall Street to speak their mind, turn the page on greed and corruption, make a mark, be heard. A musician stamps t-shirts. An articulate Vermonter who has come all the way here for the day, stamps dollar bills with "99%," 99-percent being the number of Americans who "have not," at least according to the American ethos, which is like no other -- for, where else in the world, would protestors be bestowed 400-plus boxes of food and supplies daily, and upwards of $300,000 in donations? A middle-aged woman who lost her pension tells her story. Some people have been there a day; others, a month.

Andre, 19, from New Jersey, said he arrived four days ago. He is tired of things being the way they are. What things? "Everything. Greedy people are taking too much away." How long will he stay? "As long as this lasts."

Catherine, a retired airforce officer, now a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, the mother of two teenagers, has a pension, a good retirement fund, but wonders how her children will go to college and how they will be able to afford retirement. She said the movement in the park is "organic. One night, when it was time to close down, I watched how people settled, the tarps lifting and falling, one by one, it was like an undulating wave, a sea of flowing movement. That's how it is here."

Those in Zuccotti Park have a sense of purpose and jobs to do. There is a huge chalkboard with "Work Schedule" written on it. Everyone, even those who have never held a job, takes on tasks, contributes. Some serve food. Others take donations. Some work on laptops. Many stand at the periphery of the park with signs that explain why they are here.

Plenty of food has been donated, and money is pouring in. What will be done with the donations? What next?

At five o'clock, a march begins. Some young women start a chant. I ask an elderly bearded marcher, "where are we going?" He doesn't know.

Does it matter?

Just now, the heart of the movement burns strong, and we march undeterred.

(To see a visual journal of Zuccotti Park, see the "Occupy Wall Street" album under the name, Arya-Francesca Jenkins on Facebook).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

True Acts of Revolution

I am a revolutionary at heart and I come from a line of activists on my mother's side, so I am with the protestors on Wall Street. I support their trying to wake up the financial district and those running our lives, or, I should say, bullying the poor around America and the globe. Like many of my closest friends, I've carried signs for peace and social action in many states for many years and spoken out for peace and social justice causes whenever it felt right to do so. I'm glad youth has finally gotten wind of the fact that riches and opportunity of the sort most people cherish are not waiting for them down the pike, and that it's time for a change. It's high time everybody realized this. It's time to wake up and acknowledge the damage of greed and ignorance at home and abroad. But how are we going to do that effectively?

We can plot out new strategies with which to approach the moneyed, as New York Times Op-Ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristof has. His video may illuminate and help some. But essentially, we are all going to have to start looking at our half empty glasses in a different way if we expect to distinguish ourselves from our oppressors or find any peace and resolution in the midst of this madness.

I think it's important to be happy, but we have to change our ideas about what success and happiness are, since for most people these are synonymous with having a lot of money and a lot of things. I can't imagine anyone protesting on Wall Street handed a $1 million bucks right now not running to the nearest bank and starting to invest and build a life, much in the same way that most of the rich people in this country have and do. I am not sure that while anger drives the protests about what has happened in this economy and society, there is much of a difference between those protesting who have not and the fat cats on Wall Street -- as both groups are placing ultimate value on the almighty dollar.

A true revolution will involve devaluing what the fat cats value most. It will mean not caring so much about going to universities that charge $40,000 to $60,000 a year; or about having jobs that will allow you and your partner a 10-day cruise on the islands once a year. Basically, it means altering the order of the echelon by which most of us have lived most of our lives, maybe eradicating it altogether in order to embrace just being, instead of doing. Being with ourselves, nature, one another. After all, given the direction in which we are headed, these are the prizes we stand to lose most. At the very least, we are going to have to slow down, become more caring and less competitive, focusing more on people and less on acquisitions.

Those of us who are so sure we are on the right side, the progressives, the democrats, the radicals are also going to have to rethink what it means to be a revolutionary and really change things.

One of the things I detest more than anything is watching how our habit of doing things in a rush for the sake of making money faster tramples over the needs of the most vulnerable among us. I hate watching cashiers rush the elderly because they can't wait to get to the next guy and take his money. If I'm lucky enough to stand behind an elderly person just trying to make a payment with dignity and being ushered away rudely, I'll stand up for my elderly friend. I'll make sure the cashier knows I'm on that person's side who is trying to engage in a little bit of conversation, perhaps the only conversation of the day, while clumsily trying to put away credit cards or money with arthritic fingers. Guess what, that person will be you in a few years -- if you are lucky.

Why not view acquiring patience and tolerance as an act of revolution. Refuse to honk back if somebody honks at you. Support the little, constant injustices in your immediate world that affect the way everybody thinks and acts. Get rid of your own oppressive habits, cultivating virtue instead of avarice, impatience and intolerance, which, after all, grow rampant among those we would call our enemies.

Being a true revolutionary means supporting a quieter, kinder world with every gesture.

Maybe the poorest among us, the homeless, those who don't care whether they obtain a house are the people we should think about emulating. I know the mother of a very famous singer who has gotten rid of all her money and credit cards and is on a three-year mission to survive without any money at all. Now that is brave, truly an act of revolution.

Instead of beating up on the rich, and hollering down institutions whose walls will always stare back at us blankly, we should try a different tack, approaching with kindness and humility those who have nothing at all and ask them how they survive and if they are ever happy. We might be surprised by their lessons and answers.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Food and Killing in American Culture

I've said some of this before, but I need to again. I think we're in trouble, deep trouble, and it doesn't have to do with vegetarianism versus carnivorism, and this isn't just a complaint.

