I am 25 years of age, and unfortunately too old to go out on Halloween and beg a gigantic stash of candy from the neighbors any longer.


But I remember getting a serious haul of treats every year when I was a kid...my brother and I (followed closely by our devoted parents, of course) would venture out into the chilled October evening, fighting our way through synthetic spider webs and "scary" lawn decorations, meticulously covering each street in several different areas of our town.  We persevered through cold, wind, fog, rain, and mobs of shrieking children with colored wigs and runny face makeup...those other little brats were no match for us, a candy-getting pair undeterred by any bloodsucking 4-year-old.  Outta the way kid!  It's 8:30!  People are closing up shop soon!  Just...one...more...MILKY WAY!  

We were: Trick-Or-Treating Professionals.

Upon returning to our lair, when the gathering was done, we spewed our heavy bags to gaze upon the night's collection.  A veritable waterfall of treats filled two large bowls, and we rejoiced devilishly in the smell and sight of the mounds of shiny candy.  The reds were so red, the yellows so yellow!  Ahhh...we ran our fingers through the little packets, lifting them, tossing them as a greedy cartoon man might do with a pile of cartoon coins.  Our mother allowed us to consume as much as we liked on Halloween night, but then she stored the bowls away in an inconvenient location and would ration us one piece per day until the supply ran out.  Yes, we ate Halloween candy well past Christmas.

The last time I ate a piece of Halloween candy after Christmas was many years ago. My costumes have all been sold at summer yard sales, and these days a younger generation takes to the streets on October 31st.  I guess I'm a grownup now.  But every year, when the wolves are howling and the mist covers the moon and the grocery store is selling treats by the 5lb bag, I remember all the loot of Halloweens past--plus all the fun I had with my family whilst procuring it--and the child in me still craves a handful of candy corn like nobody's business. 

Happy Halloween.


5. Skittles

4. Milky Ways

3. Kit Kats

2. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

1. Twix


5. Crunch bars (sorry, the chocolate is so waxy!)

4. raisins (come on...who do you think you're fooling?)

3. Bottle Caps (unless you like to eat sour chalk)

2. Mary Jane Peanut Butter Kisses (the mystery meat of sweets)

1. Smarties (it's a love 'em or hate 'em thing...well, I hate 'em)



The most beautiful things I saw at the market on Friday morning.



One paella,

Two paella,

Three paella,





I like Diet Coke.

I don't really drink it at restaurants, and I don't really buy it for home.  But every once in awhile, it hits me--that I just NEED ONE.

Normally these moments involve the presence of pizza.  But late the other night, as I was stumbling through that long passageway from the A train to the N/Q line at the Times Square station, on my way home, a little bleary from the day, the feeling struck.  No pizza necessary.  And it struck hard...all of a sudden I felt the exasperated dehydration of a thousand days in the desert, desperately parched:  O late-night subway snack kiosk, where were you??

Ah.  You were actually just around the corner and under a large staircase.

Thank goodness.

I zeroed in on the kiosk drink cooler as a hawk eyes its prey from above.  The cans and bottles were haphazardly strewn about the racks, as if lots of other thirsty people had recently descended upon the little fridge and ransacked its contents; a line of purple Gatorades had toppled on their sides, a once-perfect row of green Sprite bottles had been broken up and intermingled with Sierra Mist...what was going on here?  I started to search for the color red...because where there was Coke, there was Diet Coke.  I found red, and then silver.  Victory!  I grabbed a can and strutted to the register.

I put the can on the counter, and glanced down into my bag to fish out a dollar.  When I looked back up with dollar in hand, I saw the shopkeeper wiping off--or rather polishing, with a special sort of care--the top of the can.  He then smiled courteously and took my money, wrapped a fresh white paper napkin around the can, and handed it to me with a straw.  I thanked him, and began to walk away.

That's when things started to get silly in my mind.  I was about to pop the can open, but hesitated when I looked down and really took stock of what I held in my hand...was I actually about to drink a Diet Coke in this busy public space with a napkin and (even worse) a straw?

Who does that?  70-year-old wives on Golden Anniversary cruises to Acapulco do that, but do 20-something New York transplants such as myself do that?  After midnight, on a subway train to Queens for crying out loud?  The napkin suggested such propriety, and the straw--such occasion!!  Certainly a Diet Coke on a subway ride to Queens is no cause for celebration.  Cans of carbonated beverage are gulped and discarded, not enjoyed.

But as I was about to toss the straw and napkin in the garbage can, I had a change of heart.

I wrapped the napkin back in place around the can, and plunked the straw down into the brown aspartame-y water.  Nope, I was going to enjoy this one.

