Step 1

Step 1: Think through getting dressed in the dark.
This morning when I went to work I noticed a few people really looking at me. I thought it could be the number of bags I was carrying or my sunny disposition. It was because my t-shirt was on inside out; all the little buttons perfectly lined up, facing the wrong direction. I have on the edge of too much going on. Tricks like getting dressed in the dark aren’t working out.

Lunch for a summer crowd of 25 at work went much better.

Lamb sirloin, cubed, skewered and marinated in rosemary, garlic and olive oil
Seared sea scallop w/salsa verde (olive oil, bit of vinegar, lemon, mostly parsley, bit of basil, thyme, tiniest pinch of rosemary, dijon mustard, tiny bit of bread crumb and a few capers)
Roasted yellow and green squash batons w/seared whole scallion and red pepper flakes
Marinated lentil salad w/diced tomato, red onion, parsley, olive oil, lemon and vinegar
Green salad w/diced shallot

One crust apple pie

Maybe I’ll go the drugstore for new eyelashes

Yesterday I called Workman’s Comp, health insurance that all employers are required to have for their employees, and found out I can register for it 3 weeks ahead of opening date. I called the IRS and was told there was a 30 minute waiting time to speak to a representative 3 different times. I am on (forever) hold with them right now. To change the electric bill of the space to our name we need to email our 20 page lease, our EIN number and proof of our LLC (limited liability company.)
I can get on that when the tax man answers the phone. I won’t hold it against him, maybe he’s the only guy in the state of NY, or maybe he gets no vacation and so he takes 20 minutes between calls to go outside and enjoy the fresh air.
I am working my way through the four steps for setting up a food establishment on the NYC.GOV site:

1) get your EIN number (check-ish, since I am on forever hold; the music is seriously quiet so hoping I don’t doze off.)

2) Read through and memorize “operating a food establishment”. This was funny. When I entered the address for the document it read “this page is not available.” 311 had no number for the Health department. I found it buried in a site not related to NYC. I called and asked about the document and they said, “Oh. That’s not available right now.” Hmm. “Do you know when it might become available?” “Hold on.” Long Pause. “They are working on it.” So I can’t check that box.

3) Begin completing forms for Health Department Permit. There is a download for this which includes and Application for Permit, that has to be submitted w/official EIN (this is really holding me up) a permit fee ($280), proof of mailing address, affidavit form (wait, what?), photo ID, copy of Workman’s Comp and Disability Insurance Coverage with the NYC Dept. of Health as the Certificate Holder, a notarized copy of the Business Certificate and if operating under an assumed name, certified by the County Clerk of Queens, (I’m starting to tear up now; it’s too much), a food protection certificate (I HAVE THIS!!).

Oh my God.

Yesterday I made a green apple chopped salad with tomatillo, cilantro and scallion. Just olive oil and red wine vinegar. It was good. Or maybe it was just better than being on forever hold.

The To Do list

What to buy this morning:

1 blodgett zephaire 240 plus electric oven
1 double door fridge
1 single door fridge
1 under counter fridge
1 commercial dishwasher
1 baker’s rack
3 4(ft) prep tables
1 hand sink
a whole lot of bowls, whisks, sheet pans, spatulas, measuring spoons, cups and really cute peltex

Register w/NYC speed-it-up (business express)
I am already stumped. I can’t remember if I’m a limited liability corporation or partnership. Don’t worry they say. All you have to do is make sure you are certified personally by the Health Department (check), that you register with the Health Department to inspect your space so that the space is certified, you have workman’s comp, liability, and a tax id number. I have to do a pre registration and then a registration.

The guy I am ordering the oven from wants to know do I want a 3 phase or a single phase. What is that? Called Blodgett. I love technicians who answer the phone. I love technicians even more when they have an answer for me. I should have asked him what his name was. He told me that the 3 phase uses fewer amps (31) than the single and they are more efficient. Who knew? I checked the price on what my sales guy sent me. 2,400 dollars over budget on the oven. I got up and ate some watermelon. I tried to call France to make some changes in the schedule for teaching coming up. Ate too much watermelon in one go and couldn’t get through to France. Called the salesman. Figured out he was selling me a double deck! YES! Small victory–asked for the single deck oven instead and was back on budget. Really wanted to watch Orange is the New Black for the rest of the day, but I can’t. Made a note to call back France.

