Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Hot summer in the city

It's hot. It's sticky. PQ Castle still doesn't have AC--something I've been resisting because a) I have no money right now, b) I hate storing bulky appliances that aren't needed for three-quarters of the year, and c) somehow, if I buy an air conditioner, I am committing to staying in NYC, something I'm still not sure about, even after 3 years. Earlier this week, I couldn't help myself--I got onto to the instant-gratification crackhouse that is Craigslist, and starting skimming the Bay Area summer sublets. SF (or more specifically, the MIssion) being what it is, several of the places I found turned out to belong to friends of old roommates, and I wanted them all--the shared Edwardian on Dolores, the tiny no-stove acupuncturist's cottage up a million steps in Montclair, the wooden house in Bolinas, even the funky two-part house down in the Berkeley flats. What am I escaping from, or to? The heat, the humidity, the concrete, the sheer relentlessness of NYC. What is this life I'm living here? It feels like I'm just marking time, somehow, waiting for the life I really want to start. And this city's an almost unbearably pricey place to be marking time.

Well, enough whinging. (Although if you happen to be a person with a budget and a project looking for snappy freelance food writers or handy editors, please feel free to snap me up for some actual paid work. I'll perform with aplomb, I promise.) What's cooking? I'm on the list at the library for Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and Nina Planck's Real Food, two of the numerous books out this summer (including new tomes from Marion Nestle and Eric Schlosser) about the political, ecological, and health-related implications of how we eat. There's also Full Moon Feast, by Jessica Prentice, who taught the excellent soup-making class that I took a couple of years ago at Mariquita Farms. Much discussion by both Prentice and Planck about the importance of real--that is, non-processed, non-altered food, which means whole (preferably raw) milk instead of skim (the fat is key to absorbing the milk proteins and calcium, according to Planck); organic beef instead of soy burgers; canned sardines and chickpeas instead of premade anything, and plenty of butter and olive oil. While I don't know how true her vehement nutritional claims are, I certainly agree that brown rice and black beans, especially with homemade mango salsa and fresh corn, is one of the most satisfying (and inexpensive) things you can eat. And sardine sandwiches should be much more popular than they are, especially on crisp whole-wheat toast overlaid with razor-thin lemon slices and good lettuce.

Of course, much as I already live by Planck's frugal dried beans/canned fish/and vegetables, vegetables, vegetables dictum, sometimes I get frustrated in my own house by the fact that there's rarely much, if any, ready-to-eat food besides fruit and chocolate chips (half the bag goes into cookies; the other half lolls in the freezer to be slowly devoured by the palmful). Just about everything in my pantry and fridge has to be dealt with before it can be eaten--the oameal cooked, the pancakes made from scratch, the zucchini sauteed, the oil and vinegar whisked into vinaigrette. This is by choice; I actually hate most processed snacky food (OK, I will eat--and love--multiple handfuls of thick-cut salty potato chips, like Cape Cod or Terra chips. But only out of your bag of chips). Sometimes, though you just don't feel like peeling the carrot, or boiling the egg, and that's when peanut butter out of the jar (or almonds by the handful) comes in. But when I'm not already too hungry and cranky to take the 10 minutes it requires, there's rarely a better lunch in my house than a chunk of whole-wheat baguette, split, toasted, rubbed with garlic, spread with fresh goat cheese, fresh basil leaves, and slices of tomato, then popped in the oven until the bread crisps and the cheese and tomato get hot. Mmmm.

What else? Tomorrow, the Bastille Day pate-and-rillettes party at Amy and Zach's, where only people whose names begin with Z. will be allowed to head-butt the guests. Me? I'm bringing apricot tart. And then on Sat, my old pals M. and D. come out to visit. I've warned them that it will be 90+ degrees here, but I bet they don't believe me, after a decade of freezing SF summers.

And speaking of summer, it now seems that many of my SF pals will be coming east--or just leaving town--during August, so maybe it's not the best time to go jaunting off. Now, to pitch, pitch, pitch and keep this overpriced roof over my head.


Karen said...

I totally understand about the AC. I held out for three years and only just got one because the woman moving out of my new apartment sold me hers for $20.

And the pull of the Bay Area...sigh, I was there in June and it was just as wonderful as always!

shifra said...

Ohhhh, your legion of Bay Area peeps long for you to come back here!!!