Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Foraging: Mi Vida Loca-Vore

Foraging: Mi Vida Loca-Vore

“I really want to congratulate you,” said the Green Femme as the Green Man staggered through the apartment door after another two-hour, all-public-transport commute. “You’ve become a real loca-vore.”

“A what?”

“Like a carnivore, only you buy local and in season.”

“I do?”

“Like a herbivore, only a local-vore. I mean, loca-vore. Get it?”

“In Spanish that would mean I was crazy and female, you know. As in Mi Vida Loca-vore.”

The Green Femme was not amused. I sighed. “Okay, what exactly did I do? I mean, do right, for once.”

“Not for once. You’ve been doing a lot better lately.” Then she opened the fridge and took out the leftovers from my Saturday shopping expedition. Plonk. “A fish from Phil’s at Abingdon Farmer’s Market.” Plop. “A brave little hydroponic lettuce from the Korean folks.” Thwack. “A loaf of bread from Bread Alone–no, wait, bread doesn’t count as loca-vore since New York State doesn’t produce grain.”

“Sure it does. What do they make all the beer from?”

“It’s imported, dummy.”

“I thought that only counted if it came in green bottles and from over the border.”

“Not if you’re a loca-vorist.”

“But beer is the one language all men have in common.”

“Doesn’t matter.” She surveyed the 75 percent loca-vore ingredients before her. “Do you feel like cooking?”

The following evening The Green Man’s cell went off as he wearily mounted the stairs in a long file of commuters exiting the Seventh Avenue subway stop. It was a warm day, the first warm weekday of spring, and the sweatstains were already in full bloom and full fragrance.


“Pick up something for dinner, okay?”

“Loca-vore? Or just organic? Or anything to quell the savage beast–”

Cell phones don’t make a click when someone hangs up on you. You can keep talking for blocks, if you’re the long-winded kind. Eventually you realize you’re babbling like an idiot, though. And you’re embarrassed, until you realize everyone around you is babbling like an idiot.

In the straight shot home, at this hour, past seven p.m., all my green theory went out the window. This was Survival Hour, what paramedics call the Golden Hour. Get that Green Man some food now! And there was the supermarket.

“Buy local,” I thought. And there, by the door, was a stacked case of beer, in tall green cans, with a sign that said: STRONG BEER.

“Subtle,” I thought, and took one. At $1.25 it was as cheap as anything I’d find in a 10-block radius. But where was it from? The word “beer” was printed in five or six different languages, as were the ingredients. It made me want to hum The Internationale, or rather, the Beer Internationale. (“I get knocked down, but I get up again...”)

I studied the label: 9.5 % alcohol. Good heavens! This was way past malt liquor. Who were these fiends? Finally, the tiniest of small print revealed the secret place of origin: Lithuania.

“Brothers, comrades,” I breathed. “Neighbors–what’s one beer?”

I strolled between aisles down to the long low meat cooler. And there it was: locally, proudly, boldly, manly. “Nittany Lion Franks.” The football fan in me rose and shook a foam finger at the sky. Nittany Lions! The mighty enigmatic mascot of Penn State, home of Coach Joe Paterno of Happy Valley, Pennsylvania.

That local could embrace ballpark franks I had no doubt. Besides, an orange sticker said “Reduced for quick sale.” Into the basket–did I dare?

The cell rang. “Hello?”

“Did you shop yet? Because forget about it, I think it’s just too warm in the apartment to cook. I ordered Chinese.”

“Loca-vore Chinese?”

But she’d hung up.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Cooking: Spring's First Lobster

Cooking: Spring’s First Lobster

Punxsutawney Phil let the Green Man down this year. You know, the groundhog Phil. After a long cold winter, and a cold and even longer spring, in New York we were sick and tired of our Uggs, our fleece slippers, our Dr. Zhivago fur hat and even our flannel jammies. We wanted daffodils by the river, dammit.

Most of all, The Green Man wanted Phil the Fisherman to come back to the Abingdon Square Farmer’s Market. It’s a fact that Phil Karlen and his family feed the Green Man and his family at least three days a week, from around St. Patrick’s Day to Thanksgiving. That’s eight months of the year that we eat fresh local fish (and even a meal or two during the winter months, thanks to Phil’s frozen crab cakes). That’s a lot of flounder, monk, scrod, tuna, skate, sole, scallops, squid, and clams. And so we were happy to see Phil return.

But the weather stayed bad all through March and into April, driving away the one sure sign of spring for the Green Man. Not the groundhog’s shadow. Not the daffodils, or the crocuses on our block in Chelsea, or babies in their strollers. No, for us spring is the flaring red shell of one of Phil’s Long Island lobsters peeking like rosy dawn itself out of a shopping basket.

Last weekend, Tax Weekend as it is commonly known, the weather stayed too cold and the sea too stormy, but Phil promised me a lobster for Earth Day.

It’s about ten blocks to Abingdon Square from our place. (Phil’s fish stand at Union Square is a tad out of the way for me, and he actually runs the Abingdon Square stand himself, usually with his grandson, the econ and music major.) It’s also my basic Saturday Food Walk , taking me past Myers of Keswick–that shrine of all foods British in New York–and the Chelsea Market, which supplies our Ronnybrook yoghurt and milk, our Amy’s Breads, lots of produce, the odd cut of meat from Frank’s the Steakhouse butcher shop, the Italian almost-like-wholesale Buonitalia store, plus a good wine shop and Eleni’s cookies. So as food walks go, it is right up there with Chinatown and Little Italy and bits of Bleecker Street and Lexington Avenue (in the upper 20s): the equivalent of the Hollywood Walk of Stars, only much tastier, and even healthier for you.

