Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Bliss and a Whole Lotta Hot Dogs

While most of my friends are out of town for Memorial Day weekend––Jo and her family are in Big Sur hot-tubing naked, Kimberly is upstate in the Catskills relaxing and Laura is sunbathing in Mexico’s Mayan Riveria––Steve, Sydney and Sebastien and I are having our own sort of holiday––the Stay-cation.

Too broke to travel but still adventurous, we have traveled near (our local keypark, which we visit at least once a day and see many neighbors who have become friends) and far (the Hudson River Parkway). We have eaten hot dogs handcrafted from local, organic, ethically raised hogs and cows, and we have eaten Nathan’s hot dogs from a vendor on the Christopher Street Pier. We have picnicked on triple crème got cheese, sopresseto and Sauvignon Blanc with our neighbors in the courtyard of our building, the kids running around on the grass that houses a giant Picasso sculpture and multiple “Keep off Grass!” signs. And we have served dinner at home on two occasions over one long, lazy Memorial Day weekend. Lovely.

Raising children in the city requires patience and perseverance. There is the crowded housing and the outrageous cost of living and the craziness of preschool admissions. And yet, there is also the possibility and, for us, the reality of community that is as easy and natural as breathing. Other than dinner invitations for a Friday night supper that went out a month or so ago, the entire weekend of plans and fun and hanging out were all spontaneously planned. Everyday, when we go to the park in the morning, we run into other families and from there we make plans for impromptu expeditions to the water-park or dinner at our house or lunch for 12 at a kid-friendly restaurant near-by. By design, humans are meant to be together, to share tasks and to live among each other. It’s in our DNA. How strange then that this happens so easily, so naturally, in such a man-made, cosmopolitan, very “unnatural” place like Manhattan.

There were two dinner this long weekend which I think count towards my goal of 25 dinner parties in 12 months. Friday night was spent with an old friend of mine from the San Fernando Valley. Ethan and I met at Teenage Drama Workshop when we were 12. Later, we found out, his mother was my mom’s boss; our mom’s are still friends. Ethan is a playwright and the bandleader/singer/songwriter of the Ethan Lipton Orchestra. His music is strange and wondrous and old timey but also a little dirty. I like it a whole bunch. You can listen online here. His wife Heather is a lovely photographer. Inspired by the new bounty of farmer’s market produce I cooked a simple dinner for them.

Spagettini with Fresh Local Scallops, Cilantro and Red Pepper
Frisee and Baby Greens with Feta, Grape Tomatoes, Asparagus and Mint
Sauvignon Blanc, Wellies, New Zealand 2004

Fresh Strawberries with Crème Fraiche
Blue Plum Brandy, Clear Creek Distillery, Portland, Oregon

Sunday evening we had Jan, one of Steve's NYU colleagues and his wife Allison and their two children Theo and Harlin to dinner. It was so hot that I ordered a roasted chicken from fresh direct and kept it simple and easy:

Roast Chicken
Saffron Rice
Steamed Broccoli
Sliced Avocado
Fresh Salsa (recipe follows)
Pinto Beans
Whole Wheat Tortillas

The children got along beautifully and Theo, age 4, ate broccoli for the first time since he gave up green veggies a year ago. I probably talked too much, but I always do that. Hopefully the food and conviviality compensated for my chatter. All in all, it was a weekend that more than made up for a terrible week of me fretting about my writing career and feeling like a bit of a loser. But let’s not get into all that now. It’s still Monday and I want to hold onto some of the weekend’s bliss.

Fresh Salsa

1 large Tomato or 2 small
1/2 white onion, chopped and rinsed under cold water (creates a more mild flavor)
1 jalapeno pepper, with seeds if you like it hot
1/2 lime squeezed
1 squirt of ketchip
1 handfull chopped cilantro

Mix together in a large bowl and serve as a condiment to any grilled or roasted meal.

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