New year’s day was kind of exhausting, socially and travel wise. I had to go to a self-help group sort of thing in the morning because I was asked to help out. That was on the Lower East side. From there I went to my writing teacher’s home for an open house he has every year, this was the first time at his new home in Trump Towers on the Upper West Side. I spent a couple of hours there schmoozing with other writers before I got on a Brooklyn-bound train to go to Crown Heights, the “new” frontier in Brooklyn real-estate to meet Danusia at another open house.
At least we got a ride back to Manhattan after that with someone who lives in East Harlem, close enough for us to catch the M-100 on 125th Street. Our friend Sally who was giving us a ride was asking where the train station was when I spotted the bus right in front of us. She cut him off at the next stop and me and Danusia made a mad dash for the bus. In all, I think I covered the better part of 35 miles Thursday. The best thing about New Year’s Day was that I didn’t have to cook or prepare any kind of food save for what I ate in the morning.
I was pretty busy yesterday as well, first going to Fairway on the river in the morning for my weekly food-shopping trip and then out to Home Depot across the other river to pick up supplies for a big job I am starting on Monday. I got home around 2:30PM and I was starving.
The thing about when you are starving is that you want to eat something right away; you don’t want to take the time to prepare something nutritious and satisfying. You just want to stop the noise from your empty stomach.
Of course, when I was younger the remedy was to open up a can of something I found in the cupboard, get a fork (or spoon) and stand in the kitchen and just eat out of the can cold. Throw the can away, open up the fridge and see if there is any peanut butter left, another easy eat. Just lick off the fork and dig in. Maybe some Ritz crackers for desert.
I wish I could say I learned to eat like that in the army, where food in the field was almost always C-rations. If you don’t know what C-rations were, they were the American military’s way of feeding its troops for a long time. A meal comes in a cardboard box with several cans of food, usually a main meal like beef and potatoes, then desert, like a can of hard biscuits with a little can of jam to spread on them. You also got toilet paper and a can opener in the box. During the Vietnam war you also got a free pack of smokes, I think 5 cigarettes. The tobacco companies generously donated these to our war effort.
Where I learned it was at the Pratt dorm when I was in school. It was my first time alone, without mom to cook for me, and I learned how to eat Spam straight from the can. I don’t even think I had many cooking utensils.
I’ve learned a great deal since then, and I’m a pretty good cook. You have to be when you have a wife and kid. My son always loved my tuna casserole, and my refried beans with tortillas. I’ve prepared elaborate dinners for parties and was even hired once to cook for some art retreat.
But sometimes you just can’t wait.
Last week I bought mushrooms and spinach at the greenmarket in Union Square. I like to sauté them with onions as a side dish, but it being the holidays I hadn’t gotten around to doing so. My first instinct when I got home yesterday was to open up a can of something and then go for the peanut butter. The cupboard only yielded some cans of tuna, tomato paste, and sardines. I no longer stock Spam.
Well, that was pretty unappetizing. I decided to take a little time and prepare something I could lay the sardines or tuna on. I put a frying pan on the stove, added olive oil and sliced some red onion into the hot oil.
I got the spinach and mushrooms out, and started slicing the slightly dried out mushrooms, I got to them just in time. It didn’t bode well for the spinach.
I picked out the wilted pieces of spinach, cut off the little roots, and washed the spinach as the mushrooms and onions cooked. The whole process from pan to plate took a little more than ten minutes. I laid it out on a plate, opened up the sardines and carefully laid the sardines atop the spinach and mushrooms. Presentation is important. I cut up some avocado and added that to the dish, and after pouring myself a glass of mineral water, took my plate to the living room and put it on the table.
It was yummy. While I ate I thought about the Seinfeld episode where Kramer eats Beeferino right out of the can, and feeds it to the horse later. It did not look yummy, and I’m glad I’m willing to at least go halfway now when I’m starving.