I felt primmest of the prim on the ride home, and imagined other scenarios where women might be drinking Diet Cokes with straw and napkin...maybe at the Kentucky Derby if they were tired of mint juleps.  Maybe in an upscale nursing home somewhere, over a game of Scrabble.  Places where there was a touch of old-world luxury, where the situation was being savored on Sunday afternoons or Tuesday mornings.  A little smile curled over my face, and suddenly I felt like a pioneer!  Savoring something on the subway!  A snooty strawberry blonde with an ipod gave me strange looks as I sipped, probably wondering, as I had only moments before--who does that?--but I just kept on sipping.  Yeah, the subway is a place where everything is fast and faceless and frazzled...but for those few little moments I actually, and truly,

enjoyed it.



New Yorkers do NOT play around when it comes to dumplings.

Oh sure, they love their bagels and their cheesecake, and they're wholly devoted to their pizza...but their love of dumplings is a curious thing.  They want them authentic, fast, and above all else, cheap.  That's really the kicker.  I recently overheard a bitter dispute in the street:  "Your dumpling place is six for three bucks?  Pfff, yeah well mine is four for a dollar!!"

The Dumpling Wars.  Each New Yorker claims to know of the very best spot.  But the truth is, folks, that there are dozens of great spots and all it takes to find one is a little Googling.

In your search, you will undoubtedly stumble upon the name Prosperity Dumpling, at 46 Eldridge Street in Chinatown.

Oh it's dirty.  It's cramped.  There are items on the menu scratched out in Sharpie.  And yes, that "Open" sign is upside down.  But you better believe you are going to get a good dumpling here.

I will now state, with the same pride and hostility of the aforementioned street quarreler, that I got eight--eight!!--vegetable dumplings for $2.00.

And wait a minute...if you're really looking to indulge, you may want to pick up one of these sesame pancakes filled with carrot sticks and cilantro for a whopping $1.25.

And there you have it: a grand total of $3.25.  Hey, big spender.



This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

-William Carlos Williams, 1934

Recipe:  Plum Cake, with Italian Prune Plums

Inspiration:  Orangette, Because there was a bag of plums



Until last night, I was completely unaware that I live two blocks from one of the most famous restaurants in all of New York City.   Read on to find out why Anthony Bourdain is jealous of me.

At about 7PM yesterday evening, I walked over to Astoria's glorious Steinway Street to meet a few friends from my book club for dinner.  The section of Steinway near my apartment is predominantly lined with businesses owned by people from North Africa and the Middle East...bakeries, restaurants, groceries, and a dozen or so hookah lounges are open and bustling into the early hours on any given night.  Large families sit crammed around tables eating Moroccan feasts, friends chat boisterously in impromptu gatherings on the sidewalk, and older men recline in little chairs outside the hookah lounges, exhaling fruity smoke and watching the lovely young women who walk by.  It's a festive sight.

And while lots of these Steinway establishments are large, flashy, and club-like, the little Kabab Cafe epitomizes hole-in-the-wall.  Literally.  As I entered the restaurant, the first thing I noticed was its size...or lack thereof.  It is teeny.  One quick scan of the eyes and I could see the entire kitchen and all 5 or 6 tables in the place.  My friends were running late, so I took a spot at a little booth near the front entrance and looked around, hoping to spot a waiter.  It was then that His Highness Chef Ali spoke to me.

"Just one, Miss?"

"Oh, no, there will be a few more.  I think they're running a few minutes late."

"Ah.  Would you like a glass of wine, Coca-Cola, tea...?"

"I'll just have water, please, that should be fine for now."

"No glass of water.  Bottled water only."

"Oh, ok.  Sure.  Um, one of those."

That was the first indication that this was going to be an interesting dining experience.  Bottled water only?  A ploy to charge the customer for what is normally a courtesy item?  Not entirely uncommon, but still a little surprising, as this was a regular "sit-down" restaurant and all.  But, eh, I shrugged it off and decided to look at the menu.  It hadn't been brought to the table yet.

"Excuse me, do you mind if I just take a look at the menu?"

"No menu."

I actually chuckled.  Ha ha, this guy.  What a jokester.  No, come on, for real this time.

"Oh, haha!  That's funny.  Is it posted somewhere?  Should I get up to...?"

"No menu."

"Oh, OK."

I retreated.  Clearly, this was a man in charge of his operation.

"When your friends get here, we will talk.  And then decide what you have."

He then brought a small plate of hummus and pita bread to the table, tossed a copy of Edible Queens in my general direction, and strode back to his kitchen.  Well, well!  Alrighty, Mr. Ali!  I was instantly charmed.

After reading a fascinating article about the local rooftop farm Brooklyn Grange, my friends arrived.  Now it was time.  Time to have this "talk".  After a few minutes, Ali peeked over his post at the stove and told us what we might eat that night.

I honestly can't remember everything he said.  Something about a beet salad this, a grape leaves that...but it all sounded delicious.  After he rattled off the entire list of what he was offering to patrons that evening, it all dawned on me:  this guy just goes out and buys whatever he finds for the day, cooks up whatever he wants, and that's what you get.  You eat according to his culinary whim.  Ha, silly me, requesting a menu!

