survival mode, NYC

as the days go by, I am struggling to eat. I offer up all kinds of treats for breakfast to myself that I know I love. Corn cakes with blueberries and maple syrup, or yogurt with pumpkin seeds and bananas, a pile of clementines, dried figs. I light a candle and put it all on the table with a silver spoon from my grandmother and a mug I got in the airport at Fiumicino and a blue and white plate that Steve from Champfreau gave me that came from saving up all of his G&H stamps and handing them in at the gas station. I play Flamenco guitar or Pavarotti and sit down at the table. I take as long as I need to in order to eat at least one of the pancakes. Normally, I drink one cup of coffee, but drinking is easier than eating, so now I drink two cups of espresso loaded with whole milk for the calories.
For lunch I insist on one of everything. Meat or beans, vegetables, more fruits. If I can’t, I whisper to myself to at least eat a bowl of hot oatmeal with butter and honey. Maybe another banana. I buy full fat ice cream and shove a spoon right into the container. Forget the dish, I say to myself; just eat. Eat the Rum Raisin.
For dinner I lay all of my cookbooks on the kitchen table and open them randomly to pages that I may have never considered before. I listen to the people who wrote them, my mentors who speak to me from their notes and recipes. I listen to my mom and my grandma and my friends in Italy whose wish for everyone is a good appetite. They could care less if you talk too loud or talk too much, and they might remind you to take your elbows off the table, but they don’t really care about that. They are offended if you leave something on the plate.
Last night I had hopes in the wild mushroom minestrone, from Mr. Portale. I looked at the picture and argued with him about how much tomato should go into it. I disagreed how long to cook the onions, and I thought I could get more complexity if I added a little leek; instead of adding the garlic at the beginning, I chopped it finely, threw in pepperoncino to the pan with olive oil and stirred it in at the end. I got up from my chair to prove my point. I chopped up an onion, carrot and celery that I had bought a few weeks ago, but still had life in them. I added a leek, rosemary, parsley and a bay leaf that I had walked to Brooklyn for. I let that simmer slower than a herd of turtles. The vegetables collapsed at the bite. I cut the mushrooms thickly and waited until they had some color to add the salt. I didn’t have any beans left. I added enough whole tomatoes that I pureed, and then a little water to cover. I let it simmer for an hour. I wished I had a little red wine for it. I added the garlic and pepperoncino and olive oil. Mr. Portale was happy enough. I flooded tagliatelle with it and used my vegetable peeler to drop shards of parm over the top. I ate all of it.

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