05.19.09: hard-boiled wonderland

when i mowed through stephenie meyer's supercheesy twilight series last year, the subject was the hook: i can't stand meyer's writing style, but i love all things vampire-related.* now, after reading the big sleep for my 101 in 1001 list, i find myself scrambling for raymond chandler novels with what seems like the flip side of those feelings: detective novels don't usually do it for me, and i really dislike guys'-guy characters...but chandler is so much fun, so bone dry yet maudlin, so preposterous and great. the upside of this is that i'm having windfall fun with a genre that had always seemed awfully flat to me; the downer is that i'm falling in love with a writer who might or might not be, well, a total asshole (if you take him and the novels at face value, a misanthrope's the nicest thing he could be). i'm turning to an expert (tom hiney, whose biography of the guy was a times notable book in 1999) for context; in the meantime, i'm going ahead with the shameless page-turning.** some of the passages i've dogeared:
(from the big sleep, 1939)

Overhead the rain still pounded, with a remote sound, as if it was somebody else's rain.

(from farewell, my lovely, 1940)

The big man said: "Now that we are all between pals and no ladies present we don't really give so much time to why you went back up there, but this Hemingway stuff is what really has me down."
"A gag," I said. "An old, old gag."
"Who is this Hemingway person at all?"
"A guy that keeps saying the same thing over and over until you begin to believe it must be good."

(from the long goodbye, 1953, my favorite thus far)

He was a guy who talked with commas, like a heavy novel. Over the phone anyway.

At three A.M. I was walking the floor and listening to Khachaturyan working in a tractor factory. He called it a violin concerto. I called it a loose fan belt and the hell with it.

I might even have got rich - small-town rich, an eight-room house, two cars in the garage, chicken every Sunday and the Reader's Digest on the living room table, the wife with a cast-iron permanent and me with a brain like a sack of Portland cement. You take it, friend. I'll take the big sordid dirty crooked city.

have you read chandler? what'd you think?

*and zombie-related, apparently. not sure when they shambled into the tent, but there they are.

**it's best when you read it aloud in your head with a beaky gumshoe voice.

05.18.09: california

[a diner in monterey; 1 adds half and half to her coffee and accidentally dribbles it across the table]

2: fail, fail!

3: that looks like a dia de los muertos skull with a fancy hat.

2-5: skeleton!

[1 sketches with the half and half]

family time (2 of 2)

2: he's rabid.



on sunday night i was too busy checking out my accidental sunburn (i have little red epaulets) to get cooking with my just-foraged goodies from central park. by last night i figured i needed to get started, though: those wee leaves and pods shrivel quickly in the refrigerator. my wild garlic bulbs from the ramble seemed like solid groundwork for a foo-foo spring recipe, and lo! the ultra-angry gordon ramsay (of hell's kitchen and umpteen british shows) provided me with one via the times online (wild garlic and parsley risotto). i liked the recipe's simplicity (and the fact that shallots completely replaced onion, which i'd never tried before), and parsley - why, that could be swapped out for the honewort i gathered! after a bit of monkeying with quantities, i came up with an adaptation:

central park risotto

- 32 oz. vegetable stock
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 8-10 wild garlic cloves, sliced
- 3 big shallots, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2-3 tbsp butter
- 1/4 lb. grana padano, grated rough
- heaping handful of honewort, chopped

bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan with about a half cup of water; keep it at a simmer. heat the olive oil in a large pan and soften both the garlic and the shallots* for 2-3 minutes; stir in the rice and cook until grains are translucent and about to begin browning. add the simmering stock a ladleful at a time, stirring until liquid is almost gone before adding another ladleful. before the last few rounds, add 6-12 big twists of black pepper and a large pinch of sea salt. when the rice is al dente, remove from heat and stir in the butter and cheese (add a small handful at a time until the mixture is cohesive but not goopy). stir in the chopped honewort and plate right away; sprinkle a bit of additional cheese on each bit just before serving.

honewort is marvelous stuff; it's got a much more delicate flavor than flat leaf parsley does, and it adds both springiness and a little taste of celery to the risotto (and, of course, it sounds like something a witch would use). the foraged garlic was quite understated as well - gordon's original recipe called for 3-4 cloves, but my little guys were so mild that i decided to use all of them. result: garden- (or park-) fresh risotto with a sketchy (tasty!) mystery-weed je ne sais quoi. highly recommended! (the parsley version is probably pretty good, too.)

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 have you ever foraged for wild eats? what did you do with what you gathered?

02 would you eat this risotto? i power-washed everything, scout's honor.

03 what are your favorite spring greens?

