Echoes and Mementos

Thoughts and pictures about cooking, eating, reading, writing, and living.

Category: The Rest

From Middle-Deck Seats

Something happened on the middle-deck of Lincoln Financial Field, the Linc, home stadium of the Philadelphia Eagles (3 wins, 2 losses prior to the game), as they took the field against the Detroit Lions (3 losses, 1 win) and everyone was waiting for the kicker to start forward. I noticed, through gaps in the massive concrete bleachers, far-off trees and low buildings, small, still, and indifferent to the game. Above the stadium’s rim drifted wispy cirrus clouds, cotton on cobalt.

The kicker sent the ball flying. Everyone’s eyes followed it down to the return man, but mine stayed in the sky, trained on the residual smoke from the fireworks that went off at the kick. The smoke outsailed the cirrus clouds, passing in front of them, floating on, and vanishing mid-flight into blue. The sun warmed my skin. The breeze rippled my hair. It was an empyrean fall day.

Decked out in plastic armor, uniforms colored bright, the offense and defense came on, and for now I was unallied to either team. The rhythm of the sun and the clouds reduced the spectacle before me to sport. Names on the backs of jerseys were meaningless. Statistics–on the scoreboard, from the PA announcer–were mere history: a record of past bodily movements and counter-movements. I became aware that the same tepid fall sun had seen past sporting events, unalike in their rules and motions but alike underneath. A nearby woman shouted, “Woop. Woooooooop. Let’s go birds,” and she could very well have been, in this space where the timeline had rolled up, cheering chariots as they orbited the Circus Maximus.

Wins, losses, names, and numbers–these are small. What matters is the struggle, the kinetic beauty of it, and the story behind the movements, the forms and narratives that twist and turn as in novels, epics, and routine life.

Later, when the Eagles scored on a two-yard pass to the running back, the frenzy of the occasion re-wrapped itself around me. I shouted along with the lady and sang the home team’s fight song. When the Eagles blew the lead and the game, I sulked out with the silent crowd. The sun had arced low but still felt warm, and I found myself looking forward, the bitter taste gone, to next Sunday.

Recipe Cards

When you read books of fact someone is telling you about the past. You are mostly passive, a listener. When you read recipes you are actively reconstructing and exploring the past. I once read a few Roman recipes. They were from the empire, and they were translated from Latin. Pasta had not yet evolved. Romans instead ate a polenta made from wheat; corn was stuck in the Americas, and so was a favorite jungle-fruit of mine: the tomato. Cooks seasoned food with garum, a fermented fish sauce, similar to the condiment popular in Southeast Asia today. People and foods change; through old recipes we can imagine how we used to be.

My grandparents recently sent me some recipe cards. Mostly, they come from my great-grandmother, who herself came from Avellino, Italy (near Naples) to New York by way of Albania and Budapest. (Recall: the woman who gave me the idea for eggles gnocchi.) She settled in the West Village. Here is a curious fact, for in the West Village I have idled away some Saturday afternoons, slinking into shops, wandering, buying tea and cheese. I am interested in the recipe cards for the food, yes, but also for the portal to Italian-American New York of a century past.

“Christofer,” my Nanni recently asked, “where do you get your tripe?” I don’t know where I get my intestines for cooking, because I don’t know anyone who will eat them with me, except maybe Shadow, but now that I have a recipe for the spongy organ I will search for a butcher who carries it.

Look for some of these foods in the coming weeks and seasons.

When Normal Time Becomes Dinner Time

Below, you will see Shadow sulking. He has a tough life. He sleeps for 16 hours a day, he sees no colors, and his underbite scares off the lady dogs. He also wants his dinner. Dogs feel no feeling of fullness, or so I have heard. Ten minutes after he has eaten breakfast, Shadow, now asleep, springs to four legs and runs to the kitchen at the sound of me slicing an apple or twisting open peanut butter. Nine hours later, he sees his next meal: