As if the heady bready smell of Not Ray’s wafting down the stairs to greet you when you get out of the train at South Portland wasn’t marvelous enough, now Comandante Biggie keeps his eye on the block. And, to give credit where credit is due it’s all these artists that Represent baby BAY-BAY!
I love that despite the hubbub of the Knicks finally being back in action at the Garden and the pending leviathan that is the new home of the Brooklyn Nets lurking right in my backyard, despite the flailing of the Jets this past weekend, despite, well, the existence of the Rangers, that the top New York sports stories are still all Baseball. This, I love. I love that A-Rod has entered into an Indiana Jones style agreement that includes traveling to Germany (perhaps with Kobe Bryant by his side) to engage in some mysterious axis-of-evil style rehab plan that as far as I’m concerned will include giant maps of Europe, some nazis, and perhaps the holy grail. I’m also in love with the fact that the (sort of inexplicable, and truly lovable) star of the Mets bullpen, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey plans to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro next week with a couple of other MLBuddies despite having received a strongly worded letter from Met’s management advising him against it. I sort of hope (against hope) that A Rod becomes a superhero or that ole R.A. encounters something crazy at the top of Kilimanjaro while he’s there so he can be featured on one of these amazing cards from Left Field Cards genius Amelie Mancini immortalizing baseball players that were injured in bizarre ways. And, of course, they’re made in Brooklyn.
Seen in the can at the People’s Improv Theater during intermission at the Risk! Podcast Storytelling Show. For those of you who don’t know Risk, it’s like The Moth meets truth or dare and it’s marvelous. The show I saw was immortalized in podcast #310. Sidenote: I am in love with Elna Baker.
Our family has always valued tradition. Our Virginia roots stretch down deep in the clay loam of Tidewater back farther than the Whiskey Rebellion. For me, anyway, I’ve never felt as tied to my home as I do at Christmas. We chopped down our own Christmas tree every year (including the year where Daddy had suspect access to an old tree farm out in Charles City County that had been on the market for a few years and he and I went in the old pick-up truck with the Flatt and Scruggs cassette stuck in the tape player and cut a spindly ole tree down with dubious permission and had to skedaddle out of there with a banjo soundtrack when some overseers came out of the trailer on the edge of the property like enraged overalled hornets). We had fires in our fireplace that I would keep going til the last minute until it was time to put it out for the safety of potential Christmas Eve visitors. We had embroidered stockings with our initials on them that, for me, always contained a can of olives (my greatest desire) and a new toothbrush (a two-pronged attack on hygiene maintained by both Santa and the Easter Bunny). Then, when we were older, we had long Christmas day brunches, just us, for hours at the dining room table, totally content, entirely self contained. Our traditions built us up and kept us together.Though the past made us many things, I have learned that this is not what makes us family. So, this Christmas we tried a few new things, new to us but still rooted deep somewhere. Instead of the pink poinsettias that have been on our kitchen table at home every December for my birthday, this year Mama brought up the pink camellias above- cut from our Virginia garden. My grandfather brought her the plant, started from cuttings from the original- growing at my Great Grandmother’s house- he called them Sophie Davis Camellias after her. Instead of a long boozy brunch of hash browns and hominy, we went to Pell Street in Chinatown with Sweetheart’s family- in from Rockaway- for the long standing New York Jewish tradition of chinese food (in this case, vegetarian dim sum) on Christmas Day. Instead of the boxwood roping, magnolia leaves, and fresh cut trees of our old roots, we had the entire New York City skyline glittering and bejeweled, new to us but rooting us here just the same.
This mysterious envelope arrived for me the day before my birthday, looking vaguely official with its blue and white IRS ticking, while also looking a little Groucho-Marx-glasses-disguise-suspicious with its multiple various stamps, inclusion of my middle name, and slight lumpiness. Upon opening it, I removed a perforated parcel of purple construction paper sealed with a warning:
A SCAVENGER HUNT! After following included instructions to consult Sweetheart as to the correct time to begin, I broke the seal and was told to go north out of my apartment- after that, each paper-clipped-flap revealed further instruction on my journey to find my birthday surprise. I sang a song at the Roberson Theater, stopped in the Cuyler Gore playground, was led to Jessy’s Unisex Salon, instructed to pass by Cake Man Raven, made it to “U Kiss” Chinese all the way down to… Saffron Brooklyn! Upon arrival, I was instructed to go inside to see what Kana had waiting for me. Oh the suspense! The tiny shop smelled of spice and leather and fresh flowers…True to the construction paper oracle, Kana was expecting me- with this beautiful rose hip and juniper bouquet and an impossibly tiny envelope containing a card worth 100 smackers to get anything I wanted! YES YES MARVELOUS! This adorable shop has been here for a few years (the shop and I arrived in the neighborhood around the same time) and is basically the perfect little store for yours truly: they have worn-in classic barware and weird ephemera (a lamp made of a nautilus caught my eye), an amazing selection of vintage bags and coats, and gorgeous, gorgeous flowers- more camellia than carnation, more dahlia than daisy. Read: danger for this bird. Danger UNLESS- you have an amazing birthday scavenger hunt for presents concocted and executed by the best Mama around*.Go visit them yourselves: Start by going left…..
