Monday, November 28, 2011

Oplatka dát

This November cannot pass without the obligatory reflection on things for which we are thankful. And this year, among other things, like the Twilight saga and toilet paper, we are thankful for waffles.

A preface to the waffle discussion: RI Friends and Co. There was a large influx of “younger” couples that moved to Rhode Island this summer, all within a few months apart: Hawkers, Taylors, Nickim Edwards, Corcorans, Jesse/moi. 
Mike ("Strategic Service Consultant" at DealerSocket, Inc.) and Kaitie Hawker (sales associate at Anthropologie, this chic store where you can get $500 scarves!) have been in the ward F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Almost two years. According to Mike, the arrival of all us childless couples that recently converged upon the Warwick Ward are signs of irrefutable divine intervention; they've been dying for social interaction with cool Mormon people their own age.
Julie and Adam Taylor live in a cool house with Portugese landlords who brew moonshine in their basement (I think). Julie is an LCSW in the state of RI and spends a good deal of her time at work demonstrating that Mormons are neither members of cults nor polygamists. Adam is in culinary school at Johnson and Wales and gets to take labs with titles such as "Chocolates and Confections" and will be famous one day for founding Muscle Man Bakery, a bakeshop where chefs can do lateral raises and work the high incline bench press while they wait for their bread dough to rise.

Nick and Kim Edwards have baby Colette, but the baby doesn't mind hanging out with us. Nick is a neuroscience PhD student at Brown (you know that game Minesweeper, he's really good at it) and at one point worked in a lab at BYU supervising the growth of diarrhea cultures (I think). Kim does good accents. Chinese and Irish are her specialties.

Chris Corcoran (air traffic control operator/man/person at T.F. Green International Airport) and Cassie (elementary school teacher) have 54-pound baby Jak. Jak eats grapes and peanut butter and dog food.

Anyway, RI Friends and Co. invented a new holiday: Oplatka dát, which is my Czech translation for "Wafflegiving." It takes place sometime in November before Thanksgiving. It's kind of a rip off of National Waffle Day, which honors 8/24/1968, the date of the first U.S. waffle iron patent. Wafflegiving also commemorates the waffle’s illustrious history (take a deep breath and read really fast): waffles were first dreamed up in ancient Greece as obelios (flat cakes heated between two metal plates and cooked over the fire) OR in China where flour/eggs/milk were substituted for soy beans/rice/cottage cheese (allow me to say, “gross!”), THEN evolved into delicacies during the Middle Ages when waffle irons were carved with coats of arms/religious emblems, AFTER WHICH they migrated with the Pilgrims to Holland and later to America in 1620, WHEREUPON Thomas Jefferson instituted waffle parties in the White House with a waffle iron he brought back from France sometime in the 1800s, BUT it wasn’t until the 1964 World’s Fair that Belgian waffles (with yeast and egg whites) came to town, AND not until 1972 that those mass-produced cardboard patties riddled with Tartrazine (a.k.a. yellow no. 5) became famous from Kellogg’s coining of the phrase “Leggo My Eggo.”

Wafflegiving also celebrates other random ideas, including these: the word “waffle” comes from the Celtic “Wiff tille,” which may be translated as, “Alas! The mountain goat has my sandwich!” AND the fact/myth that part of L. Ron Hubbard’s theories of Scientology initially posited that mankind emerged when “a giant space waffle passed by the earth and sprinkled the ground with life-spores, from which human being sprang up."

Our first Wafflegiving was pretty casual: white chocolate waffles and vanilla-cinnamon waffles topped with apples, strawberries, bananas, whipped cream, homemade coconut syrup, and chocolate and caramel sauce and served with chicken-apple sausage and Galvanina Blood Orange soda.  

We are already gearing up for next year. By November 2012, chef Adam will have discovered how to make waffles out of gold leafed chocolate and then we’ll all be done for. 

This is the only picture we took at Wafflegiving. Jak thought my lap was comfy. See this for more details about this picture.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Biting the Big Apple

New York was everything I’d remembered from that summer I spent in Brooklyn at the Pratt Institute in 2003—a city throbbing with the sounds of car horns blasting at pedestrians, too many people swarming up and down the sidewalks, the tops of hundred-story tall buildings blocking out the sky, piles of black garbage bags swallowing the curb, glorious views of brick walls from your hotel window, the surreal oddity of shooting from one end of the city to the other underground in the claustrophobic sardine cans of the subway . . .

