Monday, July 20, 2009

I always consider myself to be in fair health, psychologically speaking. Just enough angst to not be terribly lazy. High in empathy, yet not altogether unselfish. A bit stodgy around the edges but basically fairly unrepressed. I credit it to having had a pretty easy life with little in the way of trauma, all things considered.

And then I go on a binge and I realize: OCD is me.

To whit my current, um, frozen dessert obsession. I contemplated buying an ice cream freezer for weeks before I finally stopped in at the nearby hardware store at lunch late last month. For dinner with C. the fashion photographer, I was determined to make rhubarb ice cream from a few stray stalks sitting in the refrigerator that needed to be used up before we went to New York.

What I didn't reckon for was that the metal canister of the machine needed to sit in the freezer for 24 hours, rather than the six hours I had until dinner time. It ought to work anyway, I told myself. But when the manufacturer says 24 hours, it turns out they really do mean 24 hours. And so we had cold rhubarb soup for dessert - creamy and delicious, with a hint of cinnamon and a little tang of sour cream, but soup nonetheless.

An inauspicious beginning, I thought, but it turned out not to be so. When we arrived in New York several days later, not only did my brother have an ice cream freezer, properly frozen, but I was able to find sour cherries in Manhattan to make sour cherry sorbet.

Then there was the night I fixed the gingery chicken and scallion pancakes for everyone - all of us adults and kids alike sitting in my brother and sister-in-law's living room - and I made pink grapefruit sorbet for dessert, which seemed vaguely Thai-ish. (Is grapefruit and crab salad Thai, or Vietnamese?)

Now I was on a scallion pancake and frozen dessert craze. Scallion pancakes with spicy cold melon soup and soba noodles, with fresh ginger ice cream for dessert, then scallion pancakes with soba noodles, with green tea ice cream for dessert, both rather delicate but, I have to admit, delicious. Oh, and at some point in there, for our friends visiting from Norway, I managed to make white nectarine sorbet, which comes out pale pink it turns out, and is best served right away to get the maximum flavor, rather than freezing it longer to make it harder.

But the upshot, really, is that sometimes being OCD is a good thing, to be honest. No one is complaining yet, that's for sure.

So, what should the next flavor be?

The Swedish word for the day is glass, which means ice cream and shouldn't be confused with glas, which means glass, as in both the material and something you drink from.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

O great mystery that crowded, dirty and expensive Manhattan can feel at W. 89th Street between Broadway and West End Avenue at 7:30 a.m. on a weekday summer morning so new and full of promise. All those endless leafy blocks of brownstones leading to Central Park. The park itself a green rectangle battened down and secured in place at its edges by high rises with terraces and roofs copied from French chateaus or Greek temples or Egyptian monuments or Spanish cathedrals or Roman forums. Or roofs of simple solid geometry.

I know I'm shamelessly romanticizing the place in my elitist way (easy to do as we never make it to any poorer neighborhoods), idly purchasing suspenders on the snootier end of Bleecker Street or strange white Japanese robot monkey things in Soho, or drinking tequila cocktails and talking a mile a minute with the divine Lisa Lucas in the East Village, or snarfing down delicious Chinese steamed buns filled with fatty caramelized pork at a jammed Momofuku (not to mention the short-cake-flavored ice cream) on a Tuesday night or wandering breezily around the Cloisters with my dear sister and sister-in-law and niece and nephew while the husband with his Spanish blood notes: "Every other thing was stolen from Spain it looks like!"

But really, living in New York is tight both in space and money, and in truth, full of the same drudgery as living anywhere else.

So why does it seem so exciting, so much better than anywhere else?

O great mystery that returning back from New York I somehow love Stockholm even more than when I left. Our apartment! So airy and grand and white and full of light as I sit reading on a sofa at 3:30 a.m. on account of the jetlag, the sun fully up and flooding the apartment. The streets! So rooted and charming on a human scale, never far from a glimpse of the water. The ethos! Circumspect rather than brazen with everything hanging out and in your face, elbows and tongues well-sharpened.

Still. What I wouldn't give to have both New York and Stockholm.

The Swedish phrase for the day is välkommen åter. It means, more or less, come back soon.