31 Hanson Place (Between Saint Felix & Fort Greene Place) Brooklyn, NY 11217
*This is Mama who wants it to say on her tombstone:
“She Never Did Anything Half-Assed”
For me, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without making a large batch of celebrated Hornsby Family Egg Nog (made from scratch, served with love, fresh nutmeg, and ideally tons of fried chicken and warm biscuits with Smithfield Ham). This year the batch was perhaps the best it’s ever been- which is in no small part due to by the glorious gift of Araucana Blue eggs straight from Jay and Katie Rose’s chickens. Araucanas are a South American breed that lay thick-skinned eggs with yolks the color of setting suns. The shells of their eggs come in a range of beautiful delicate colors: pale aquamarine and celadon, eau de nil, sky, and light dappled ochre. See above. The fact that these chickens have beards, are named after lady blues singers, and are presided over by the Grand Plumed Rooster Alicia Jr. just makes the funfetti toned eggs all the more party ready. Which is a good thing since the nog calls for 30 of them (we triple the recipe for our holiday party, soooo, yeah). Talking about the eggs brings up the antipathy that many people have for egg nog- maybe you’ve only ever had store bought (oof), maybe you went to a party where some poor fool made it with gin (travesty), maybe raw eggs give you the willies (no help or hope for you, my friend), but this version, with its hand-written recipe and various and copious brown liquors is surprisingly, almost unbelievably light and fresh, sweet and smooth, spicy, silky, and secretly very strong. Here’s the recipe, straight out of the Hornsby family cookbook, “From the Kitchen at the Hornsby House”, written out by my Great Aunt Marian.Our family is one of barrel chested watermen-turned-oilmen-turned-land men, consummate entertainers, gentlemen raconteurs, merry pranksters, bon vivants, music makers and songstresses, and long time intimates of the marvelous stiff southern drink… when it would be Christmas at the Big House, laughter would shake the chandeliers, and instruments would be played until the wee hours. I always hope to have done them proud.
- I use Benedictine and Brandy (B&B) instead of Brandy and Southern Comfort
- Tripled, the bourbon comes out to a handle, Jim Beam is more than satisfactory (though Maker’s Mark is sweeter).
- You’re left with the whites of the eggs, make a frittata!
After a few long years of hard, hard work and inspired perspiration this past weekend the beautiful and brand-spanking-new Greene Hill Food Co-op threw open its doors for the first time. The block itself seemed to roar with kale and a groundswell of happy, hungry humans with pure hearts and canvas bags. The idea of the food co-op is sort of communism-light: anyone can pay an equal, one-time, refundable share to join, everyone shares the work, and everyone enjoys the (literal, abundant) fruits of this labor in the form of gorgeous fresh produce, sweet and light loaves of locally baked bread, and chicken that perhaps wore a cowboy hat as it roamed the open range- all at reasonable prices. In a neighborhood where the food options are limited to the polarizing spectrum of corner bodegas where plantain chips are the only vegetable in sight and fancy-pants specialty food stores that have fresh figs and Humboldt Fog for $16/a quarter pound, this sort of place- where good food isn’t just well curated and lovely, but is sustainable, affordable, and available to all- is a jewel.