The architect called. We can’t use the backyard space unless we figure out a way to have less people back there.
Plan A: landscape it. Loads of flowers and vegetables and strategically placed tables. Plus twinkling lights. I am not letting anybody forget the twinkling lights. The architect said that was up to us.
Architect also wants to know do we want the grease trap on the main floor or the basement. I can tell you things like it’s impolite not to finish your food in Morocco and which river runs through the Niccone Valley. I can tell you how many days they have to turn the cheese in Parma and how to bake many, many cakes. Asking myself about grease traps is like asking an elephant about his cousin the penguin. More notes.

For lunch I had leftovers from last night’s burritos.
Guacamole with fresh lime and garlic
salsa w/chopped seeded tomatoes, finely chopped onions, cilantro, olive oil and red wine vinegar
Black beans and rice w/sauteed onion, garlic, coriander, bit of fennel seed, bay leaf, seeded dried red chili pepper, tiny bit of tomato sauce and sprig of cilantro, dab of butter til rice is tender. Chicken breast that had been marinated w/onion, lime and bay leaves, sliced up. Shredded sharp cheddar, whole milk yogurt (instead of sour cream) all wrapped up in a tortilla.
That I know how to do.

Life is about to change

My mother loved a good storm. In particular she is known for standing in a purple poncho on the back porch of the Surf Hotel, at a 45 degree angle to the wind after all the windows had been taped, the furniture had been secured and the State Trooper had made it clear that no one was allowed outside. We watched her from the living room. Every few minutes I would go to the door and lean into it with my whole body weight. When it opened enough to shove my head through I would call out to her, “Mom, you are breaking the law.”
She could have cared less.
She was breathing the wind. She was laughing at the rain.
There are moments you have to live.
The keys are finally ours to keep for the cafe. Jonathan has pulled up the rug and we are waiting for the plans to go through the department of buildings. We may even be able to use the yard. The plan is to have the counter run along the left wall with a common table in the window. We will have coffee and every cake I can bake. We will have sandwiches made on beautiful bread and a cheese tasting plate with caramelized apples and toasted spiced nuts and a pate w/a green tomato confit. I remember one from Bourgueil that I can’t get out of my head. I want to have fresh mint leaves shoved in a pot with honey alla Casablanca. I want snickerdoodles.

The cafe

We are thinking of calling it “Birdie’s” now. Jonathan has ripped up the carpets and where everything is going to go–fridges, oven, counters, tables, espresso machine, has been mapped out on the floor with the straight bits of stripping that were holding the carpet in place. The architect has taken pictures of every outlet, window and door and has measured every line and angle.
I sat on the floor trying to envision all that the cafe will be.

There are no rules or maps posted outside of the Medina. It is the raw, beating heart of Casablanca, wide open on the surgery floor with thousands of attendants in all shapes and sizes, with as many intents and purposes. As soon as you cross Boulevard Mohammed V and stand outside of the gates, you become a missing, hunted part of the whole.
Everything is sold in the Medina. Fruit, vegetables, chickens slaughtered on chopping blocks, only slightly in the way of foot traffic, dates, figs, olives, cuts of meat, fish on ice, fish not on ice sold on a scrap of paper covering a box decorated with a tomato. Prickly pears piled on wooden carts strapped to motorcycles, what looks to be the last and treasured remains of a home because there is no more home and there is nothing else to sell. A shop with 2 walls and 2 washing machines and an keeper not more than 6. Embroidered gowns and hungry cats, heaving piles of shrimp, stacks of fermented pancakes, of oily flat breads and pillowy chewy rolls. Gold and silver, great tubs of curry powders and tiny pots of saffron. The flies are hard at work and in no hurry.
Without mentioning his name or that he was available our guide took us on. “Come” he said. “Welcome to Morrocco” and he led us in. “You will shop,” he said, no problem. “I will take you to one shop, and if you don’t like it, I will take you to another”. We picked out shawls and dressing gowns. The guide arranged stools for all of us, including Ferdinand. “How much is it,”I asked. “We will begin.” he answered. “In Morroco there is no fixed price. The restaurant, yes. You see the price, you pay the price. Everything else, we must work. He will start, (pointing to the shopkeeper) he will write it down, and then you will say, no. And then you write. We begin.”
It is an art for which I had no talent, but hours later I was improving by a landslide. I may have overpaid for djellaba, but when we went to the Hassan Mosque and the driver refused to give change back for the negotiated price, Ferdinand and I got back into the cab and sat on the backseat without budging. “We’ll have to sit here then until he gives Dad the change.”
There is a certain unmoving, unyielding and I-am-done, when spoken by a woman that is understood throughout the world. He gave back the change. We looked at the mosque towering over the ocean and then headed back for the Medina.
For dinner we had lamb kefta, a lemony couscous, grilled chicken, and a plate of whole fig, banana, red and yellow plums and an orange at Ilmichil. Every inch of every wall was covered with painted tile. The ceiling was cut stone. For afters we went to Le Fleurs and sat outside on the boulevard for Mroocan mint tea, poured three times from the cup back into the pot for proper mixing, and ice cream for Ferdinand.

