All posts by cathycentral

The Quintessential Manhattan Party

Tonight, a party in a classic loft apartment full of original art and   interesting people (read – a guy with a hat and a couple whowore matching clothes).  Mac & cheese, meat loaf and plentiful supplies of cake. Jazz trio and two young pianists vying for our ear.

In NYC, up until now we have only been to other Europeans’ apartments with other Europeans as guests.  The reliable ex-pat circulars of leaving parties and housewarmings.  In this instance, our real estate agency wanted to say “Thanks” with a party and get it in before the Thanksgiving rush (well, rush for some – we’re still waiting for an invite for turkey dinner, hint, hint).

I was expecting a bar somewhere with a rolling presentation of apartments to rent, and brochures all laid out.  Then, even when entering the 5th floor Tribeca apartment, I thought, oh hang on, this must be an apartment they are trying to rent out, the  market is quiet and so they’re hosting a party there – cool idea.  But no. The owner (of both the apartment and the real estate agency) had invited us into her own home.  A senior-looking little lady, she was stylish with an open face but with a hint of frailty.  Her son’s artwork hung on her walls and someone called Brian had made all the food.

M returned form the kitchen, astonished at the eccentric salad-spoon manoeuvres of a pushy tall skinny guy behind him with a big mop of hair.  Next minute the same guy is tinkling away at the grand piano, in some kind of a personal contest with a gothic girl. She was way better. It could have been a scene from a Woody Allen movie if it weren’t for the lack of angst and intellectual rambling.

So, anyway, now I feel like a New Yorker.  Or someone who knows New Yorkers, at least.  Ok, then, someone who buys stuff off New Yorkers and spends enough money to be invited to their house.

The high drama of election night

obama graffiti art

Awaiting the results coming in via CNN, at home on the sofa with M, it just didn’t seem  that exciting so we rushed down the road to The Onion’s bash in the LES, then rushed back home to get ID and then rushed back to the bar.  Once inside we found a big screen at the back and at the bar, a quite white crowd and smelly take-outs surrounding us. Still not really that exciting, people seemed grumpy to me, which is odd because I thought The Onion’s bandwagon would be good for a laugh.  Same old anti-climatic coverage from CNN, not really communicating the significance of the Ohio and Pennsylvania wins when they came in.

So coming up to 11pm and Obama on just over 200 electoral votes, having been inching up slowly over the last hour.  Gearing up to go home, thinking even though the West coast polls were closing at 11pm, it would take another hour for votes to be processed. But no!  Bang on 11pm, CNN flashes up Barack Obama is the new President of the United States, electoral votes hiked up to over 300 just like that.  Ok, thanks for the heads up, guys.

Good speeches from both McCain and Obama, the latter in particular appearing incredibly serious right from the beginning of his victory speech, allowing himself only a few smiles.  Quite sobering, amidst all the celebrations going on. It got me thinking of what a heavy load to bear he now has, together with the worries of keeping himself and his family safe from harm.

Unfortunately I’d had loads of coffee to prepare me for a long night, and now found myself too wired to sleep after it was all over by midnight or so.

PS Where’s Peter Snow when you need him?

Obama mannequin

What’s cooking?

I have tried for a few months to get a place on the local Whole Foods’ cookery class on Morrocan cuisine and finally got in there tonight. I think there were about 13 of us; a young, laid back crowd.  Well apart from the lady who turned up without booking – she was pretty uptight about being told the class was full, better luck next time, darling.Chef explaining

We had an introductory talk on kitchen do’s and don’t’s, and an overview of Morrocan food with tastings and much smelling of various spices and pickles – pickled lemon is surprisingly tasty. We were talked through the recipes before being split into three groups to attempt about 2 dishes each.  Disappointingly we were the only group with all vegetarian dishes whilst the other groups got to play around with raw chicken and lamb.  I basically cut onions, mint, and kept things neat and tidy but I did learn the technique for peeling tomatoes, not a difficult skill I know but just something I’ve never tried before.

At the hob

Anyway, I took it upon myself to take some photographs so that I could loiter around the other groups to see if I could pick up what was going on with the more interesting recipes.  Lots of onion grating and tentative checking of steaming pans. Serving
up time came quickly and the dishes were quite good, but we agreed that at home we should cook the meat for longer.  I’m going to give it a go in few weeks when the hot weather is over and Menno’s parents are visiting.  If I take a picture and sent it to Whole Foods, I’ll get my next class for free!

The finished products

Freedonia?

booksign

When I was a young girl or maybe even a teenager, one of my favourite things was to take my school atlas and, using only the pages showing North America, transcribe all the place names into a separate little book with a freshly sharpened pencil, crossing them off as they were recorded.  I loved the sound and the look of the placenames on the page and for some reason they seemed the most exotic and characteristic of all of the nations included within the atlas, despite the fact that I had probably not even made it to France at that stage. Walking by the local bookstore this morning brought that name-affection back to me with a notice for the evening’s book-reading, ‘Names on the Land – A historical account of place naming in the United States’.

I was absolutely satisfied.  A variety of readers (some better than others) treated a good-sized audience to snippets of the book and opened up about bits of their land-connections and musings on nomenclature.  And normal people asked straight-forward questions without any pretentiousness.  For the country itself, I learned that some of the alternate names offered instead of the United States of America were: Freedonia, Alleghania and Columbia. The writer, George R Stewart, scorns the one that was settled for in the end. Needless to say, I bought the book and read three chapters in one night which, by the way, is really good for me.

Stewart writes,

‘No one knows when man came, or who gave the first names. Perhaps the streams still ran high from the melting ice-cap, and strange beasts roamed the forest. And since names – corrupted, transferred, re-made – outlive men and nations and languages, it may even be that we still speak daily some name which first meant “Saber-tooth Cave” or “Where-we-killed-the-ground-sloth”.