There are a few different options for membership plans, based on income: The Avocado Plan (where the well off can pay their share and also the share of someone else), The Lettuce Plan (where the comfortable can support themselves), The Carrot Plan (where the pretty broke can pay their share in installments), and The Apple Plan (where those who qualify pay a reduced fee and can make the membership investment in installments over the next five years- also the co-op takes food stamps). Sweetheart and I are in a weird place with this- being writers and musicians has us hovering essentially at the poverty line (eek)- but- we’re also participants in an active food culture, enthusiastic home cooks, the type of people who watch King Corn streaming on Netflix, have friends farming at Blue Hill and working for The Greenhorns, the type of people who went to Oberlin. In short: we are well armed with the righteous knowledge of food. We know how to provide ourselves with fresh, delicious meals from scratch and prioritize the ability/desire to choose to put a fair portion of our income towards eating (and living) well. Extra money doesn’t go towards physical luxuries, it gets put towards a stoop garden and non-agribusiness meats (and once- dinner at Chez Pannisse). Even though we may not have a cent to pay the rent, but we’re gonna make it, we may have to eat beans every day, but they’re going to be sustainable garbanzos. The Greene Hill Food Co-op is newly open, but the most exciting thing (in addition to a quart of Annie’s Goddess Dressing for $3.50, and the prettiest loaves of rye I’ve seen outside of Orwasher’s) is what this may mean for the future, for the neighborhood. The co-op gives a sense of ownership and personal responsibility over the food we eat, it makes the opportunity to pick healthy options not just readily available to all but totally desirable, and it shares the knowledge and power that comes from making your own food choices with everyone. It’s actually DOING something about it all instead of just reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma and being abstractly horrified at pictures of factory farms. And, of course, we’re still taking members. Sign up here and let’s go grocery shopping.Images including vegetables from the Greene Hill Co-Op’s Flickr, see more here.
Here’s an interesting, easily digestible article about food equality.
It’s no secret that I absolutely love Christmas. Perhaps it’s the inheritance of the December baby, whose favorite birthday celebration for five years in a row was to go see The Nutcracker wearing a gargantuan taffeta hair bow and sporting a fur muff (some things never change… Sweetheart is taking me to see it at BAM on Tuesday, and maybe I’ll wear my Samantha muff). My holiday love, though, probably comes from growing up in Colonial Williamsburg, where, every year, the season starts with a bang at the Grand Illumination celebration- where the streets of the colonial town are lined with bonfires and it is mandatory for every household to put white candles in the windows. Oh how wonderful to go to the Raleigh Tavern Bakery and get one of the amazingly dense and spicy gingerbread cookies and walk the streets of Williamsburg in the clear chill and look at the decorations. Every railing and lintel festooned with magnolia leaves and pineapples, boxwood and pine roping, and, of course pomanders. For inquiring minds, here’s a full history of pomanders (from the french pomme and ambre, meaning, literally, apple of amber), but in short, in the absence of giant inflatable snowglobes for the yard, colonial households would stud the thick skins of precious oranges, lemons, and other fruits with a design of cloves to fill their houses with the heavenly scent of bright citrus and pungent-sweet spice. Ah-Mazing.Last week I had the girls over to drink wine, talk about what we’d missed in our whirlwind lives since we last saw each other, and to make pomanders. You just need:
-A large container of cloves; each pomander will use 100 or so cloves depending on your design, so you want to be sure to have enough
-Fruit; this year I used oranges, lemons, and pomegranates but you can also use limes or apples… anything you want, really.
-A poking utensil; I used this moustache corkscrew, but also on the table was a meat thermometer and one side of a corn-on-the-cob holder. This is not an exact science.
If your fingers start to hurt from pushing the cloves into the fruit try using a thimble.
It’s incredibly easy to make these yourself, and unbelievably satisfying to end a night with a belly full of wine and root vegetables and a bowl of beautiful, fragrant, and timeless pomanders that will keep for weeks, looking lovely and smelling wonderful whatever your holiday season may bring. They gave my apartment the feel of a gingerbread brownstone for my holiday party- incredibly festive.
I’d love to have a deep red living room with dark built in bookshelves and a big open wall to hang this huge, awesome Alan McDonald portrait on, but, alas, I don’t. Though “dream apartment” is always on my wishlist, here are a few things that *someone* might consider getting instead to help maintain the lifestyle of the honky tonk woman. After all, we’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers. I won’t call it a gift guide if you don’t call it a comeback. Show me the way to the next whisky bar.
Need Gillian Welch’s wonderful newish album, The Harrow and the Harvest, which is just as good on the indian summer open road as it is nesting in the winterdark.
Covet His/Hers/Ours Decanter set from Brooklyn’s own Love and Victory. You can also get His/His or Hers/Hers, or, if you’re like me and my “Three’s Company”, whiskey-loving roommates ca. 2006: Hers/Hers/His.
Crave raw forged steel trinkets that are as brutishly lovely as they are useful from CXXVI. Image from the divine goldust woodsmaiden.Want to live inside the cover of this record (get us a copy? good luck finding it- listen here, a gift from the fabulous Berlin Beatet Bestes). Or if you’re feeling really generous- perhaps a new accordion. Here are a few that look promising from Accordion Heaven.