Let me start with Anthony Bourdain's cold-blooded "capping" of a pig, two quick shots to the head, on camera during his recent New Orleans episode, an episode that not only featured the brutal killing of this poor pig, but its evisceration, while it was still alive.

Bourdain has said more than once he is proud to be part of The Travel Channel, which also features a couple of other winners. Adam Richman, for example. A big boy getting bigger all the time and there is no need to wonder why, as, on his show, Man v. Food Nation, he goes around the country on an eating spree while diners cheer him on and applaud his gluttony. When I say Richman eats a ton, I am talking pounds and pounds of beef, potatoes, and sometimes ice cream in a single sitting, sometimes within a required time frame of say, 20 minutes to half an hour. The point of the show is that he is competing with food -- Huh? Exactly. Also on this channel is Bizarre Foods, with Andrew Zimmerman, who goes around the world tasting weird creatures and things that generally would make anyone go, "ugh!"

Then there is the new show on the Food Network Channel, Sugar High, which features a bald, pasty-faced chef -- looking blanched no doubt from all the sugar he has consumed -- going around the country 'getting high' off pies, cakes and other rich desserts. The logo for the show is sugar strewn across a road. Who needs sugar after all?

Another new show on this network has a Mexican chef I had previously respected and his buddy going from locale to locale, sampling ridiculously, dangerously hot and spicy foods. I'd like to see their large intestines in about a year. Competing with these shows on this network are similar shows such as Sugar Rush, Glutton for Punishment, and Extreme Chef.

The Travel Channel was launched in 1987 by Trans World Airlines (TWA), in the hope it would boost business. Maybe the best way to stop supporting the network and its really nasty shows is to stop choosing that airline. The Food Network Channel was bought from A.H. Belo Corporation by E. W. Scripps Company in 1997 and has essentially launched into the stratosphere the careers of chefs Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay and Mario Batali, among others, while promoting the idea that chefs can be superstars too.

For much of this blog I've been caught up with the idea of the super chef, how this person in the kitchen can make a world so right and good. But I've also seen travesties of this, and the shows I have just listed are chock full of them. They were launched with the intent of appealing to the most stupid and gullible aspect of ourselves, that aspect that agrees with commercials about what is right and best for us to eat. And in the same breath, shows us ads about how to curtail the consequences.

We never do see ads for tofu, or raspberries, or sprouts, do we? Just meat and cheese, because companies think they have the right to own animals and to eviscerate and shell them out to us, packaged nicely of course, because the habit of eating meat is so rife and profitable.

There's a vegan activist named Gary Yourofsky whose been arrested something like 10 times for protesting for animal rights. He has a compelling argument regarding how we are taught to be cruel to one another and to animals, although we start off being loving and protective as children. And he has a powerful argument for choosing to harm less by not supporting the killing of animals -- who, like us, possess a sense of smell, taste, touch and hearing, have eyes, ears, noses, mouths, arms and legs, and, like us, procreate, have families, mothers and fathers -- and therefore, a very good argument for not eating meat, or its products.

But this isn't just about eating meat, and the process involved in getting to that so-called delicious plate of steak that so many would "die for." It's about sheer waste and hubris. How dare we indulge in tossing even sugar across a road when the world is in the state that it is regarding the issue not only of starvation, but our resources. There are millions of human beings dying in Somalia right now for lack of food and water.

I realize Somalia seems far away, and television isn't bringing images of that devastation to our televisions, even those televisions with 1,000 plus channels. It's too busy advertising for meat and its products, too busy showing us brutal reality shows about trapping and killing animals and feeling good about it. 

You know that maxim your mother used to tell you when you were a snotty-nosed kid, "Eat your food, there are hungry people starving in Africa." Well, it's true.

We have so much food compared to the rest of the world. Why can't we respect that, really appreciate it, and start treating food and ourselves and other sentient beings better. We're not even at the point where we can consider having healthy relationships if we are still stuck, dealing properly with the basic ingredients that keep us alive.


Saturday, August 13, 2011


For a long time I've been wanting my dear spiritual friend Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo to meet Gloria Steinem. Jetsunma is a British born Tibetan Buddhist nun, who started the Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery Project in northern India for nuns of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage. I met her in 1995, when she was touring the U.S., teaching the Dharma and expressing her wish to build a nunnery for nuns of her lineage. She reflected often on the poor conditions in which a female spiritual seeker in the East must thrive. Nuns are rarely given equal treatment to monks, and are rarely supported in their spiritual development -- although that situation, due largely to cultural norms, is changing now.

