Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Springs happens slowly and almost imperceptibly up north. First, the foot-thick sheath of ice on Lake Winnipesaukee starts to crack. Wider and wider patches of free flowing water start to appear near land at first and then in wider and wider arcs. As you can see from my photo shot this morning, the crack is widening. In about 2 weeks (mid-April I'd guess), we'll have "ice out"--the day when the SS Mount Washington, the pleasure cruise ship, can leave its mooring and head out for its first run of the season. By then, all the snow will be gone too--it's a lumpy mass at the end of our condo's parking lot and lingers in mounds in front of our decks. But there are less obvious signs too--like the budding of the evergreens and the first trill of the tree frogs. But slowly, slowly, we inch towards the warmth.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

One City. Many Villages.

_Cotilleos-gossip ., originally uploaded by amparogue.

I love the sense of community in the city. If this strikes you as odd, here are some examples from our visit to New York this winter:

Scene 1:

R and I are getting on the elevator in a friend's building with at least 200 tenants. We're heading up to their apartment. A woman we don't know is already in the elevator waiting for the doors to close.

R says to me: "What floor do they live on?"
Me: "Four. I think. Or maybe 5?"
R: "It's 4." (He pushes the button.)
Woman in elevator: "Who are you going to see?"
Me: "The Levy's"
Woman: "Ann and Henry? 4-I. So they're back from Florida?"
R: "No they're still down there."

Scene 2: Same building, several days later.

Mrs. so-and-so is moving out. R and a tenant in the building see moving men carrying furniture out of the elevator and into a truck. He tells R: "5-J is moving out. It's taking all day. Four rooms of furniture in 3 rooms."

The same day. A different neighbor tells Alex in the laundry room:
"Apt 5-J is moving out. You wouldn't believe all the furniture. Four rooms of furniture in 3 rooms."

Scene 3:

Alex and I take the Long Island Railroad from Great Neck to B & H Photo in Manhattan. Now remember. This train transports millions of passengers every day. We're in B & H for a few hours when a man comes up to us.

Man: "You were on the train, weren't you? I recognized you."
Me: (puzzled, searching my memory and coming up with a vague recollection) "Oh, yes, that's right. I remember now."
Man: "Funny, isn't it? We both end up here."
Me gesturing at the store: "Yes. This is a great place, isn't it?"
Man: Nods.
Me: "So where are we going next?"

Those Lips

Segredo, originally uploaded by LĂ­dia Ramalho.

On the streets and in the subways this winter in New York City, I picked up a lot of impressions and filed them away in notebooks or on camera. This time, it was lips.

This needs some explanation. In the gym, I'd see her working out. She was trim, athletic...her blonde hair caught up in a pony tail, swaying as she lifted weights. From the back, her taut muscles, trim waist and lean legs indicated she was in her 20's or 30's. But then, the moment of truth... She'd whirl around, dumb bells in hand, and I'd see her blooming botoxed lips in a face as rigid as a mask. Well, I'd think, she's half mummified already in her pursuit of eternal youth.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Risotto--Two Ways

There's such a thing as too many choices. Sometimes I don't mind--like the chance to have my decaf Dunkin Donuts with a shot of vanilla, light, 1 sugar---which they only get right about 25% of the time. But that's the price you pay for having so many options.

When I'm cooking for company, I'm happy to oblige those who are vegetarians or allergic to shellfish, but sometimes I feel put upon--like the night last week when I made risotto 2 ways (one for the vegetarians who didn't like onions or chicken broth and another for the carnivores with onions and chicken broth). All was fine until the dear someone I married wanted to know if I made it the way he wanted--with vegetable broth and onions. Oddio! As my Italian grandmother would say. What do I look like? A short-order cook? In the end, though, everyone was happy and the recipe came out just right. So now, I'll pass it along to you in 2 forms--one for vegetarians and the other for carnivores.

Risotto--2 Ways
(Serves 6-8 as a side dish)

1.5 cups of arborio rice
4 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 medium onion, diced
1 lb. of mushrooms (I used a mixture of mini portobellos and white)
1-2 clove(s) garlic, minced (optional)
1/4 cup white wine or more to taste. (A dry pinot grigio or chardonnay works well.)
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup shredded parmegiana cheese (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Saute the mushrooms, onions and garlic in the olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat.

2. When the onions are translucent and the mushrooms are browned, add the uncooked rice. Stir for 2 minutes until it's lightly browned and coated with the oil. Turn down the temperature to medium-low.

3. Add the broth one cup at a time and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding and stirring while the rice cooks. If the rice starts to stick to the bottom of the pot, lower the temperature some more, add more liquid and stir again.

4. Taste the rice as it cooks. When about 15 minutes have passed and it begins to soften, add the white wine. Continue tasting and stirring until the rice is soft and becomes creamy, somewhere around 20 minutes. At that point, take it off the heat and stir in about 1/4 cup of shredded parmegiana cheese.

Serving suggestions for the carnivores: Pair this with a salad, Italian bread, and chicken piccata. For the vegetarians...just omit the chicken. In any case, enjoy!

Risotto--2 Ways on Foodistab