Sunday, November 18, 2012

REAL New Yorkers Cook Or: Spare Me "Smitten Kitchen" Or:Some REAL 'Kitchen WIsdom"

Dear Deb Perelman,

I was listening to a rebroadcast of the "Diane Rehm" show of a recent episode where she interviewed you about your recipes and about your book, which includes in its subtitle "Kitchen Wisdom"

Spare me.

I'm fine with your recipes--I need to post my version of a fabulous apple cake you attribute to your mom. But I started screaming at my car radio when I heard you breezily talking about how "don't judge New Yorkers who go out to eat 4 times a week--our apartments are small, our kitchens are small, groceries are expensive"

Well, I've got news for you, Deb, tsatzkeleh. You're not a real New Yorker. You're from New Jersey, for cripes sake and now you live in Chelsea in a high rent apartment.

I am the real thing. I was born in New York--Manhattan in fact. Grew up in New York. Lived there till I was in my late 20s, though in the Bronx, not in a fancy-schmancy neighborhood where no one really is a New Yorkers.

The apartment I grew up in doesn't have a big kitchen. It has so little counter space that to this day my mom does most of her prep work sitting down at the kitchen table.  We never went out to eat. Hell, there WAS pretty much nowhere to go out to eat back then.

The apartment my husband was raised in (in a neighborhood that back then was slummy but now is being filled up with rich white people like you) had a tiny galley kitchen. And yet my late great mother-in-law and my cousin turned out meals of all kinds for anywhere from 7 to 17 people that would rival anything that you come up with.

REAL New Yorkers can't afford to go out to dinner 3-4 days a week. They cook at home in their tiny kitchens and they learn to cook efficiently. They always did and they still do.

I now live in the suburbs of Northern Virginia, but my townhouse kitchen is at most double the size of yours--if yours is 42 sq ft, mine is about 80. Not the tiniest, but still tiny.

But everything is precisely arranged and where I need it. My pans are hung up above the sink. Small drawers by the stove hold all my measuring and mixing needs. The counter I cook on has a drawer below for silverware and knives, and space below for all my baking stuff. The spices live on the wall nearby, and close to the sink a corner cabinet holds the sauces and the other things I regularly add to my cooking, with lazy susans on each level for easy access.

We redid the kitchen ourselves ten years ago and this summer after a flood redid it. And both times I figured out what I needed to cook and what I didn't need and moved or removed things accordingly.

The truth is that the suburbanites with the huge kitchens, complete with islands and all, have to exert themselves far more than I do in my tiny kitchen where everything is within reach.

And this summer, when we had a beach rental that had virtually NO counter space and makes your apartment kitchen look spacious, I still figured out how to cook meals all week. We went out about twice, and that's because we were at the beach where there are restaurants we visit annually!

So the truth is, Deb, that I cook more like a New Yorker than you ever will even though I've spent the last 20 plus years in exile. 

I do it nightly, though I work a full time job. I did it when I had TWO little kids underfoot, not one.

And BTW, a three year old is NOT a fucking toddler, and when my girls were his age, they ate broccoli happily. And still do.

Thanks again for the apple cake recipe. 

The Library Lady

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