Tenzin Palmo traveled to India from England at the age of 20 to find a spiritual teacher, and spent close to 14 years in retreat in the Himalayas. Some time before he died, her teacher, Khamtrul Rinpoche asked her to set up a school for nuns. I met Tenzin Palmo on the occasion of her giving a teaching at the Namgyal Institute of Buddhist Studies in Ithaca, New York, where I was studying at the time. As a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, I was thrilled to meet someone who was not only thoroughly versed in Tibetan Buddhism, but seeped in the cultures of East and West, and, to top it all, a woman who spoke English! Not only is the combination I just spoke of very rare, I can count on one hand the number of individuals who have impressed me profoundly with their level of kindness, sincerity and depth of spiritual knowledge. She is definitely on that list. So anyway, after attending a couple of her teachings, I felt compelled to help her with an east coast tour and had the privilege of traveling around with her for a few months. Subsequent to that, a biography, A Cave in the Snow, by Vicki MacKenzie, and a compilation of teachings, some of which I transcribed, became Reflections on a Mountain Lake, Practical Teachings on Buddhism, by Tenzin Palmo. This year, Jetsunma published her second book, Into the Heart of Life, which I just finished reading. It is available through Snow Lion publications, and is a startlingly lucid and beautifully practical account of what we must all do in order to be happy in this lifetime. One can only ask oneself at this juncture, who wouldn't want to read it? My quick answer is, lazy people who do not wish to be responsible for their own happiness. Hopefully, the individuals reading this article, are of the other variety.

I have kept in touch with Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo through the years, maintaining a proper level of astonishment at her remarkable accomplishments while I trudge along in Western samsara. Now and then I have had the wish that she meet Ms. Steinem, someone who clearly has influenced women's development in society in the the West, and particularly, after noting in recent years that Steinem has been plumbing and writing about her own inner life. We are all indebted to Ms. Steinem in the West for her many efforts to help elevate the status of women. I was very pleased therefore when I heard that she and Jetsunma were going to be meeting for a talk at the Rubin Museum in New York this June. The talk, part of Jetsunma's recent tour, went swimmingly, although I was disheartened to hear afterward from Ms. Steinem that "Buddhism has absolutely nothing at all to teach feminism."

On this point, I have to disagree. Feminism has mostly been concerned with freeing women from the shackles of society. Buddhism is concerned with freeing all beings. If feminists had launched out with the latter attitude in mind, we would have come further. Secondly, anger, often part of the activist agenda, and certainly part of the feminist agenda, has done no good whatsoever to advance causes. Buddhism recognizes the devastating consequences of this emotion, and has practical methodology for dealing with it. Feminism does not have such strategies, has not cared to employ them, and therefore, we are, arguably, suffering the 'two steps back' at this time after the big step forward made by feminism in the last century.

What the discussion between Ms. Steinem and Jetsunma proved above all is how two accomplished masters who understand the importance of 'keeping the peace,' can agree to disagree.

There were many interesting points shared, and it was illuminating to attend the discussion between Jetsunma and Ms. Steinem at the Rubin. What it boils down to is this: You can come to the Buddha within, the Christ within, from the outside in, as Ms. Steinem did, or from the inside out, as Jetsunma did. The proof is in the pudding. I'll opt for the latter, and for smaller steps backward.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Guide to Healthy Eating in Manhattan

When I think of the best cities in the country in which to dine out, Chicago and Manhattan come immediately to mind. I live near Manhattan, and until recently had never come across a healthy guide to eating out there.

I was fortunate to run into Jared Koch, or rather, happen by his table at the Fort Lee Arts and Crafts Fair a week ago. He has what is dubbed as "the only nutritionist and food critic-approved Manhattan Restaurant Guide" there is, a portable baby blue compendium that is really a must for anyone like me who likes dining out frequently in the Tri-state area.

Before you carnivores panic, know the 'best of' list considers you too. The (long) title of this handy little bible is Clean Plates Manhattan, A Guide to the Healthiest, Tastiest and Most Sustainable Restaurants for Vegetarians and Carnivores. Koch, a nutritionist and health coach, co-wrote the book with critic Alex Van Buren, once a food writer for Time Out New York, although several more critics have since come on board. The book, says Koch, can be used to "find healthy and sustainable restaurants in Manhattan, to learn how to change your eating habits when you dine out -- and in, and to transform your life by seeing how eating healthier can be pleasurable and startlingly simple."

I rarely read a book in straight fashion front to back, so soon as I had Clean Plates in hand, I went immediately to see if some of my favorite haunts are listed. Caravan of Dreams, a vegan hippie-friendly eatery we like to frequent at 405 East 6th Street, is. I have eaten at a few vegan joints in the city, and this one is the best. The worst one can say about it is that sometimes the service, however friendly, is uneven, but the quality of food is the best I've ever encountered in the vegan realm. And that includes desserts and espresso.

Caravan of Dreams features performers of every variety and once even a Tarot reader. I indulged, having once been one of those myself. I realize there isn't much I haven't done in my abundant life, save cater to the Mob and shoeshine. And I am serious about that. The Tarot reader was nice enough, and mysterious with her vibrating blue eyes and shockingly red hair, but she was off the mark and pissed off my mate, who didn't like hearing that I was attracted to three different men and trying to decide which one to go with. A word of caution to fortune tellers, 'Think about what you are saying and to whom you are saying it, and keep it simple and broad.'

I was also gratified to see Candle 79 mentioned, where we dined recently with a friend from Florida. You can't miss with salads of just about any variety at either of these two restaurants, but I personally find the clientele at Caravan of Dreams a little more discrete and easier to take. Something about a six-foot-two father walking in out of the rain with his five-year old sitting on his shoulders and expecting to be seated immediately at Candle 79 made me realize that those who eat there are not only hippy-ish and young, as at Caravan of Dreams, but yuppy-ish, older and entitled too.

