Songs for Sandy (or It is Time for Stormy Weather)

29 Oct

Apparently I’m only capable of blogging in the face of an apocalyptic weather event. Here in my neck of NYC (Zone C, in the house!), the winds have picked up, the rain is falling, and I’ve fired up my hurricane playlist. Take a listen with me, won’t you?

  1. “Hurricane,” Jason Falkner
    “Now it’s time to decide: Do you fly into the eye of a hurricane?” I’m going to say yes.
  2. “Like a Hurricane,” Neil Young
    Obvs.

  3. “Here Comes the Flood,” Peter Gabriel
    Went down the PG rabbit hole and found this perf from a 1979 Kate Bush Christmas special(!).

  4. “Rain,” Blake Babies
    Be like Juliana Hatfield and know when to come in from the rain.

  5. “On the Rain,” Shudder to Think
    “When the rain thinks it laughs last/then I drool on it.” Craig Wedren always has had a way with words.

  6. “The Rain,” The Swell Season

  7. “Sit and Listen to the Rain,” Whiskeytown

  8. “Steel Rain,” Chris Cornell
    “The sky is open and the drones are pouring out.”

  9. “Stormy Weather,” The Pixies
    “It is time, oh ho…”

  10. “Save it for a Rainy Day,” The Jayhawks
    Those lush harmonies and Gary Louris’ electric-socket hair get me every time.

  11. “Kingdom of Rain,” The The, featuring Sinead O’Connor
    Kinda sucks that Sinead’s not in the video, but whatever.

  12. “Naked in the Rain,” Red Hot Chili Peppers
    If you’re so inclined.

  13. “Ray Ray Rain,” Bettie Serveert
    Little-known fact: In certain dictionaries, the definition of “rainy day music” is “Bettie Serveert.”

  14. “Soon It Is Going to Rain,” Unrest
    “Take hold I’m flying, flying…”

  15. “Watchin’ the Rain,” Jellyfish

  16. “You Look Like Rain,” Morphine
    “I can tell you taste like the sky ’cause you look like rain.”

  17. “The Word ‘Hurricane’,” Air

  18. “The Wind,” Cat Stevens
    Obvs part deux.

  19. “Caught a Long Wind,” Feist
    “Keep yourself afloat…”

  20. “Your Big Night, Sandy!,” Blinker the Star
    Searched high and low for a vid and came up empty, but you can listen to a clip here.
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A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall

27 Aug

I’ve been MIA from this here space for awhile, but that ends today, especially since I’m hunkered down for the weekend to wait out this damn hurricane and need to distract myself from busting open all the non-perishables (read: junk food) before it is absolutely necessary. If nothing else, Irene has taught me that there’s a very valuable upside to being gluten-free: no bread on store shelves = no problem! It’s been mostly smooth sailing finding g-free staples and treats, thanks to my well-stocked (albeit overpriced) neighborhood organic market. I did have to go to two(!) different stores to track down my beloved Corn Chex, and make do with mini rice cakes because the regular size was sold out, but these are minor quibbles really. And I’m giving myself a pat on the back for ordering that monster case of bottled water from Fresh Direct a couple of weeks ago. What foresight!

As has been previously established, I’m a worrier. And yet, in the face of the severe weather we’re about to encounter in NYC, I’ve not entirely entered crazy panic land. It was easy to be calm while at work yesterday, because I was too busy to closely monitor conditions and check in on Facebook and Twitter. Now that I’m home, with nothing but time on my hands, my stress level has risen a bit, but certainly not to the point of buying out half a grocery store, like many of the people on line in front of me this morning did. These folks were stocking up for the end of the world, which Irene certainly is not. I love food and never miss a meal (or snack!), and if I’m not worried about running out of sustenance, why are all these other lunatics? Are they/their families really going to consume 10 pounds of pasta in the next two to three days?

While I sit here typing, I can hear my landlord in the backyard trying to make the backup generator work. He was all assurances when I ran into him this morning on my way to the store. A couple of hours later, he admitted the thing wasn’t working and he’d have to bust it apart to figure it out. May the force be with him, and with all of us, to ride out this storm safely and calmly, well-fed and with potent potable of choice in hand. Happy hurricane!

It Ain’t Easy

30 May

I may be a neurotic worrywart, but I’m also a hopeful and optimistic person. Sure, I was thrown by my celiac diagnosis, but after taking a couple of weeks to–ahem–digest the news, I was pretty well convinced I could kick gluten-free ass. Alas, the course of true g-free-ness never did run smooth. I mentioned in my last post that I went rogue while on vacation, not wanting to miss out on any foreign food experience. And while it’s true that I did feel okay over the course of the trip, my body spent the next week or so paying the price for all that I’d consumed.