And at the same time everything was new, because Jesse and Deon and Mindy were there.  
Deon and Mindy (Dindy, Meon, MindyDeon) were married on 4/30/11 in a wedding that totally eclipsed Prince William and Kate’s, in my opinion.  

Jesse has known Deon since they were wee sixth graders. After getting married, MindyDeon moved to New York to start rotations for medical school. Veteran’s Day weekend was the soonest we could get away to see them.

Jesse and I spent Veteran’s Day wandering around, freezing. The highlights: 

Korea Town: Eh. They sell lots of scarves.

Eataly: more than a supermarket with restaurants. It is an energetic marketplace, an opportunity to taste and take home the products of artisans who till, knead and press to bring you the highest quality products at a fair price.” Like black summer truffles for $600/lb market price, but on sale for $350! Eataly is kind of like an Italian Costco. They even have a manifesto. And cool futuristic-looking plastic shopping carts that look like spaceships.


Me and my anchovy. See his little eye?
Union Square Greenmarket: I would quit my lucrative part time teaching job and live here if I could. This farmers’ market puts all the stupid RI ones to shame. It started in 1976 with 12 farmers in a parking lot on 59th Street and 2nd Ave. in Manhattan and now has over 53 markets and over 30,000 acres of protected farmland: “In peak season, 140 regional farmers, fishermen, and bakers descend upon Union Square to sell their products to a devout legion of city dwellers who support local agriculture with their food dollars.” We bought 12 oz of creamed honey.  

Udon West: 150 E 46th St. Midtown East. Japanese café. MindyDeon took us here for dinner. Here you can get sake and roasted tuna collar blades served on plates the size of car tires. We ate udon: n. “A thick Japanese noodle made with wheat flour, usually served in soup or broth.” We also ate tongue. Not sure what kind; the menu just said “tongue.”

Crumbs Bake Shop: Cupcake stop! Over 50 flavors. One of their specialties is The Colossal Crumb, a giant 5-lb cupcake (at least?) with over 6 inches of frosting. It costs $35 + tax. We opted for cupcakes that satiate normal sized people: Grasshopper cupcake. Brownie cheesecake cupcake. Roasted marshmallow hot chocolate.
Even a superhero needs a cupcake. 

And we saw some other strange things:

 I want one!
Jesse's retirement home.
Not as cool as they say it is. Especially since it costs $22 to look out the window.
Lotsa cups hanging in a window of the Flatiron Building.
On Saturday, we toured some classic NYC sights:

MOMA: Wherein senseless works of “art” convey the prosaic nature of our collective humanity.

Tempting. But not for $95. It takes between 1 and 4 days and 4,000-25,000 wrappers to construct each of these. They also had purses made of key board keys and zippers. Except here, they don't say "purse." They call them "pocketbooks."
Jesse, stuck in the birth canal-like exhibit.
Jesse: "What is this?" Deon: "The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Duh."
There was at least one thing useful in MOMA, the "Epidermits Interactive Pet." It's like a Chia Pet, but made of skin: it's a “fully functioning organism, resulting from advanced tissue engineering” (i.e. discarded human skin) and although it can’t think or feel pain, it can “follow a complex set of algorithms.” You can style its hair, tan its skin, or add tattoos or piercings.  It is currently not available in stores.

Rockefeller Center: We stood there watching a Zamboni drive back and forth across the ice rink.  

Times Square: Too many underwear ads. 

Grimaldi’s Pizza: A must. If you go, get the white pizza with sundried tomatoes and onions.

OWS: We were some of the last tourists to see the tents. The stench of the port-a-potties kept us from staring longer than necessary. Lots of beating of drums and frenzied dancing with unidentifiable faux gold headpieces and Navajo blanket poncho-thingies. Deon has been several times to observe and photograph. On one occasion, a bum was protesting the free handouts of vegan pizza; he wanted meat darn it! 

This was the most impressive thing about OWS.
World Trade Center Memorial: This was interesting. The hour-long wait just to get to the security checkpoints was less interesting. 

New York never looked better. Thanks MindyDeon!