Needless to say, we were a little overwhelmed by his verbal presentation of options, so we asked him to suggest something for us.  And boy, did he.  About 20 minutes later, he began bringing dishes to the table...first, a basket of warm whole wheat pita bread.  Then, little plates sprinkled with a mix of spices (I heard him mention "za'atar") which we would use throughout the meal.  Finally, he brought out a mezze plate with baba ghanouj, hummus, thinly sliced apples, deep-fried frisee, and the most perfect falafel I've ever tasted in my life.  He also laid out a dish with artichoke hearts and peppers, and another with hot ground lamb cheeks covered in a dollop of raw egg, which he personally stirred at the table.  Then he asked if there were any vegetarians; I answered.

"Oh, I am actually.  That looks delicious, but I will probably just stick to the falaf--"

"But this lamb is vegetarian fed.  It is cheeks!  Fed with only kisses.  See, now you can eat.  Only kisses."

The charm of this man!  He's an attraction himself.  Now, no one has ever talked me into eating a piece of meat in the years since I gave it up, but I feel that if anyone could, it would be Ali.  His enthusiasm for his food is entirely infectious.  Some may find his style a little jarring, as he did at times seem to live in his own little menu-less world, with his own rules and opinions.  Is that pretentious?  Eh, maybe.  But the food is sublime...so who can argue with that? 

I'm just glad that I am close enough to go back whenever I please and see Ali preparing his Egyptian dishes, keeping his watchful eye on humanity from behind the kitchen counter.

Yeah, I live two blocks away.  Eat your heart out Bourdain.



I found my old collection of fortune cookie fortunes.

Most are from cookies opened at Chinese dinners with family and friends, some dating back into the '90s.  I started collecting them when I was a little girl, after deciding that it was so careless to throw away one's own destiny (personalized, foretold!) in the trashcan by the buffet line.  Soon other people began bringing me their fortunes, too, in little pinches of 5 or 6, from meals I hadn't even attended.  Here are some of the best:



I have been living in NYC and away from Georgia for 5 1/2 weeks now, and I would be fibbing if I said I haven't caught myself reminiscing about home quite a good bit lately.  My best memories of friends in Atlanta often revolve around food...dinner parties carefully prepared, restaurant outings where we laughed a little too loudly at the table, and nights like the one captured in the video below.

The other day I was catching up with my dear friend and old college chum Scottie Knollin (his blog, "all the hits so far", is here) and he reminded me of this video he made last year, where the two of us went on a very serious search for one of history's most nonsensical edibles, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! (Spray), at the grocery store.  We then went to my house and baked cookies for some other friends, played a rousing game of Apples to Apples, and created memories that are now referenced fondly through inside jokes.  Simple, joyful.  Thank goodness for friendship.

Oh, and don't worry:  I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! (Spray) was NOT used in the making of these cookies.


2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg

-Lightly mix flour, baking soda, and baking powder.  In a separate bowl, mix softened butter, sugar, and vanilla; beat in the egg.  Slowly combine the flour mixture with the butter mixture, and be careful not to over-stir.  Drop onto cookie sheets, and bake 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees.



Behold the dandelion.  Common.  Plain-faced.  Abundant and sometimes wished upon, but rarely savored.  The bane of any manicured lawn.  Seen and not seen. The white noise of botanicals, if you will.

Children and gardeners are really the only ones who actively deal with these plants on a regular basis--for love and hate, respectively--but most of us just trample over them on the sidewalk every afternoon.  They are ordinary components of the most ordinary of neighborhood scenes.

So when I started seeing dandelion leaves billed as "gourmet" greens at my local farmer's market, I was a little surprised.  Gourmet dandelions?  As in, like, from my yard gourmet dandelions?  This must be some marketing trick for a gullible consumer...I should try the pinestraw, too, right buddy?

But as I later discovered, dandelion leaves actually are quite good for you.  They're filled with vitamins, minerals, and fiber just like any other nutritious leafy green.  And folks have been dining on them for longer than you might think; at the moment they might be just another highfalutin' gastro-fad, but Depression era families of the 1930s plucked them from fields and ate them out of sheer necessity.  Necessity.  The plants were healthy, grew just about anywhere, and best of all they could be gotten for free.  Really, the joke's on us if today we are buying them at the store when we could be gathering them at home. 

Here is precious, sweet Clara sharing her family's dandelion salad recipe.  I really love this gal.  I also love that she says cooking is just "patience, and a little work."  At 94 years old, if she's eating dandelions then I am too.  Watch her at home in her kitchen:




I'll keep a little tavern
   Below the high hill's crest,
Wherein all grey-eyed people
   May sit them down and rest.

There shall be plates a-plenty,
   And mugs to melt the chill
Of all the grey-eyed people
   Who happen up the hill.

There sound will sleep the traveller,
   And dream his journey's end,
But I will rouse at midnight
   The falling fire to tend.

Aye, 'tis a curious fancy—
   But all the good I know
Was taught me out of two grey eyes
   A long time ago.
-Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1917

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