Since being back, I’ve had my dining-out confidence shaken. Only a month ago, I was so excited by the possibilities, but then I ran up against some waiters who looked at me like I had two heads when I asked about gluten-free menu options. They took their best guesses as to dish suitability and “checked with the chef,” (sorry, I’m a jaded New Yorker–I can’t be sure that they really asked or that the chef had a clue), but my final orders were still crap shoots. I’ve realized that in this brave new world, I can’t trust anyone but myself when it comes to food prep. And that’s a shame, because we all know how I feel about cooking regularly.

Then there’s my own plain old missteps. I grabbed a package of Fig Newmans at Whole Foods because they were in with all the other gluten-free cookies and touted “Wheat-Free” very prominently. When I went to open them for the first time, I noticed the fine print: “Not a gluten-free product.” At Trader Joe’s, I quickly snatched up a bag of rice crackers without even reading the ingredients or looking for the gluten-free label; got home and discovered they contained soy sauce. Assumptions, I am continually reminded, have no place in the g-freer’s life.

In happier news, I’ve discovered a couple of products that are going onto my must-have-in-house-at-all-times list. Udi’s may not make a satisfactory gluten-free bagel, but I’m totally into their blueberry muffins, golden and moist and bursting with big ol’ blueberries. Just look at this one spilling invitingly out of its muffin cup.

And these?

Yeah, these you might want to get your hands on even if it’s not a dietary necessity. The toasted pecan flavor comes through like crazy. They’re probably awesome with hummus or, like, goat cheese, but I hoovered mine straight out of the box (not all at once!).

Where Have I Been?

16 May

Oh, I have been here:

And I have been there:

The former pic is the view of Prague Castle from one of the many bridges that spans the Vltava River; the latter is of Schloss Schonbrunn, the Hapsburg’s majestic, Versailles-rivaling summer palace. There was also a day trip to Budapest, but my camera decided to crap out for most of it. I’ve got many fun tales of travel to tell, but since we’re all here for the food, that’s what I’m going to give you. Here is what Prague is known for: beer (specifically pilsner); here is what Vienna is known for: schnitzel and sacher tortes (among other dreamy desserts). “But Glutton,” you may be thinking, “you’re not supposed to be partaking in such gluten-ous fare.” Yes, dear reader, I know. But how could I go to Prague and Vienna and not indulge in their homegrown delights? Did you really expect me to forgo this?

Or this??

OR THIS???

Yes, all of this cheating caused slight discomfort. It was worth it.

Going Out Again

20 Apr

Okay, we’ve already established my love of food. Have I mentioned how much I love going out to eat? (Probably.) This stems in part from laziness: Each dinner at a restaurant is one less dinner I have to make for myself. Plus, it’s often more cost-effective to dine out, as opposed to spending money on fresh ingredients that I won’t be able to use up before they go bad. (I realize this is a catch-22: If I cooked at home more and went out less, my grocery purchases wouldn’t be left to rot away in the fridge.) But mostly, I just want to eat good food prepared by folks who wouldn’t rather be doing anything else but cooking and who aren’t intimidated by a complicated recipe (like yours truly).

My celiac diagnosis has forced me to become finicky: no more blindly picking up a package without searching for the “gluten-free” label or reading the ingredients list, and definitely no more ordering willy-nilly off a menu. I’ve never felt more lucky to live in New York City—and I say that as someone who spends most of her time feeling lucky to dwell here—because there are so many gluten-free and -friendly dining options. This being said, I’m not thrilled about becoming “that” person when I go out for dinner with my peeps. You know, the one who has to dictate where we eat based on whether I can actually, um, eat anything there. Having this limitation makes it pretty hard to be spontaneous about where I go; research is now required before I set foot in a restaurant I’ve never been to. Kind of a pain in the ass, but two recent experiences give me hope that it won’t be so hard to eat what I want while still playing by the dietary rules.

My sister likes a good meal as much as I do. I didn’t think she’d be unsupportive of my condition, but I was truly taken aback that she was so game for g-free experimentation. On my first full day as a gluten-freer, we had dinner at Pala Pizza on the LES, known for its wide selection of gluten-free pizza and pasta dishes (they have regular versions of these things as well). The g-free pizza? Kind of a revelation. We went in with open minds but no expectations. Well, that’s not entirely true: I suppose we figured that if nothing else, the crust would be an adequate vessel for the droolworthy toppings (eggplant, cherry tomato sauce, mozzarella topped with ricotta salata, basil—oh, god, slobbering right now just typing them). It ended up being a lot more than that. Pala uses a mélange of flours, including garbanzo bean, fava bean, potato and sorghum. Not a mix I could ever have conjured, but it made for a crispy crust that had a nutty, white bean flavor. G-free pizza, I’m totally your bitch now.