I set out with my cloth bag and camera, taking the pix you see here. The lobsters, two of them, already cooked, were waiting. “The first of spring, baby!” said Phil, hoisting them into the air.

I had bought two hot dog brioches from Amy’s Bread, intending to make lobster rolls for lunch, but the day grew so warm that the Green Femme and I ended up wandering for hours, just letting our bodies unkink from the long winter. Lobster rolls didn’t seem right for dinner–a little chill had returned--so as the sun set back home I started boiling water for some organic pasta and put in the steamer some broccoli.

The rest, as they say, is recipe:

*in cooking pan under low heat, add dash of olive oil, quarter stick of butter, then:
coarse sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
half cup frozen corn
one clove garlic chopped fine

*quickly shell lobsters, picking out meat and tossing underhand into pan with economy of motion
*when you get to the lobster body, eat the green stuff with your fingers but don’t tell your wife
*cover and cook for 5-8 minutes
*drain pasta
*cover with lobster, squeeze half a lemon, sprinkle with Parmesan

Serve with a light, even “green” white wine. I particularly like the cheap Portuguese tinto verdes with their slight fizziness and lower alcohol (10%). You can drink a couple of glasses and still blog afterwards!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Running of the Seals in Laguna Beach

Last April, around this time, The Green Man was in the O.C.--the "real" Laguna Beach, and we're not talking about high school kids in Manolos and Humvees--when he saw from his car window that a Pacific swell was running. One thing about that Green Man, he is never without his swimfins and trunks, so a quick turnoff later he'd parked and was scrambling his way down to a pretty little cove under yellow sandstone cliffs. It was foggy, early in the day, about 10 a.m. and he had the beach and ocean to himself (while the Green Surfer Gal was changing, that is).

So we're swimming in the (cold: 59 degree) water and have just taken a nice first ride on a wave when we hear a cheer. There must be a hundred people standing on the sand, cheering us!

Now, the Green Man knows adulation has its place, but isn't that easily flattered. Although, you know, it was a pretty nice ride. And what can be a more graceful sight than that of a black rubber-clad adult male carving down the face of an emerald green wave?

So we take another wave, and plan our pull-out so that we land upright in the shallows right in front of our audience. Hello? Where are the cheers, people? I mean did you see that wave?

No, in fact they didn't--because the good people of the O.C., god bless 'em, are lined up cheering five portable dog kennels. Whose doors, when raised, launch five baby seals who leap forward and gallop like black rubber-clad golden retrievers down the sandy carpet into the sea, right past the Green Man (whose Green Goddess raced to hand him his camera for the shot at the top.)

The baby seals had been rescued over the previous winter, restored to health, and were now fattened up and on their own. Duck-diving and porpoising, they stuck around and played in the waves for awhile with us, before heading off, barking, for the poo-stained rock that seems to be a seal's idea of the Ritz Carlton.

We caught a few more waves after that, and agreed that there is still a "real" O.C. beneath the "real" Laguna Beach--you just have to look for it.

Happy Earth Day!

Hey, Did My Shampoo Just Change My Sex?

One of the advantages of being married to a Green Czar is, of course, being spared every kind of disaster by exposure to weird, body-and-soul-destroying chemicals. The best part is I don't have to raise a finger--most of the time. The Green Goddess just makes the bad stuff go away.

But then she started messing with my SHAMPOO.

Now, the male gene for emotional and domestic stability often finds first expression by attachment to our earliest cosmetic products. It's like a baby duck bonding with the first living creature it sees. Only with us Greenfellas, hanging out in the locker room at 13, parting our hair with a little dab o' do-ya, it tends to be Old Spice, Bryllcreem, Mitchum Anti-Perspirant. Despite the mixed messages the advertising sometimes delivered ("All my men wear English Leather or they wear nothing at all") we still are fiercely loyal to the old brands.

With shampoo, that tended to be a brand that preyed on the fear of white specks showing up on our black tuxedos (a slight disconnect at age 13 fashion-wise), and, after we got to college and realized chicks were hep to the whole white specks anxiety, to that old standby with pictures of flowers on it. Who could be against, like, herbs? (Heh-heh.)

Of course it actually had been years since I bought any of those old standbys, but then the other day I got fed up with washing my hair with plain soap because the Green Witch hadn't been to the drugstore. So on my way home from work I broke the rules. And got the scariest lecture about a kind of F-word you'll never hear on television:

Phthalates. Yeah, that kind of Phth-word. SCARY.

Holding her trusty yew switch as a pointer, the Green Queen rapped my nethers and said: "Exposure to phthalates--chemicals widely used as synthetic fragrancing agents, as well as in plastics--correlates to abdominal obesity and insulin resistance in U.S. adult males, according to a March, 2007 study in Environmental Health Perspectives online. The CDC says that all Americans have phthalates in our bodies, and previous studies have linked the chemicals to subtle genital and reproductive hormone changes in male infants."

Naturally, I immediately checked myself out. And my pals, that gang of reluctant but trying Green Men called the Greenfellas. At the top of this entry is what we looked like--nothing subtle, right?

[Editor's note: the photo was removed by divine intervention, but take our word for it... In fact, take several words: hideous, blubbery, gastropod-like.]

Scared yet? I was. And out to recycling went those nasty phth-phth-phth-alates.

[If you like horror movies about giant tadpoles mutating and eating small cities you'll love reading about Phthalates on]