Well, it's empty-brain night after three days inside the Javitz Center at BEA (Book Expo America), tirelessly promoting the books of Manic D Press, trolling the aisles for free books and chocolate, shooting the breeze with the Brooklyn neo-noir dudes of Contemporary Press (who shared our booth and provided both nightly cocktail hours and a table full of little black buttons reading "Fuck Literature"), and reading, over and over again, In Me Own Words: The Autobiography of Bigfoot along with Good Advice for Young Trendy People of All Ages, two stars of the current Manic D list. Once the gin and tonics came out, we became the little party booth--much to the chagrin of the suit-and-tie guy from Arizona Highways across the way, where it was so quiet you could hear tumbleweeds rolling across the carpet.
But staring at those majestic pictures of orange deserts and weird cacti all day long did make me smile, because way back in the day, I used to date this Elvis impersonator from Arizona who regarded Arizona Highways' books as her personal porn stash. We'd lie in bed and she'd take me through them page by page, pointing out all her favorite landmarks. She was very proud of her home state.
Anyway. It was fun and mind-numbing and exhausting. After two-and-a-half days living on chocolate espresso beans, black-and-white cookies and bialies with camembert cheese cribbed from Manic D foundress Jen J., it was bliss to meander home in the sudden summer warmth, have a shower, throw on a sundress and make a big bowl of black beans with mango salsa, which I could happily eat every day for weeks on end.
(I once inadvertently ended up teaching Paula Wolfert, Mediterranean food expert extraordinaire, how to make this salsa at a dinner party--one of my small culinary claims to fame.)
It's so good that you should stop what you're doing and go out and buy the ingredients right now. Put it on anything that stands still long enough--black beans, grilled salmon, grilled chicken, whatever. The proportions are up to you, but don't be shy--use a lot of cilantro, plenty of salt, and lots of fresh lime juice. Some people put hard crunchy things in their salsa, like cucumber or jicama, but I like mine nice and squishy all the way through. This is a good way to use up very ripe and pulpy mangos, and the colors--orange, purple, and green--are gorgeously summery.
Mango Salsa in Paradise
2 big mangos, nice and fragrant with a little give to them
1 or 2 fresh jalapeno or serrano peppers, diced
half a red onion, peeled and diced
handful of cilantro, stemmed and chopped roughly
at least 2 limes, maybe more
Stand the mango on its end and cut down vertically to slice off both "cheeks," leaving the pit in the center. Cup a "cheek" in your hand, and make several long vertical cuts down to, but not through, the skin. Then make some horizontal cuts across the first cuts, so you have a mango checkerboard. Now bend the skin so the little cubes pop up and look like a bright-orange hand grenade (did you know the word for grenade comes from grenada, the Spanish word for pomegranate?). Slice the cubes off the peel, and repeat with other "cheek." Take the pit and cut off the thin strip of peel around the edge, then cut off whatever extra flesh you can. Squish the mango cubes up a little, so the mixture's pretty pulpy. Add onions, peppers, and cilantro. Add salt and lime juice to taste--it needs more lime and salt than you might think to balance the intense musky sweetness of the mango. You can eat it right away, but it gets even better if you can chill it for a little bit.
Generally I just heat up a can of black beans, warm up a couple of tortillas and pour a whole lot of salsa on the top. But you could put this on top of grilled chicken or fish or whatever you like. If you have an avocado lying around, slice it up and put it next to the beans. Mmmm.
Tomorrow: a small, hopeful foray into fire-escape gardening. I spent a delicious afternoon last week up to my elbows in dirt on B.'s big fire escape/deck, planting marigolds and tomatoes and peppermint (for mojitos, natch) in a bunch of big pots. between that and reading Gayla Trail's fab little urban-gardening book You Grow Girl last week, I'm ready to plant! Four little sunflower seedlings are already growing inside on my windowsill. I poked holes in the bottom of a quart-sized empty Stonyfield yogurt container and planted them five days ago, checking the dirt eagerly every morning. Then I got busy and forgot about them, only to be surprised by the sight of four tender little green shoots, still bearing the husks of their black-and-white seeds, poking up through the dirt early this morning. Faith, hope, renewal, right there in a dirt-filled plastic tub.
Cool Stuff To Do, East Coast version
One of the benefits of BEA was swapping war stories and giving props to other writers, many of whom I'd admired from afar through their work. It was nifty to meet the baby-faced Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snickett, especially since after a nice little chat about poetry I had to go chase him down and retrieve our only copy of Justin Chin's Bite Hard, which he'd blithely stowed in his already-bulging tote bag, to which he responded "Oh my god, I pulled a Winona, I'm so sorry." But more fun was chatting with the always swell Michelle Tea and meeting Ayun Halliday, who writes a great little zine called the East Village Inky about her low-rent, hip-mama life, and recently published Job Hopper, a very funny account of her many bad jobs.Having spent much of my twenties finding my career opportunites in the the back pages of the free weeklies--leading to work as a cigarette-and-candy girl, a receptionist for an infomercial production house ("Mick, Victoria Principal on line three!"), a perfume spritzer, fetishwear salesgirl, and more-- I'm going to go give her lots of applause at her upcoming reading at the Park Slope library this thursday, and you should too. It's free, and she's promised cookies!
Thursday, June 9th at 7pm
Job Hopper Reading and signing by Ayun Halliday
Friends of the Park Slope Library 2005 Author Series
Park Slope Library
431 Sixth Avenue (Sixth Avenue between Eighth and Ninth Streets)