A Man and His Stove

A Man and His Stove

It got to the point where I couldn’t walk into a bar anymore. You know the kind, the true bastions of testosterone, the ones so thick with blue smoke that the neon beer signs look like UFOs hovering in a patch of midnight fog. It wasn’t moral or religious reasons, lack of money, or even an alcohol problem that prompted me to slink out, emasculated, never to return. It was because I was a phony.

Best Food Writing 2003
Featured in

While other guys swapped J.Lo fantasies or nearly came to blows defending their classic El Caminos, all I could think about was a commercial-style Viking stove in white enamel. I stared into the mirror, tawny with nicotine, and dreamed about how perfectly risen my white-chocolate cloud cake would be, thanks to my baffled-heat convection oven.

The slow disenfranchisement of my manhood, as one friend likes to call it, began eight years ago when I took my first cooking class. I walked into the kitchen, and there lined up against the wall were three hulking 48-inch Vikings, gleaming like a row of squat, sweaty sumo wrestlers. I was smitten. Their unqualified size and power thrilled me. Was this what my father felt when he walked with mouth agape through the lawn-mower department at Sears? Surely it was, because my cooking teacher, a saucy wisp of a thing with a yappy Chihuahua voice, had to nudge me out of my reverie, much as I had to poke my father awake to drag him reluctantly to the toy aisle. Read more “A Man and His Stove” »

Windows on the World’s Dacquoise

When the horrific memories of the World Trade Center attacks sometimes threaten to crowd out everything else, especially on the anniversary of 9/11, I call up a different, comforting memory shared by perhaps only several hundred people in the world:  sunrise from Windows on the World, on north tower’s 107th floor.

In the mid-’80s, I was a waiter at the Hors d’Oeuvrerie, the lounge and international café of Windows on the World, where women and men from around the globe came for perhaps a bit of then-unheard-of sashimi, after-dinner dessert and dancing, or the glittering, quarter-of-a-mile-high views of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Everyone from heads of state to rock stars to Broadway royalty visited the Hors d’Oeuvrerie on their way to or from Windows on the World’s main dining room, which faced uptown. Elegance and pedigree abounded, even among the staff: Waitresses wore satin sarongs and waiters bowed almost imperceptibly when greeting guests. The tall, silent piano player was rumored to be a protégé of Leonard Bernstein. Read more “Windows on the World’s Dacquoise” »

Feel the Burn: Portuguese Piri-Piri Sauce Heats Up the Palate

A fire alarm that says piri-piri on it

I have barely any taste buds left. My poor scorched tongue is screaming out for water, bread, milk-anything to extinguish this raging mouth fire. The reason for my happy tortured state: the five bottles of molho de piri-piri, Portugal’s famously incendiary hot sauce, lined up beside my laptop. in an attempt to truly understand the appeal of this concoction, I decided to sample each brand. Ignoring the fact that my own Portuguese mother uses a judicious hand when cooking with our hot sauces and pastes, I chose to down the stuff by the teaspoonfuls, naked, without a scrap of food to offset the burn. My conclusion: I must be a super-taster, one of those rare and exalted persons with an exquisitely sensitive palate who finds even mildly spicy foods torrid. That, or I lack the common sense of a second grader. Read more “Feel the Burn: Portuguese Piri-Piri Sauce Heats Up the Palate” »