*i probably gave these a lustier browning than they actually needed, but i wanted to be quite sure i wasn't poisoning the missus with my wild greens. i've also watched gordon ramsay freak out over bad risotto quite a few times, so...yeah.


at half past eleven on mother's day i was perched on a bench at the edge of central park, trying to figure out which of the people streaming past me were urban foragers. as it turns out, they're pretty easy to spot.

wildman steve brill

this is wildman steve brill, a self-taught urban forager who leads would-be weed-feasters through parks in and around new york city. amanda and i followed him around yesterday afternoon, dutifully bagging, labeling, and munching as he directed. (full disclosure: amanda did all of the labeling. she's a natural.) we were both terribly excited about the prospect of finding mushrooms (who wouldn't be, after the rain we had last week and the precedent wabes and her family set in illinois?); happily, our timing was just right for a couple of spectacular dryad's saddles, dramatic numbers that crop up on dead wood. most of the 'shrooms we spotted were the sort that kill you softly, alas, but we found plenty of luscious, wonkaesque greens (a bed of honewort that tasted like parsley and celery! diminutive tufts of sheep sorrel that tasted like lemonade!), and i think we both have enough roots and herbs to bolster our reproductive systems (everything was either fertility-enhancing, cancer-pummeling, or both, it seemed) for good.


i also have a big chunk of cattail; it wasn't especially delicious (like gloomy cucumber), but as amanda noted, it was great fun to watch unsuspecting sunbathers watch us descend on the edge of a pond and begin eating the greenery. urban hippies in the wild! s'okay, they're mostly vegetarian.


1: 'ring-a-ding ding' - a phrase that shouldn't be sketchy,

2: and yet is, and should be used more. i'm making a mental note of it.


101 in 1001 {II}: 088 meet with a personal trainer [completed 05.07.09]
i have a hu-uge fitness crush on the biggest loser's jillian, the gravelly, motorcycle-jacketed trainer who makes contestants cry and puke and carry her around the gym on their backs. i've e-mailed with her a few times for work and always stop just short of telling her she's so cool.* she's what i imagine my ideal trainer would be: a slightly sadistic older sister who quit the soccer team to join a girl gang. bring the pain, fitness lady!

yesterday's session brought pain, to be sure, but it was sneaky pain. my actual trainer, a very pretty runner named noelle, informed me that 21.3% was an okay body fat percentage,** but that to get down to the excellent range i would have to lose twelve pounds. cold, noelle! one hires a personal trainer to be told these things, though: i get that. she told me that my eating habits sounded fine, took me through an hour of plyometric exercises that clued us in to where that pesky 21.3% must be (i have the abdominal muscles of a newborn kitten), and folded me up like a wonton for a while (assisted stretching: so much better than crappy old massages! i feel a magazine article about this welling up in me). i didn't feel punished, but i was coming around to the idea of having a workout buddy who tells me what to do: why not?

because, alas, such a buddy costs $500 for six sessions. i told noelle that joe and i would talk it over this weekend, but i'm pretty obviously going to have to learn to turn into a wonton on my own. my consolation, i suppose, is that while my first-one's-free hour is long gone, the civil unrest in my lower back feels like it'll be around until at least next week.

*it's now been almost two years since i last said something accidentally creepy to a celebrity! progress, right?

**it shocked me, actually: i've always figured i was at least 80% candy.

05.05.09: i made him write this out

Joe’s dream, morning of May 5, 2009:

I’m watching a TV show called “Good Advice!,” hosted by a Lil’ Jon lookalike with crunk teeth. The show starts out with a shot of a man swimming in a pond, then cuts to a pit bull running down a wooden dock and leaping into the water, so as to frolic with the guy. The action freezes just as the dog is about to hit the water, and Lil’ Jon says in a voiceover: “Wait. Never play with a dog when you’re both in the water. You’re both land animals, and you’ll just look stupid.”

I think to myself, “that makes a lot of sense,” then I wake up.

101 in 1001 {II}: 036 buy a pair of hot shit designer shoes [completed 05.01.09]

charlotte ronson sandals

i came to a realization when we were playing darts a few weeks ago. the early crowd of pub regulars had dissolved into a more nattily dressed bunch of saturday-night-in-new-york-city types, and the flip flops i'd been wearing all day were starting to look especially plain. i turned to george and joe: "i need stripper shoes." "oh, no," said george, "big clear platforms?" actually i meant something more like these; the sad truth is that i've been wearing ballet flats and sensible little kitten heels for so long that i have no concept of anything that kicks your height up by more than an inch or two - you know, the sort of shoes that make your legs go on for miles. "stripper shoes" means "flattering heels worn by women who are not usually me." sad, really, given that i used to roll around stanford in ten-inch platforms. but that's a story for another time.

i worried that this was going to be one of the Big Cash Outlay for Questionable Ends list items: i'm not especially good at shoe shopping, and crazy sample sales like the jimmy choo bonanza down in chelsea last week are better for peoplewatching than they are for making purchases (as someone tweeted about that obscene wait, Guy in Chelsea observing the line for the Jimmy Choo sale: "You'd think they had invented a ladies-only swine flu shot."). but! the save fashion popup store at port authority (open for a month as of friday, with a rotating weekly selection of designers) saved the day. i got these babies, by charlotte ronson, for next to nothing - and i knocked off the first half of another item [030 buy a bikini (and wear it in public)]. rawr.

1: why am i taking a picture of your feet?

2: for the internet.

1: this will not end well.