A week or so later, I hit Bushwick, my sister’s ‘hood, to try Momo Sushi Shack (no relation to the Momofuku empire), a newish Japanese spot on Bogart. Seating is communal dark-wood tables, which I love. One of the owners came over immediately to reel off the specials, and when I asked about gluten-free options, he went through the menu with me, pointing out what I could and could not eat. Very impressive on-the-spot knowledge. We ended up getting a salmon and herb roll—it tasted like (non-existent) spring!—and splitting the pork chop special, which came with a tangy burdock-and-apple salad and the most delicious mashed potatoes I think I’ve ever scarfed down. My sister also got a pork belly appetizer (yes, we do enjoy the other white meat in my family) that I sadly couldn’t touch because it contained soy sauce. But the rest of the meal was so good, my despair was short-lived. Afterward, full but not stuffed, we walked around the corner to Arancini Bros. for rice balls, which they’ll make gluten-free on request (huzzah!). We ordered up a couple of Nutella balls, fried and rolled in cinnamon sugar. I could have had five.

Blues for a Bagel

13 Apr

I’m a Jew, which means bagels are practically my birthright, though I would have fallen for them with or without the religio-cultural implications. Growing up, Sunday was bagel day at my house. My sister and I hopped in the car with Dad bright and early (we’d probably already been up watching Kids Incorporated anyway) to do the weekly grocery shopping before touching down at Morristown Deli for our dozen assorted bagels, cream cheese (plain and chive), thin-sliced jarlsberg and lox. In those days, Danziger’s bakery was conveniently located next store. They’d give us each a free mini cookie—buttery and crumbly, chocolate-dipped or coated in rainbow sprinkles—every time we came in. (Most weeks I’d beg my dad, rarely successfully, for one of the gigantic yellow-frosted smiley faces.) Then it was back home, where Mom was waiting, to slice the bagels, prepare the spread and eat ourselves into a carb coma. My usual: egg bagel, slice of jarlsberg on each half, toasted. The melted cheese bubbled and dripped down the sides, inevitably burning the roof of my mouth because I was too impatient not to sink my teeth in the second it was out of the toaster.

I still equate Sundays with bagels. My neighborhood place is a real hole in the wall, but I’ve never had a better bagel—they’re always fresh out of the oven, chewy and crusty and warm. I woke up last weekend with a monster craving, and it killed me that I couldn’t have what I really wanted. In an attempt to keep my tradition alive, I picked up a package of Udi’s gluten-free bagels and popped one in the toaster. I tried to keep an open mind, but knew, even before taking that first bite, that this impostor would disappoint. It was firm on the outside—not stale exactly, but you know how fresh bagels have that way of smooshing a little in your grasp? Yeah, this one didn’t do that. The inside was worse: Where was the soft bready goodness, that hallmark of any bagel worth its dough? Before spreading anything on it, I gingerly bit in: bland, very dry, not chewy. I slathered on peanut butter, hoping that would enhance the overall taste. It did not.

The thought that I may never again enjoy a real bagel is too depressing for words, and I fear there’s no gf substitute out there that won’t make me want to hurl. I really wish I didn’t know what I was missing.

My Stomach Don’t Tolerate

10 Apr

A couple of weeks ago, the title of an old Connells album popped into my head: Weird Food and Devastation. I’d just been diagnosed with celiac, and that title couldn’t have been more apt to my state of mind in the immediate aftermath. What would I even be able to eat now? What the hell is amaranth? How would I survive without pasta…and bagels…and BEER?!

Food-related allergies are a new ballgame for me. Until I started having off and on intestinal problems about a year ago, I’d always prided myself on possessing a stomach of steel (except for that time I decided beefy chili with a hot cocoa chaser was a good idea–hey, I was 10). Now, at 33, I find that my armor has unexpected cracks, and it’s a blow. I live to eat. Though I’ve been made to feel bad about that at various times in my life, I’ve never apologized for it. Good food is everything to me: love and comfort, challenging and complex, an escape and an embrace. Ridding my cupboards and my life of all the wheat-filled things I can no longer have has brought up a lot of memories and reminded me how much my life revolves around eating.

I know what you’re thinking: Another gluten-free blog? That was my first thought, too. It does seem like everyone is g-free these days, and they’re all blogging about it. What can I add to the already crowded conversation? Well, I can tell you that it’s not going to be recipes because, while I have discovered in the past year or so a heretofore untapped enjoyment of cooking, I am definitely more gourmand than gourmet. When it comes to meal prep, I’ve never met a shortcut I didn’t take. (Oh, hi, conveniently prechopped red onion!) No, what I’m more interested in is charting my course as I try to adapt my gluttonous leanings to the wacky world of gluten-free. Will gf snacks be my salvation or my undoing? Is there a gf bagel out there that’s even half as good as the doughy discs of perfection to which I long ago pledged my undying devotion? How will my new limitations affect my tendency toward dining out? My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to change my eating habits without having to change my lifestyle too much. Whether I can do it remains to be seen. Join me, won’t you?