Often, when I sit down write, I think of a dear friend who lives on the other side of the world. Literally. When I’m melting in the heat, she’s complaining about the cold, when we’re freezing under seven layers, she’s all about her lazy summer afternoons. Our lives are opposites in many many more ways than the weather and yet we are closer in many ways than a lot of people with whom I supposedly have much more in common. Such as the place we choose to live.
We became friends in that roundabout way that you do with people who you feel you’ve known forever five minutes after meeting them. It’s funny to think how little time we have actually spent in each other’s company. However, our friendship, while mostly virtual, is also very real. We exchange recipes and cry together on occasion. We email with quandaries that we may be hesitant to entrust to anyone else. She loves my child and I love hers though we have never met them face to face. All I know about her daily life are the snippets I’ve been able to piece together by reading between the lines of whatever it is that we are discussing at that moment in time. Still, in this messed up, disconnected, online world, she is my friend.
Today, I made popsicles. Because it’s hot. New York is filthy and humid and everything, including the air, feels thick and sticky. I thought of my friend and wanted to email her and say “make these now.” I wanted to tell her about how the popsicles reminded me of the things I love about summer: lying in a hammock and looking up at the stars, chasing waves, watching the trees for a hint of a breeze, sharing watermelon at a picnic. Then I realized that I am as far away from those things as she is.
My friend’s distance is seasonal. Mine is because we made the decision to move to a bastion of urban, industrial, overpopulated grime. Here in New York, you eat ice cream watching roaches scuttle at your feet. You pay eight dollars for a piece of watermelon so small your toddler finishes it without leaving even a bite (and everyone knows toddlers rarely eat everything on their plate). Our view is of a neighbor’s living room – or rather it would be were it not for the air conditioner taking up half the window. My daughter’s contact with nature is mostly primped or caged.
I blended the ripe mango, the two peaches, the cup of coconut milk. Why are we here? I thought, falling down my popsicle-induced rabbit hole. Why did I bring us here? I poured the mixture into the molds and stuck it all in the freezer feeling quite resigned.
A few hours later, Vida Lev and I were enjoying the fruit of my labor when DW came home. “What do you want to do on our date?” he asked. We had been looking forward to a few hours together for a while.
There were endless options and opportunities. Movies, restaurants, talks, readings, bookstores, walks, bike rides: Did we want to stay in Brooklyn or head into Manhattan? Did we want to focus on dinner or grab a bite and get us some culture? Indoors or outdoors? Just us or with friends?
I looked at my daughter, enjoying her popsicle. She picked up the NY atlas and said to her babysitter, who is also an actress, “this is where we live.”
Yes. This is where we live.
As Promised: Peanut Ginger Sauce
New York isn't for everyone. I have wanted to move here since I discovered Paul Auster and Bob Dylan and the Beats. Since visiting as a preteen, I have been in love with this city. A Brooklyn friend says the place where you feel most at home is where you understand the meshugaas. I promised this recipe to the guy doing check-out duty at the Park Slope Food Co-op last week. We got to chatting about what he does, what I do. I recommended he steam rather than roast his veggies, he told me a little about leather tanning and Texas. Meshugaas? Maybe. But I get it.
We eat this sauce drizzled over roasted sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli. Sometimes we add cranberries. I'm sure it would go well with anything containing arugula. It's good.
2 heaping Tablespoons good peanut butter (the kind with nothing but peanuts in it)
1 teaspoon coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
1/4 t ginger powder (I had run out of fresh ginger, this was a decent, less tangy substitute)
1/2 Tablespoon date syrup
1 teaspoon mirin
1/2 teaspoon ume plum vinegar
1/2 Tablespoon dried cilantro
5 Tablespoons water
about 10 fresh basil leaves finely chopped (optional: use for garnish)
whisk all the ingredients together (except the basil) with a fork until a dressing forms.
Pour over warm salad. Garnish with fresh basil.
Note: you might need to add water, depending on how thick you like it or the quantity of vegetables you've prepared. It's a hearty, flavorsome dressing that won't suffer from extra liquid though I suggest you add 1 Tablespoon at a time and adjust seasonings accordingly.