What I love about Clean Plates is it has a broad, interesting and eclectic selection, from the "solidly American" Gramercy Tavern to the macrobiotic Mana to the Natural Gourmet Institute, the vegetarian cooking school at 48 West 21st Street. I notice Van Buren has a penchant for chocolate, so I now have a nice selection of new places to go for my favorite desserts as well.

Clean Plates is available for a mere $14.95 on Amazon.com and via www.cleanplates.com, and the esteemed Deepak Chopra has this to say about it: "Jared's nutritional advice in Clean Plates has the power to transform your individual health and our collective well-being." What more could you ask for in a guide for healthy eating?

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Local Spa

This past Wednesday a deadline at work had me so wound up I actually only gave myself "bathroom breaks" away from my computer, and found myself knoshing on cashews from a nearby bag, only because I had seconds to kill while my pdf files "saved." No lunch for me. At the end of the day, all I could think was, "Get me to a spa!" So, there I went.

Never, ever, ever threaten to cancel an appointment with the spa lady because the time has come for your "scrub," but no one has arrived, yet. At that stressed out moment, one minute past the hour was too much to wait. I announced I was leaving just as my scrub lady arrived, diva-ready in a black lace bra and panties. Throwing up her hands, she moaned in dismay at the news that I had planned to chuck the appointment with her. I followed her into the "pool" room and she pointed to a table covered with pink plastic on which she doused tepid water while gossiping about me in Korean with the neighboring scrubber, busy at a nearby table. Both of them were going on about my outrageous behavior, repeating to one another, "oh my god, oh my god." It was definite. I was headed for a doosey of a "scrub." She snatched my towel.

The "scrubber," no more than 105 pounds, had hands like the jaws of life, and used them instantly and vigorously upon the tenderest parts of my body, pummeling my peanut-laden stomach, then chest, legs and arms. I mean, pummeling: How-Dare-You-Threaten-To-Break-My-Appointment. I could feel the wrath of Ms. Lee on my limbs, and thought, oh, what the hell, the poor people in concentration camps had it worse, closed my eyes, grabbed the rag that had been placed behind my head, and placed it over my eyes to quell the blinding overhead lights, and keep myself from seeing what would be done to me.

Ms. Lee pummeled and smacked, pummeled and smacked, flipped and bent my legs into unfathomable yogic contortions, then flipped me over onto my stomach. Then came the actual scrub. She scrubbed so hard, I thought my skin was going to sail off my body. I wondered when it would all end. Finally, after what felt like an infinity of time, I was told to aim my body in the opposite direction. Ms. Lee dragged me across the wet plastic so I almost flew off the table. She applied brakes by grabbing hold of my head. "Let go head," she said, then dropped it on what felt like an iron rung at the table's edge -- one last reminder, for good measure, never to betray a scrubber. I had oil applied to my body, and I remembered how in Africa, among certain tribes, that is the procedure before you are branded. Then Ms. Lee pulled me like a doll by the waist to a sit up position and hoisted my arms, further back than I thought they could ever go, breaking something in my upper shoulders and neck. Tension, I think it was. I had warm water tossed all over me. Then she patted my cheeks, like I was a cute child, and slathered my face with the scrub for me to remove at my leisure. Then she came up close to my face, smiling big. It was over.

I proceeded to take my pores that must have been more open than the Grand Canyon over to the Sandstone Sauna, then the Amethyst Sauna, where I gazed up at those beautiful stones and imagined they were all mine, then the 130-degree sauna, where I sat alongside amorphous shapes covered in wet towels and burlap sacks to stave off the intensity of the heat.

After all the beating and broiling, I decided it was time to eat, and had what felt like the finest meal of my life. The first meal after a long captivity. Hard-boiled eggs, Soba noodles, and a variety of other hot and tasty small plates that made eating tastefully impossible. I sipped, slurped and sucked to my heart's delight, wondering what it would be like to spend 24 hours in this place that is indeed open around the clock. There were bodies stretched out everywhere, some snoozing in obscene positions on the incredibly comfortable leather chaise lounges before wide HD screens, where only entertainment such as golf and soccer played. And a Korean version of Idol, where contestants sang incredibly beautifully to songs that sounded like famous pop tunes from America's 60s. I passed a game room with tables for chess, pink and leather lounges; experienced the gold sauna, which oddly, did not make me feel rich, just greedy; dipped into the tea pool and the hot pool; then showered away what remained of my skin and life.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Six-Fingered Discounts

In the aftermath of the Final Assault at Borders, after the Last Mass pillaging of its items by customers jangling keys with Mercedes Benz emblems, wagging Coach purses, swearing, bullying, talking down and talking over overworked young employees while attempting to finagle cheap goods down to practically nothing -- I realized that we, or at least  Donna, came away a big winner. And that is no surprise.

While my cache was a single, modest memento, a paperback of essays, the pint-size Size Queen I live with made out “like bandits.” Donna is after all the one I had to talk down from buying a 64-inch HD screen (fearing it might rob me of my desire to even bother going to the movies), and for whom only Benzes and Audis suffice, as, she claims, other types of cars such as (the recently disposed of) Infinity 35X -- “a poor man’s rich car”--  are not “roomy” enough for all of her five foot two-inch needs. 

Certainly Donna had to be one of the most adventurous and successful of those vying for remains at the colossal Borders wake, for, in its aftermath, I found myself stepping into a living room I barely recognized. Five-foot shelves ( filled with bric-a-brac and fresh titles) perched like book ends at either side of the 58-inch HD masterpiece we did settle for. Even the basement changed, as now, before the washer and dryer sits a massive set of metal shelves accommodating not one but several tripods and several cases with video equipment.

