Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Crown Heights breakfast

On Saturday night N. and I passed out in the bed with all our clothes on and the lights on, about 12:30. Around 2 I woke up and realized I still had to walk the dog. I put my cammo windbreaker on and headed into the drizzly Crown Heights night. I couldn't shake the fuzzy head, just thinking about going back to bed. It was quiet. Too quiet, even for that time of night. Wondering where everyone was, I peered ahead into the distance, and realized that hundreds of my Lubavitch neighbors were massed on Eastern Parkway in front of a major synagogue. Curiosity got the better of my fatigue, and I slipped into the crowd to investigate.

Upside down milk-crate with a live chicken inside.

Lubavitcher on his cell phone, holding a completely passive chicken by both wings in the other hand.

Three semi truck trailers, doors open, doing a brisk live chicken business to crowds of Hassidic families directly out of the truck.

Hmmmmmm. Interesting, I thought, and headed around the block to head back home. I turned on to Albany and then onto President St, trying to shake it off. When I got to Kingston I saw a couple cops and some stacked barricades, and a few people hanging around in the street. Knowing that Yom Kippur was coming up I figured they were making some preparations for festivities the next day, and kept going down President towards my house. When I got halfway down the block I realized that there was a big crowd down on the corner, and these little tents set up. I thought about turning around, but I was tired and it seemed a long way to go all the way back around the block, so I pressed on into the crowd again.

The tents were set up over blue tarps, and a steady flow of blood was flowing from each one. Everywhere around me chickens were being waved around, husbands were flailing them over their wives heads, over their own heads, muttering. The chickens were completely calm, maybe for the first time feeling the awakening of the dream of flight in their hearts, before they were handed off to suited men in the makeshift abattoirs.

In the morning we made salad with "sassy baby blend" greens, cucumber, crisp gala apples, shallow-fried lemon pepper unchicken, a surprisingly and delightfully bluey havarti with dill, and lemon mustard vinaigrette with a touch of thyme honey.

And coffee.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Polish Country Breakfast

As I sit here in my underwear eating a box of Nutter Butters that miss N. foolishly brought over, my mind turns to breakfasts past.

This summer, after being on tour in Poland and Russia, I was fortunate enough to be able to stop by my Aunt and Uncle's summer home in the north of Poland for a few days. Not only was this an opportunity to revisit the happy place of my childhood, but also to experience a couple days of great breakfasts.

This is how it went. I would wake up around 9 or ten, much later than everyone else. I would stumble upstairs into the morning light, and be greeted with a fully laden breakfast table, the contents of which were pretty much just carried upstairs from my aunt's home canning station in the basement.

We had a couple of her jams in play while I was there, including one made from "czeremhy," which even my father, a linguist and professional Polish-English translator, couldn't really identify an English equivalent for (subsequent internet search provides "bird-cherries" [?]). Turns out my aunt was growing them next to the house. The preserves were wickedly tart, something similar to black currant. Good luck getting this anywhere but at your Polish Aunt's house. She was also really proud of her commercial pectin-free raspberry preserves. Made from local raspberries.

Other breakfast items included a small jar of unprocessed honey I had bought from the beekeeper himself at a market in the nearest village, some home-made cheese called (rough translation) "stinker" with fresh chives, delicious fresh baked rolls, farmer's cheese, and sometimes even scrambled farm fresh eggs with dill and just-picked-yesterday-by-my-uncle chanterelles. Delicious. Oh, and fresh blueberries I picked from the patch I found down by the creek.

After breakfast we would usually sit around talking shit for a couple hours, or help my uncle rebuild his fence.

And then, every day, once my breakfast was two hours behind me, I'd run to the lake and take a swim in the clear cold water, the sound of the wind in the pines mixing tranquilly with the overweight lifeguard's copy of Legend.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Pathetic Breakfast

Ran out of peanut butter yesterday.

Today's breakfast was two spinach and vegetable flour tortillas that my old roommate left behind when he moved last week. It's not clear how old they were, but in the absence of carbon dating technology, my mouth suggests between 50 and 60 thousand years. I sprinkled the last of the Sargento Taco cheese blend on each one, and topped one with the last drop of chipotle salsa, and the other with the last two jalapeno slices. My mouth is hot and my stomach is no longer digesting itself. Probably I will have deeper regrets in two to three hours.

If I don't get to a grocery store soon, breakfast tomorrow will probably be wet cardboard and hot sauce.