Thursday, January 31, 2008

Be it ever so humble...

Ok- another late posting... this one is from early December. Business has been good though; it's always tough to get these posted because down time at work is my best time for writing. Anyway- read on; it is worth all your waiting.

I just got back from a whirlwind tour of Home. Even in the cold, my City is as unbelieveable as ever. And she welcomed me with wide open arms...

Inside the first hour of my arrival I was sitting down with a slice, a real honest-to-goodness slice (ok, I guess 'a slice' isn't completely accurate) and, of course, my favorite chaser: a Manhattan Special. Ahhhhhh- it feels good to be home. Everyone I saw was walking around shivering, but I couldn't have been happier. After I dropped my bags off at a friend's house in Brooklyn, I went right back to the train . Two transfers later- and what beeee-you-tee-ful, perfectly timed transfers they were- I was walking around, just taking in everything there was to see and hear and, most of all, feel on a December night in my fair city. It was exactly how I spent much of my trip. Everywhere I went- Union Square, Wall Street, Rockefeller Plaza, Times Square, Hells Kitchen- I could feel the electricity, the raw energy just flowing through me. If you've never walked around my City at night by yourself, just looking at everyone and everything, you may not get this. For me though, it was like White Heat- "Made it Ma! Top of the world!"

I had only a few food highlights while in town. I didn't get back to many of the old haunts; instead I nibbled everywhere I went. Since street food is tough to come by in southern Cal, I took advantage of everything I could-coffee and buttered rolls, pretzels, dogs, knish, ka-bobs- everything was fair game. Outside of all that, I think I ate my weight in pizza, bagels, and bread that weekend, more than I have had in a month in California.

Saturday morning, I stopped in to see the Keeper of the Wisdom (see "Time to Get My Guinea Up") and after spending a little time catching up, I went to my brother's place where we had a great spread covering just about all of his table- and for those of you 'in the know' use your imagination- if you can think of it, then it was on that table somewhere. Fresh roasted peppers, fresh mozz, provolone, prosciuto, cappicola, mortadella, soppresata... the list goes on and on. To me, though, the best part was the bread (all three kinds). I haven't had good bread since my last trip. But this wasn't good bread... this was great bread! Crisp crust, soft interiors, GREAT, GREAT flavor.

What else could I ask for?? Here I was having the quintessential Italian experience. Of course, so much of what it is we do is centered around a good meal... but that is always a great place to start- after all, good food=love, doesn't it? In so many ways, it was about the food, but more important was the company. I was with all of my brothers, my aunt came by with my cousins, and even my baby sister made an appearance (she is a tough one!!). We talked, laughed, shouted, ATE... if that isn't what being a good Guinea is all about, if that isn't the real Italian experience, then don't bother trying to tell me what is- I don't want it. There aren't many ways the day could have been any better than it was.

Even though we had spent the whole day eating, I was able to convince my younger brothers to drive me back to Brooklyn and join me for another meal. I had to get back to Schnack... I had to have more of those fries, that delicious, perfectly messy burger, and most of all, a Beer Milkshake. I skipped it last time I was in town and had regrets ever since. Let me tell you- even on a full stomach, Schnack was perfect... and I do mean perfect. I hooked up with a bunch of friends I hadn't seen in a while and about 15 of us stopped in to see Harry and the crew at Schnack. They accomodated our loud, raucous bunch with a nice long table and another great round of food. After my burger, fries, onion rings, and a couple of the RC Ribs I took from my brother's plate (older brother prerogative), I was ready to try my first Beer Milkshake. Everyone else was a little hesitant. Tell you what though, after one sip I knew I could file this one under the heading "Glad you don't like it- more for me". It was great. The taste was deep and rich. The sweet ice cream was the perfect foil to the beer... I immediately kicked myself for waiting so long.

We spent a good amount of time at Schnack doing more of what I had done all day... eat, drink, laugh, and share. What a great, great time.Schnack was a perfect final meal before I had to get on that plane. (Well, almost final- I'm sure you will be shocked to know that I managed to sneak in a little more Sunday morning on the way to the airport; I put down 2 everything bagels with lox and cream cheese and a loaf of lard bread from Mazzola with a big cup of coffee on the drive over)

I came back to Southern California with my batteries fully recharged after just 72 hours at home- happy head, happy heart, and happy stomach. Its like that nice little girl from Kansas once said, 'There ain't no place like home'... well- it was somethin' like that.

Home is not a house... home is a lot deeper than that (and some of us have more than one). If you want to be happy, then go "home"- wherever and whatever that means to YOU- and spend some time there doing the things that are important and with the people that are important. It's the only way. 'Cause Johnny Tomatoes says so!!


Anonymous said...

The last paragraph of your post is beautiful. I can relate to all the food, especially the bread. They just don't make bread like they do in and around the city.I was just talking to my son about craving a pretzel from an NYC vendor. The way it smells..ahhh! I'm happy for you that you went home. I'm glad also that you are writing posts here on your blog. They are always nice to read :)

Proud Italian Cook said...

I could totally relate to this post! Years ago we moved out to the pacific northwest, and allthough it is scenicly beautiful, and fish was in abundance, I longed for ethnic anything!! I would dream about our favorite places in Chicago, were we got fresh hot salami bread, the best Italian sausage, Italian ice with chunks of lemon, the bakeries! Ahhh, the bakeries!! Canoli,etc, well, I could go on and on!!! and of course, all the get togethers with family we left behind! We have since moved back "home" and having everything around us, you sometimes take
it for granted, it's not until you are "away" for a while that you realize how much you miss it! Great post! Glad you got to make it "home"

Johnny Tomatoes said...

Thank you both so much; nothing beats someone just "getting" what you are trying to say, always especially tough when i tend to go on and on (and on) about food. So often it seems that on a culinary and cultural level, I am a "Stranger in a Strange Land"; those visits home always serve to bolster me.

Johnny T said...

Johnny... love the blog. You have to get some pics in there. Keep the posts coming! - Joe

The Food Hunter said...

I totally "get it"! I too feel like a stranger in a strange land here in Az. I long for even a quick trip back home to stock up on good food, good friends and family. I'm glad to have found someone else that can relate.

PS. Heading to your "home" next week. Anything I must have?