Then there are the 20 walkie talkies sitting on the kitchen counter. And the books on film and fine Italian cuisine – each, five pounds or more – that are also now nesting here. 

My own particular addiction is – surprise, surprise -- books, especially paperbacks that stack easily or can be easily tucked into the wide pockets of purses or knapsacks. (My Kindle, a Christmas present, goes to work with me every day, as it’s the ultimate easy carry).  The night tables in my room are stacked with piles of books, all read, and whose titles I must see, and be free to peruse as easily as the mind of a close friend at a moment’s notice.

My final Borders purchase was a yellow paperback with a six-fingered hand on the cover, Augusten Burrough’s collection of essays, Possible Side Effects, which I tried to savor slowly, story by story, each night for a couple of weeks before going to sleep. Some essays stirred me; a few made me smile and chuckle; others pricked me with their sudden, surprising and unnecessary meanness, a characteristic I find particularly loathsome in literature. I read Burrough’s book with its bitter undercurrent, as if I’d picked out a lemon from a bowl of fruit – Even though I can appreciate the smarts that produced it.

When all was said and done, after Borders’ shelves and bookcases had been ransacked, its spoils taken – for better or worse, when only U-Hauls decorated the parking lot, and there was not a shard left, even of memories of the place, its functions or its people, after I had walked away with my own small treasure and explored it, I thought, what next?

What will replace Borders? -- A gym? Or an office for dentists? Or accountants? -- As if there are already not enough of these. 

I had better get into the habit of walking around with a book, finding my own place, wherever it be –a corner seat in a café, a bench in a park, or even a cement stoop. My future will be filled with random acts of reading, snatches of consciousness stolen from the consuming melee.

Monday, April 4, 2011

France in Fort Lee

A sophisticated, hot spot with a Mediterranean swagger, a lot of cool and culture is just what Fort Lee needs and now has in the way of Khloe Bistrot, a French provincial restaurant newly opened on Main Street. It's in a hopeful location, across the street from where Borders -- the only other thinking person's hangout in the area I can think of -- was once situated, and is now closing. The owner of Khloe's and her co-workers smoke their cigarettes outside the Bistro, staring nervously across the street at the giant-sized posters announcing everything must go, "50-percent off," "75-percent off everything," dangling from the high windows of Borders. It may hardly seem the time to launch anything, but it's spring, and this is a daring and fresh idea, and it's high time French cuisine came to Fort Lee.

To step into Khloe's is to know immediately that you are in a stylish, affluent home, where you may hang out for a while if you are willing to spend some money. Just as you step in, you can see the busy kitchen beyond a counter to your left. A chandelier hangs opposite. The ceiling is high and the walls are painted black. You will not want to get up at all from the comfortable Louis XIV style chaises distributed around sturdy wooden square and round tables. The music, a blend of European rock and Sirius Chill, emanates from a line of giant speakers, and is cool and sexy.

The owner, Nina, who hails from some two locales, one of which is French, was elusive but excited about her new restaurant, which, in a couple of weeks, will stretch its hours until two a.m., and start including bite-size offerings on its menu.

"It's for people that don't want to go home early, that want to stay out and have fun," she said.

A long-time insomniac once addicted to all-night partying and dancing, I can relate.

The menu is delightful but uneven, with possibilities even for vegetarians. While the tri-colored salad was insignificant, although its price -- $11-$12 -- was not, the risotto, cooked al dente to perfection, and combined with shitake and portobello mushrooms and butternut squash, was savory and hot. A dessert shared by three, the Shue Hazelnut creme, an ample puff inside which was a creme to die for, was really superb. The espresso, another must for me, meaning Must-Be-Perfect, was not. Too intense and oily. The fuel oil variety, which I can live without, especially at the price of $4 per single shot. Our meal for three, sans alcoholic beverages, came to about $170, including the tip. You have to BYOB.

Khloe is chock full of possibilities and has the thrill of parties to come hanging in the air. The conversation, ambience and dessert really made it a worthwhile experience. I'm looking forward to checking out what's cooking there -- in the kitchen and elsewhere -- a couple of months from now. Its first weekends, I heard, were packed.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Books and Borders

Since hearing of the recent closing of our local bookstore and cafe, Borders, I've had little else on my mind but books and the societies they make and how rapidly and radically these are changing. I remember coming upon my first Borders in 1988 in Stamford, Connecticut. For a while I walked around the spacious store, my jaw dropped, unbelieving in the rarity of a cafe bar and books together. The barista actually invited me to pick up a book, grab a cafe and sit and read while drinking. Under a kind of magical spell, I returned over and over again to that nook to write and read to my heart's content. I was an adjunct teaching creative writing at a local university then and had time on my hands to do such wondrous things. Once, while sipping on capuccinos, I sat and read all of Gloria Naylor's The Women of Brewster Place. Another time, perhaps inspired by a unique blend of twisted thoughts eeking out of the corners of books and shelves at that Borders, I sat and wrote a 26-page story called "Oliviana," about an affair between a gay man and a transsexual. I loved the characters in that story, which, in my view, pushed boundaries, my own and those of convention.

