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I believe in artichokes

Italy did ruin me. After that first trip I came back disgusted by bodega coffee, which now smelled of old socks. Before, it was just fine. I rolled my eyes at red sauce joints, detouring old standbys like a stranger. If eating can be seen as a religious or spiritual experience I had been to the mountain. In time I would return on pilgrimages, always holding the simple pleasures in my thoughts.  An artichoke, methodically fried in good olive oil, with some salt. Black truffles, good butter and fresh pasta twisting around the back of a fork. A very cold and tiny glass of porto bianco sipped in a Genoa bar, with my friend Federico. A man cleaning sardines on a block of wood in the street. A woman selling green figs that she wraps into a newspaper cone. I have thousands of these memories, these artifacts. But I live in Moscow, where there has been an embargo for years now, and there is no population that expects perfect mounds of fresh cheese. They ship powdered palm oil here, that gets …

home and home (bite your tongue)


A week back, and time has not returned to itself. Mornings are sluggish, getting E to school with my stomach empty, twisting and then full, then finding an hour back in bed. Nights are lost, awake in the darkness knowing that friends in New York are taking afternoon coffees, chattering on phones in the streets, shopping for gifts or just working away. Home, and home. Home and home.

The rhythms are beyond my grasp, the shuttling of dishes to sinks, the making of lunches, the remembering of bills and what day the cheese lady is at rinok. It happens sometimes, this catgut string trick, the stretching without breaking, this taught thrum of coffee and work, of messages and hustling for jobs, this hunger, this surrender every night with the resolve to try harder tomorrow. 


I bit my tongue in New York, blood seeping into my breakfast as I touched it and found red on my finger. It was not a small cut. It was me half-chewing into myself with a reckless sadness for good wine and rare steak, for manhattans and martinis and more good coffee, bialys and breakfast sausage, the cold rain on my face in Chinatown, my pockets shoved deep in pockets against the wind on 5th Avenue, turning into Tiffanys to get N's earring fixed on the top floor where they call my name in a low voice.


While I was away, E prepared a card for me. The drawing of the two of us rests at the edge of my desk staring back at me. I can almost smell the magic markers she used when she made it. 

My winter jacket is pulled from the hall closet and I see that N has washed it, and has found buttons for all of the ones that sprang off. The zipper has something to pull it closed now. She thinks of these things and just does them, without fanfare. 

There are a row of avocados in the kitchen on the blue plate we bought in Portugal with two fish painted on it. They are thick skinned, growing soft and ripe, even in the cold air. I squeeze one of them, and cut it open. The flesh is bright green, smiling up at me. I cut some into a bowl while the buckwheat cooks. The sky is growing brighter, full of clouds with blue leaking in between them. A man is shoveling snow in the street below, the lonely rasp of his work breaking the silence. 

Yes, home.



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