Friday, December 26, 2008

A Tale of Two Snowmen

Behold! Ice Cream Snowmen meant for dessert! Each one of us gets our own ice cream snowman in our favorite flavor. Last year’s Christmas snowman looks healthy and quite appetizing. This year’s snowman… is pretty pathetic looking. I still ate him – and he still tasted very good – but he clearly had had a tough go of it - like the rest of us in the past year. Guess the fate of the snowmen is just a sign of the times. This year, my mother has had a lot on her mind besides the holidays. She neglected to move the snowmen inside the house and into her freezer in a timely manner. We all had quite a good laugh at the poor snowmen’s expense.

She’s not the only person whose mind was somewhere else though. Even though our dinner was exceptionally good, I failed to photograph any of it before the family had parceled it all out. I have photos of half-full platters of food (or less in many cases). I didn’t even get a good photo of the standing rib roast. I am happy to report though, that everyone enjoyed the meal and that my entire family was able to make it. In the end, that’s all that really matters. Hoping for better looking snowmen in our future!

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and a great 2009!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wandering Aimlessly

This week, I find myself in New York City again. My aunt (who lives in Chicago) had surgery here before Thanksgiving and has been in the hospital or has been staying here as an outpatient since then with my uncle. With the exception of a few days last week, I’ve been here with them. Her situation isn’t the greatest and I find myself here to provide distractions for her.

We’ve kept to a strange schedule since she was released from the hospital. She needs her rest and I’ve instructed them to just call me when they are up and ready for the day. Usually, they’re not ready to face the day until after 10 am. For the last three mornings here in Manhattan, I have found myself wandering the city aimlessly until I have to meet them. I’ve left my hotel room at around 7 am each morning and have just let my feet lead the way. I’ve ducked into shops and restaurants and watched the people and places that just happened to be along my path. There’s been no planning involved – no goal – just movement. For as loud as it can sometimes be in this city, I’ve found these morning outings to be strangely peaceful. When my cell phone rang, I would head in their direction and meet them wherever they needed me to be. Then, my real day would begin. These morning wanderings by myself have been somewhat surreal.

One morning, I found myself in the lower level of 30 Rockefeller Plaza standing in the Starbuck’s line behind Dan Abrams – who’s much smaller and strangely more handsome in person than on tv. The girl who was passing out the beverages asked him what his name was so she could locate his drink and I wondered if he found it comforting that she didn’t recognize him. I had breakfast watching people ice skating on the Rockefeller Center ice rink and felt joy for a white-haired man who was taking beginner figure skating lessons. I’ve found myself as far North as 62nd Street and Lexington and as far South as 31st Street and 7th Avenue during one walk. The interesting sight of the morning was of three large camels walking down West 51st Street with their handlers. I also happened to be walking by the “Today Show” set during the segment with Carrie Fisher and wondered where her legs had gone when I glanced through the window (they’re still there – she was just sitting oddly). I walked through stores that opened early for holiday shopping and was glad to see huge crowds browsing the goods. I walked out in the rain and watched everyone rush around with their umbrellas. It’s interesting to watch people walking through a steady rain. It seems to amplify what’s going on in their heads and hearts.

I never feel like a tourist here in Manhattan – and for that, I am grateful. I don’t think my morning walks would have been as therapeutic as they seem to have been if I felt at all like a tourist. I’ve spent a lot of time in this city over the years. My first visit here was before my first birthday. In my early 20’s, I met my husband here. I love it here. It was comforting to get lost amongst the rest of humanity but to never feel lost at all. During these hours that seem to have been stolen away for myself, the world around me didn’t need me and I was operating on autopilot. I’m grateful to the city for enabling me to wander without a physical destination in mind and for helping me to get my mind to a good place so that I could be more helpful to my family. I guess I wasn’t truly wandering aimlessly.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What's Up With the Food Pics?

Anyone who's browsed my flickr stream has probably noticed that I tend to take a lot of pictures of food. No, I'm not a food critic - nor am I involved in any profession involving the production or consumption of food. So what's up with the food pics?

I started to wonder that myself the other day when a friend posted a photo of her meal on Facebook and in the caption wrote that the photo was an homage to me. Me? Oh dear God, do I really take that many food photos? Sadly, yes. Yes I do.

I traced the food photo thing back to September 2007 when I took part in the "10 for 30" group on flickr organized by @banannie and @AnnOhio. We posted ten photos a day for 30 days. It was a nice way for the members to see what our friends saw in their daily lives. That block of 30 days was a nice lull in my year and I was home for most of it. On day 1, one of my photos was of my dinner at the Temple Bar in Porter Square. That's the first "food picture" that I ever posted for public consumption. Previous to that, the only instances of food in my stream were a couple of wine bottles and empty dinner plates in the background of a photo from Napa.

Apparently, folks like food photos. They comment on them and ask for them. Certain people (*ahem*) become more than a tad unhappy with me when I don't take or post food photos. Apparently, I like food photos too since I take so many. I don't take photos of the great majority of my meals at restaurants or at home. It's clearly not a good thing to whip out my camera in certain places or with certain dining companions. My husband, in particular, isn't fond of the practice in public, so I don't do it much when we are dining together as a courtesy to him. As he is my primary dining companion, there are some really gorgeous meals that have gone unphotographed. The one that really sticks out in my mind was dinner at Nobu in Hong Kong because every single course was really, really gorgeous... but that's another story. Most of the time though, it doesn't even occur to me to take a picture until after the meal has been consumed.

That all being said, when I look back on my flickr stream of photos from the year it's clear that I mark time with people, places and food. I think we all do. I can always ask my sister and cousin if they remember the Christmas that my aunt served cold mashed potatoes and the answer is always "yes." Food takes me to memories of specific places. Awesome Prawn Sandwich? London. Coney Dogs? Detroit. Killer Shrimp Katsu Curry? Tokyo. Pringles and bottled soda at midnight? Cancun. Where did I order room service just so I could have more butter? Paris. Fried Twinkies? Santa Cruz. Sadly, I don't have photos of those foods. I kind of wish I did.

Food presentation is an art - but once you've consumed it, it's just gone. This year, we spent Thanksgiving at a hospital in New York City with my aunt, who was recovering from surgery. I have a photo of my sad looking cafeteria tray with a cheeseburger, french fries and a slice of pecan pie on it. I went back a year in my photos and found Thanksgiving 2007 at my aunt's house when she prepared a huge Standing Rib Roast, Stuffed Salmon, Chicken Vesuvio, Fingerling Potatoes with Parmesan and Dill, Green Beans and Kale and Pasta. She had great appetizers too and for dessert, we had Pumpkin Pie, Banana Cream Pie and Ice Cream. I'm glad that I took those photos last year because they were strangely comforting. They reminded me of a better time when we were all happy, healthier and together and helped me to look forward to a time when we can have a nice holiday meal like that one at her house again.

Even though at times I have thought that I might discontinue the practice of snapping photos of food, I don't think I will. In fact, I may do it more often ;)