A good bookstore inspires fresh thoughts no less than good literature and company. But Borders, at least the one in Fort Lee, New Jersey, the town in which I now live, will no longer be working its magic on its residents and neighbors, as it is closing. Book sales have drawn more people to buy up its remains in recent days than perhaps anything else has in a decade. There were the days of course when readings and concerts at Borders drew crowds, but those went up in smoke along with the economy.

The same week I heard the bad news about our Borders closing, I heard that Buffalo Books, formerly known as The Bookery, where I worked part-time for a couple of years while teaching in and around Ithaca, New York, was also closing. The good news is that the community has taken up the cause and will more than likely save the place through some kind of cooperative enterprise. It's good news when people band together when the powers that be try to prevent growth and opportunity. Americans are good like that, and bands of them fighting good causes like that one around the country have inspired me lately. I know Ithaca has the mind and heart and guts it takes to keep a place it wants to thrive, alive. I hope books and literature remain part of its tradition for years to come.

Bookstore cafes have become an American tradition. But the bar of the 90s, where human beings imbibing non-alcoholic drinks mingled in the company of books and each other are now being replaced by virtual cafes and Amazon.com, and perhaps another growing trend -- book clubs. When I expressed my concern to a fellow editor at Pearson Education about the society of books going down the tubes, she was quick to mention book clubs and how fast they are multiplying.

Little societies can have great impact, as long as they keep growing, and as long as they remain open venues for increased participation. Otherwise, they are just perpetrating an elitist cycle, keeping both knowledge and enthusiasm about it away from those who potentially need it most.

In the wake of the bookstore closings I just mentioned, I want not only to launch a book club, but an all-night cafe where insomniac readers, writers and artists of every variety can join in the spirit of non-conformity to talk about their art and experiment with it. While Kelly performs jazz, and Diana paints pictures, and Doug recites his poems, and Donna videotapes it all, I will serve espressos and green tea and Renee's vegan muffins. We will play and grow together. Then, just as the rest of the world comes alive, as the sun shines its full face on our streets and windows, we will close our doors and return once more to the enterprise of dreaming.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Modern Literature's Penchant for Lemons

Here's a link to a rather acerbic assessment of the art that ran in  n + 1 in 2006. It's by Elif Batuman, a young essayist whose own preference is for Russian literature, which became the subject of her book, The Possessed. 

Every paragraph of this essay elicited an internal reaction from me, not all of it contrary to Batuman. What I do appreciate is her call to writers to be more revolutionary, unafraid to write drivel, to be different and step out of line. This can never be a bad thing. Is she aspiring to become a teacher of writing?

I am wondering what those of you who write and/or read with some frequency think of this piece. Do you feel her comments about literature are more or less true in 2011?

Getting Inside the Great Chef's World

This is the second or third time I've picked up The Reach of A Chef, Professional Cooks in the Age of Celebrity by Michael Ruhlman and it's gripped me as much this time as the others, if not more so. I haven't read anyone who matches Ruhlman's insight, sensitivity and intelligence, describing the art of the chef in today's world. His is simply the best book on the subject I have read to date.

The Reach of A Chef explores the lives of such culinary luminaries as Thomas Keller, Melissa Kelly, Grant Aschatz and Masa Takayama, in amazing, often breath-taking detail. The book reads like a top-notch thriller.The reader is left not only wanting to taste great recipes, but meet the chefs, study and work with them. Ruhlman describes -- the innovative Aschatz, concocting recipes that are more like strange experiments at Alinea in Chicago; Kelly plucking fresh produce from her garden in Maine, demanding the best, proving over and over again that a powerful woman in the kitchen who also happens to be petite, cannot be underestimated; the quiet and intense Keller, managing four four-star restaurants on the east and west coasts -- the fourth being Per Se in New York City; and Masa, who is not interested in evolving a brand, but runs the most expensive restaurant in New York, where for $450 (including tip), a customer can expect to dine on food designed, prepared and served entirely as Masa sees fit.

In the end, one has to wonder, where will Masa, Le Bernardin and Per Se be 10 years from now, from the customer's standpoint? Will they still attract moneyed foodies? Or just clientele willing to relive the thrill of days gone by? It is clear that running a successful restaurant requires a specially driven individual, but developing a brand, as superstars Cat Cora, Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and most notably, Emeril and Rachael Ray have done, requires a special kind of personality, not only driven, but infused with magical timing, focus, persistence and endurance.

Emeril was always a maniac in the kitchen, cooking fast and furiously, but not always the nice guy. In the early days, he cursed out employees, until, one night, in the middle of service, a restaurant's owner, passed him a piece of paper on which was written a life-changing message: "You're too damn smart to be so damn stupid." Emeril re-read the note when he got home that night and determined he was going to change his attitude and habits and become as supportive and positive as he could be. The first life changer, he claims, was a book he read called, The Magic of Thinking Big. In Emeril's world, anything is possible, and this is the key message of his brand, and perhaps the reason he attracts so many people. His enthusiasm is highly contagious.

Cora's branding name and theme is also the title of her second book, From the Hip. A Culinary Institute of America (CIA) graduate, she is now a celebrity chef, and a regular on Iron Chef America, where I recently saw her beat out a French chef contestant with her extraordinary focus and versatility, working a menu with cherries as a theme.

According to Ruhlman, a great chef must possess "infinite energy and stamina...and massive ambition." It's not just the massive energy and product of great American chefs Ruhlman brings to the reader, it's also their process and art. And this is where both his narrative and its central figures, as well as Ruhlman's skill at depicting them, transcend being merely compelling, and become sublime.

This, fellow foodies, is what it's all about:

"The enduring image I have from my short time in Masa's kitchen was from watching a lunch service.

"At this particular lunch service, there was a single customer, an older woman, seated centrally at the hinoki bar. Masa stood before her unsmiling but looking comfortable in his loose clothing, his round shaved head glowing in the carefully lighted space. He bowed in plying his trade, in cutting fish on his board with his gorgeous knife. He first served the series of nonsushi dishes, ginkgo nuts, the uni risotto for which he's famous, the lobster-and-foie shabu-shabu for which he should be famous, the elaborate blowfish dish, before moving into the sushi performance that included a dozen carefully prepared bites of toro, mackerel, grouper, shima aji, tai, hirame, ken, ika, tako, kanpachi, anago, ebi, eel. He cuts each piece before the woman, forms a small ball of rice and seasons it with a bit of fresh wasabi or one of a few simple sauces, folds the fish over the pillow of rice, and sets it on a dark stone disk in front of her. The woman lifts it with her hand and, with a small dip of her head, like a bow, eats it in a bite. 

"The meal lasted more than two hours. Occasionally, Masa would take a break in the kitchen, talk on his cell phone, to have some tea, who knows -- maybe check in with his bookie or reserve a Sunday tee time, or just relax for a moment. But when his customer, the old woman, had been alone for the right amount of time, he would return and resume his work.

"The entire restaurant was empty but for these two people, with fine spots lighting them both up vividly against the black walls of the restaurant, Masa slicing and serving exotic fish and the woman eating what he placed before her, all of it in perfect silence. I stood and stared transfixed from my hideout in the kitchen. They were beautiful to behold. A monk serving a monk." - From The Reach of A Chef, by Michael Ruhlman

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Story of Fish in Talara

If you ever have the luxury of traveling to Peru, and it is a luxury -- for it is one of the richest countries in South America, in terms of traditions, folklore and landscape, and also what resides in its waters -- you surely won't find what I knew.

We grew up in Talara, which is alongside the northwest Peruvian coastline, literally across the street from the Pacific Ocean. Talara now has a population of about 104,000, and has a fishing fleet, airport and army base, but when we lived there, in the early 60s, there could not have been more than a couple of hundred people for miles around. There were: the refinery where our fathers worked, the camp for the engineers of Standard Oil and all their families with its rows of similar ranch houses, the pink stucco Staff School at the top of a small hill, and the Staff Club. Sundays we attended a small church in a nearby village. Just beyond the camp, along the same poorly paved road, were one gasoline pump and one Bodega, where our mothers did all their shopping, and, of course, there was the sea, which was a treasure trove of catch.

The sea teemed with marlin. The largest marlin ever, weighing in at 1,560 pounds, was caught the year I was born by an oil magnate who used a rod and reel and five pounds of mackerel as bait. He struggled with it for close to two hours before seeing the size of the thing. My father and his friends were always out for marlin. Fortunately, since the heyday of marlin, the late 50s to the early 60s, the sports fishing industry has been kept in check and the Peruvian government has taken steps toward conservation, by, for example, banning the commercial harvest of billfish.

As a child, I developed a fascination with fish, the object so prized by our fathers and enjoyed so often at our dinner table. I used to watch our gardener Raul strip down a bass or bluefish, readying it for our consumption. The first thing he would do is pop the fish eyes into his mouth. It would gross me out to no end, but he claimed the eyes gave him strength. Our cook took the head for soup that she made for herself and our nanny. We ate the body of the fish, baked or in the form of seviche.

I loved to watch our cook slice up the white raw fish, chop up onions, peppers, tomatoes and soak the mix in a soup of fresh lemon juice in a bowl overnight. Just before she served it, she would toss in salt and pepper and turn the seviche with her hands. I couldn't believe I was eating raw fish, that there was no blood, and that it tasted so good!

Fish, rice and corn pudding was my favorite dinner meal. I liked to pour olive oil over my rice. When our fish was baked, we ate slowly, careful for all the splinter-like bones. I don't recall ever eating better simple meals or better fish than when we lived in Talara. Although I wasn't a vegetarian, being only a child, it was in those years, living in Talara, that I had my first inkling of how sacred that creature was. But it wasn't for the reason you may think.

One day, I was taking a walk alongside the beach and saw a group of naked fishermen spearing something they were dragging in with a net. I approached them, curious, and saw, what appeared to be a giant whale, which, in retrospect, was probably a black marlin or shark. One of the fishermen sliced open the fish belly with his spear and out came a fish-shaped creature about my size, wrapped in a gelatinous, milky substance. I ran up, "What are you doing? You just killed a mother and her baby!" I stood in the middle of them, looking up at the gold tooth of the one who had done the killing, trying to stare him down. They all just laughed at me. "La niña, la niña," he kept saying, as if that explained the whole thing, my being a little girl. After that, I couldn't bring myself to eat fish, remembering as I would, that image of what I imagined was a baby fish, lying dead and abandoned on the beach. I didn't want to be part of that mass uncaring.

