Crocodile Toes and Red Velvet Cake

May 17th, 2010

In anticipation of my upcoming trip to Africa, where I’ll be working at the Lilongwe Wildlife Center in Malawi, I made an appointment to get my long list of vaccines while in New York. This is not a normal tourist-related activity, however living in a small town in Mexico stateside visits basically boil down to a list of errands. I went to a prominent university hospital and endured just the beginning (three visits in total) of the poking and prodding. The nurse asked why I needed a rabies shot, so I told her that there would be a lot of primates at the center and that an animal bite was a realistic possibility. She pulled away from me with a worried expression on her face. “Didn’t they warn you about monkey herpes?” she asked. No, I assured her that I had never heard of such a thing and it wasn’t mentioned in the 95-page volunteer manual. There was a large section on vermin and how to start your own fire for making meals, but definitely nothing on monkey herpes. I would have remembered that.

“Well, you need to be very careful,” she told me. “If you’re bitten by a herpes-infected monkey you’ll most likely die.” I pulled my aching rabid arm off the small metal table and said, “No way!” She defended her statement by showing me the university research from her computer. So while the waiting room continued to fill with impatient patients, looking at their watches and tapping their feet, the nurse and I went over the case studies. She spouted reliable statistics such as, “80% fatality rate after your central nervous system shuts down.” I answered with the equally intelligent statements like, “No way!”

I thought the worst of my problems would be crocodile toes. This is the technically correct medical term I made up for when a crocodile bites off half of your foot. My volunteer manual warns against going within 25 feet of the nearby river, since that’s where the abundant local reptiles like to sun themselves. I’m not a very good judge of distance, especially after living in a world of meters, not feet, for so long. With this in mind, I know I’m a pretty good candidate for crocodile toes.



Crocodile looking for toes

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A Tale of Two Doughnuts

May 11th, 2010

For most people cold, rainy mornings evoke fantasies of luxurious hours spent in bed sipping a hot beverage of choice, however on damp New York days, I find there’s nothing more comforting than dancing to show tunes with a brunch of men in tights.

I know this sounds like a horrible cliché, but it’s true. When our instructor said we’d be doing a scene from “West Side Story” the look of sheer joy on their faces was contagious.

The main reason I come to New York is to dance, to follow my childhood dream (to the best of my ability at 45) of becoming a Broadway dancer, if only for a month. Please, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not starring in any theater productions, I’m just a student practicing her (much declined) skills in a room of people waiting for their next audition. They still have a shot at Broadway; I do not.

It’s a hard realization to know it will never happen, but I focus on the positive. When the other students break for a meager lunch of salad or an apple, I get to follow my other dream…discovering the best food the world has to offer. I don’t need to worry about fitting into skimpy costumes anymore, so the restrictions are lifted–I can, and will, indulge in cake, pie, cookies and doughnuts with a talent respected by many.

Assorted Voodoo Doughnuts

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Rent Past Due—Catalan Style

April 30th, 2010

Parting with a large sum of money on the first of the month, when rents and mortgages are due, can be painful, if not downright depressing. We all know that our hard earnings could be better spent on new clothes and lavish trips, but having a roof over our heads (or businesses) is a priority for the un-homeless and non-transients in most societies.

My pain, though, is eased when I’m in New York, where I have a rent paying perk that no one else can claim: a five-course meal at the city’s top Catalan restaurant (cuisine from the region of Catalonia, in Northeastern Spain). My landlord is the owner, so when I’m in the big Apple I graciously offer to drop off the check in person. “No problem,” I say. “I don’t mind taking the subway for an hour and making three changes. I really have nothing else to do.” My reward for such personal attention is a banquet of Catalan-style tapas and superior Spanish wine.

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Comfort Food in New York

April 15th, 2009

New York City usually brings to mind the finest, most sophisticated restaurants in the world, with little thought to basic meals and home-cooking? I could be health conscious and enjoy a bowl of fruit and yogurt when visiting, but that’s something I can do at home (even though I rarely do). After years in Mexico, the land of hearty breakfasts, I feel compelled to go and explore the best the city has to offer in the way of simple, homey morning meals.

Good Enough to Eat on Amsterdam @ 83rd is one of the best places for perfect (affordable) eggs. Consistent beyond belief, this small, cozy establishment is bustling on the weekends when the brunch line weaves out on to the sidewalk. Simple wooden tables and farmhouse decor, with an emphasis on cows, provides a comforting environment for a bountiful breakfast. The owner, Carrie Levin, wrote her culinary thesis on the egg (90 pages, can you believe?), so obviously, it’s the specialty of the house. My personal favorite is the Wall Street omelet with baked ham and sharp cheddar cheese, served with homemade buttermilk biscuits and strawberry butter (the best in town and I’ve tried them all). Each time my plate arrives, I stick my fork into the eggs and marvel at their perfection: soft, light and fluffy. No rubbery, overcooked omelets here. Levin has her eggs shipped in directly from local farms and one savory bite emphasises her commitment to egg excellence. I stick to what I like, so I haven’t delved into the sweet side of the breakfast menu yet, but the pumpkin french toast with pear-cranberry compote and apple pancakes look and smell delightful as they pass by…and the coffee, delicious. A special blend, roasted specifically for the restaurant, it never fails to please. Even though it’s not traditional morning fare, try the sour cherry pie and/or carrot cake. You won’t be disappointed. If it’s too early for dessert, return in the afternoon, as I often do. for a little treat.

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Cat Ladies Who Brunch

August 1st, 2008

My brother and his single friends have a policy when they meet a new woman who happens to have a pet of the feline persuasion. One cat is ok, but it can’t be the center of her universe; two cats is not ok, but if you really like her, stick it our and look for other red flags– there will most likely be many; three cats, run for your life and do not, under any circumstances, look back. I, unfortunately, fall under category #3. Since hearing this piece of male wisdom, my life has become completely clear to me. I no longer have to wonder why I’m still single. No more wasting my time fussing over my attire, hairstyle or communication skills since it’s about the cats, not me. Through no fault of their own they have led me into spinsterhood with their endearing love and affection.

Now this may seem a sad truth to most people; however there is a flip side to the cat lady syndrome that is not well known—cat sitting. Us cat ladies stick together. We only want one of our own taking care of our loved ones. Someone who will not only feed our offspring, but also give them special attention and sit home with them on Saturday nights watching love movies and/or “Friends” reruns. So, on a warm day in August I arrived in Manhattan for a month-long cat sitting foray steps from Central Park. See, being a cat lady isn’t so bad after all.

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