A birthday barbecue for a girlfriend in Salsepolcro last night. The hostess, one of those people who has the magic of opening her home and heart to someone she never met. She led me to the orto. I struggle to get six heads of lettuce growing in my garden and struggle again once they’ve grown to find them amongst the weeds. Hers was a work of art and labor, hills and gullies planted in rows that pushed the limits of being a garden and hovered on being a farm. Cucumbers hanging from a woven wall of branches, tomatoes of every type, watermelons, Brazilian cabbage, Italian cabbage, onions, celery, herbs,
lettuce, zucchini, and borlotti. She walked through, laughing and cutting until her basket was full with everything that would join the meat for dinner.
Sausages, pancetta, ribs, and steaks, sautéed collards, butter greens with cherry tomatoes, a gratin of potatoes with red onions, finished with thyme and salt. For dessert, a cake covered in curls of chocolate and a tiramisu that I had made on the fly. I got the invitation about an hour before and Mercatale is many things, but not a shopping metropolis. I legged it to the village and bought a bottle of Vin Santo, a box of mascarpone, eggs, sugar, and pavesini, more like cats’ tongues than ladies’ fingers. Separate 6 eggs, whip each with a spoon of sugar per egg, slowly incorporate the beaten egg yolk (beaten until it holds ribbons) into 500 g of mascarpone. Add the whites. Soak pavesini in mixture of slightly sweetened espresso with a healthy pour of Vin Santo (I use Lungherotti’s Dulcis) just long enough for them to hit the liquid on both sides. Line a pretty pasta dish about 10 inches across with them, add half of the creamy mixture, another layer of pavesini, more creamy stuff, and then sift unsweetened cocoa over all. Xo

Steak for one

Beautiful steak seared in a thin-as-paper-cheap-trash sauté pan. Doesn’t matter when the meat is Chianina and was sliced that morning, carried home with a red tomato. Drizzled it with olive oil and gave it a little sea salt. Same for the tomato. That was lunch. Ice cream for an early dinner.
I’m waiting on time to take me to tomorrow.

Calling all zucchini

Chiara pulled up what must have been close to twenty pounds of zucchini from the kitchen garden yesterday. She put them all into a basket with an enormous handle and carried them to her back door where they would wait.
“What will you do with all of those zucchini?” I asked her.
“They will be boiled” she answered.
Somehow it sounds a bit severe to be boiled. I suppose it is why people say things like “passed on” or “gone to a better place” or “looked for greener pastures.”
“You mean pickled? I hoped.
“No, boiled.”
Tuscany can be harsh, but on the flip side, nothing is wasted.
You could always marinate them afterwards or soften the blow with a grassy olive oil, a shower of sea salt, a few sprigs of parsley, a few cherry tomatoes, a sprig of fennel and a slab of onion. I didn’t mention it.
Instead I slivered my own single remaining zucchini and tossed them around in a pan with olive oil, sea salt, a clove of garlic and a lone leaf of basil. I added a bit of leftover plain pasta, another drizzle of olive oil and then over a lowflame, two beaten eggs. I pushed the sides in to let the egg from the center spill underneath, turned off the flame, flipped the eggs to their undercooked side and let them wait just long enough for me to get a plate. Side of summer ripened melon and proscuitto. The end of a chocolate bar with hazelnuts for dessert.


Change is not easy.  The world slows; waiting for words feels like waiting for a cancelled bus.  
Still, One has to eat.  Not much this morning.  So far 2 cappuccinos at 2 different bars in Mercatale.