That instance marked the first time I realized that fish, that prized possession of so many, was not just an object out there in the universe. It had its own family and was part of a larger family too.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Baseball On My Mind

You have to realize, up until recently I wasn't sure if the Mets were a baseball or a football team. I'm not much into sports, even though I've enjoyed a Superbowl or two in my day. And due to my wide variety of interests, even within the reading arena, it doesn't seem likely that I would pick up a book about -- of all things -- baseball, but I did. What is even more remarkable is that I enjoyed it.

Carl Furillo, Brooklyn Dodgers All-Star, by Ted Reed, was a Christmas present from a fellow Wesleyan graduate, one, who, undoubtedly remembers the Wesleyan proclivity for getting students to stray from their main focus of interest and learn something new. As a liberal arts student in Middletown a few years ago, I studied English and American Studies, and when the time came to "try something new," in other words, be "liberal," I went for -- of all things -- Symbolic Logic. What a nightmare.

Luckily, learning a bit about baseball and a lot about Furillo, did not turn out to be such a nightmare. Far from it. It is baseball after all and not football that is even to me the quintessential American game. Reed, a transportation reporter for TheStreet.com, who was formerly a Miami Herald business reporter, has done a beautiful job of researching his subject and has written about Furillo engagingly, so that even a novice like myself to the game might be entertained and enriched. The quotes Reed selects give voice to key men that helped shape the sport, their cultures and mindsets and brings to life a vital post-war era, when the country like the sport was growing in leaps and bounds. Most importantly, Reed deconstructs the myths about Furillo, one of which was that he was a racist. Until Reed wrote about him, Furillo was one of the few major members of the Brooklyn Dodgers who had not had a book done on him.

Furillo, for those who know little or nothing about him, was a World War II vet, a great right fielder with a wickedly powerful arm who played in six World Series and, in 1953, led the National League in hitting. More than once, Furillo would wind up in the middle of others' battles, but when his integrity was challenged, he would not back down, even early on, as a rookie:

"When I got the word that I was supposed to go and work out with the Brooklyn ballclub, the waiters and some of the ballplayers that were down there threw a little party. We had altogether about a dozen beers, and I think I had one or half of one. When it was over, they cleaned up the room and they put everything in a wastepaper basket. Well, Hopper was bucking for Durocher's job, and he was sneaking around there, and he figured this would be a good chance to smack Durocher right in the mouth. So he went and turned me into Mr. Ricky, saying that I was drinking and that he had caught me. Young Rickey saw me and I told him all about it and then, when I got to the ballpark, I told Durocher what happened. And Durocher told me, 'Don't worry about it, kid,' and it seemed like it was all over. But then on the following day he came up to me and said, 'Why didn't you tell me the truth?' I said 'I did tell you the truth.' And he said 'That's not the story I heard.' So I said 'I don't care what you heard, I'm telling you the truth.' So he was calling me a liar then, and I think from that day on I lost a little faith in Durocher." - Carl Furillo, Brooklyn Dodgers All-Star

Carl Furillo turned out to be a treasuretrove of rich stories and a fascinating read.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Avocado Bean Bowl

I just happened on a super delicious combo that I'd like to tell you about. We're heading for another n'oreaster, and I thought, "What a perfect time to put soup on the stove." And so I did, a bean soup mix in a medium pot of boiling water dashed with sea salt. I then proceeded to mince three cloves of garlic and chop up a large carrot, the ends of a few celery stalks and three strips of ABC bacon. Already Been Cooked. At the end of the hour when the buzzer rang, the soup looked hearty, so I popped in the veggies and bacon.

Then I turned and saw a lonely avocado that has been sitting in a basket on my kitchen table for a few days. It was ripe. Perfectly ripe. To eat today, ripe.

Two of us in our household were hungry to the point of salivating, so I sliced the avocado open, got rid of the pit, scooped out the veggie and bean portion of the soup, of which there was plenty, and plopped it on the natural dish formed by the avocado. Then I placed the avocado topped with beans and veggies in a small bowl.

Presto! One scrumptuous avocado soup bowl.

Monday, January 10, 2011

My Broken Relationship with -- Olives

At a recent holiday party, I realized my passion for olives was over. Gone, gone, gone, and I can't get it back. But I do know why it happened.

Too many olives.

I used to love them. All their shapes, tastes and sizes. I found the most unlikely places to frequent all because of the olive bins. And there were better places than others. Fairway Market, for one. Eataly, for another.

I tasted green olives, olives stuffed with almonds, capers and jalapenos. Black ones, large and small, the Greek kalamata -- brine-cured -- and the Italian gaeta. The small black French nicoise. The unpitted Spanish green manzanilla olive, the Californian sevillano, and even the Italian red. I savored them at all hours, especially late at night, when I longed for what was both sour and salty, varied and rich in taste. Then suddenly, overnight, the taste of olives just didn't excite me. In fact, it repelled me. I tried all of my favorite olives -- green and black, large and small, briney and sweet. Nada. It was over. I couldn't get the love back. You know what I mean.

I am separating from Olives. It's happened before. Years ago, as a runaway, I know for a fact I single handedly emptied out every seven-eleven of its cashews along that island boot off Massachusetts called Cape Cod. And that was long before my passion for cashews ran out.

Now I've played out my love of olives. I've had one too many, too much of a good thing. I'm almost grieving, but not quite because I know there's a world of possibilities out there, of better and more tantalizing taste experiences. I know I will find a substitute, although I will always remember olives with glee.