(John Ford’s STAGECOACH, staring John Wayne – 1939)
Talking About the Movies
They speak about hardware, software, LANs, WANs and USBs. These are the usual topics of conversation whenever I join my wife, Bridget at a business dinner. She’s in information technology – electronic communications to be specific. My wife is terrific, but if she’s with people in her field she becomes a strange and different person and although she normally uses English when she speaks to me, her language changes to “Hi-Tech.”
Typically these dinners are with another couple, one of whom is the techie who works with Bridget. The spouse is in the same boat I am so we usually have a separate conversation. I’ve met some interesting people this way, and as a night out it’s not too bad.
A couple Bridget had worked with in Chicago was passing through New York recently and invited us to go out. I expected the worst since this time, not just one but both of them were “computer professionals” so I would be the only one not able to communicate in the common language. To soften the blow, we picked one of my favorite restaurants, Gallagher’s Steak House on West 52nd Street, so I would at least be sure to enjoy the food if not the talk.
They seemed nice enough, and at the beginning of the meal everyone tried to include me in the conversation as we had our crab meat cocktails and little necks on the half shell appetizers.
I’m considered fairly proficient with a computer, but they were light years beyond me. Every time I tried to change the subject, it inevitably went back to their shop talk. I gave up and simply smiled and nodded while I thought of other things and ate my sirloin. Then I began to daydream and eventually just zoned out.
While I was in this state of deep boredom, some of the conversation from an adjoining table got through to me. My ears perked up because they were discussing movies and were in the midst of an argument about the name of an actor.
I heard a female voice ask, “Who played the corrupt cop that Michael Corleone shot in The Godfather?”
I couldn’t see who was talking because their table was behind me, but I heard a male voice respond, “I don’t know, but he was the same guy who played the crazy general in Doctor Strangelove.”
A second male voice said, “That’s Robert Ryan.”
The female spoke again, “No, they just look alike, but it wasn’t him. Let’s ask the waiter.”
The waiter didn’t know either, but as he was walking away, I called him over and told him the name they were looking for was Sterling Hayden. He went back to tell them and actually got a round of applause. At this point, I asked myself why wasn’t I having dinner with these nice people who were engaged in such civilized and amusing conversation? When the waiter told them it was I who had come up with the actor’s name they looked my way, and one of them said they had another question they’d been wondering about.
“My husband says that Mean Streets was the first time Harvey Keitel worked with Martin Scorsese. Do you think that’s right?”
I happened to know that while Scorsese was at NYU, he did a student film called Who’s That Knocking at My Door and that was the first time he and Keitel worked together. My response got me an invitation to join them. With a wink at Bridget, I excused myself from my table, picked up my wine glass and took a seat with them.
La Dolce Vita and Stardust Memories
This Gun for Hire and Rome, Open City
We spoke about John Ford and John Wayne, Fellini and Woody Allen, Film Noir and Neo-Realism, and even listed some of Hitchcock’s blonde heroines.
Madeline Carroll, Tippi Hedren, Janet Leigh, Grace Kelly
None of us had any professional connection with the film industry, but we all just loved the movies. The language at the first part of the evening might have been “Hi-Tech” but now I was with my kind of people, and we were speaking pure “Classic Film.”
When they left, I went back to my table. I don’t know what her friends thought of me, but I was sure Bridget understood.
If you’re traveling between Miami and Fort Lauderdale and want to stop in the Hollywood/Dania Beach area for something to eat, try Jimbo’s Sandbar.
It’s on the Intercoastal and has great food. They call it “redneck cuisine” but don’t let that throw you. They’ve got a chef who really understands Southern seafood. And if you’re there for dinner, terrific sunsets too.
This is a quick and easy meal. I remember when my mother first made it. I unexpectedly came home with a friend at lunch time. This is what she fed us, made with a few things she happened to have on hand. A delicious cream sauce with only four ingredients. You really don’t need anything more, but I suppose that if you want to complicate it you can add garlic or onions or some other spices. What I like about cooking with sausage meat is that the butcher does all the work – grinding and spicing.
Put up a pot of water for the pasta. Fry the sausage meat in olive oil. You don’t need any garlic, onions or salt & pepper. The spice from the sausage is enough. When it’s lightly browned add a cup of the pasta water and the ricotta and blend. Throw in a good handful of chopped basil and stir. My mother sometimes used peas instead of basil.
When the pasta is almost done add it to the sauce and stir to coat it. If it’s too dry add a little more pasta water. Serve it with some freshly chopped basil. See, I told you it was quick and easy.
Giambotta is a Southern Italian vegetable stew usually made in late summer and takes advantage of whatever vegetables are available. It’s pronounced “jamm-baught.” Everyone makes it a little differently and you can vary the recipe based on what vegetables are ripe.
As I said, everyone makes it differently and my family’s recipe is more different than most. My Aunt Vicki’s mother brought her family’s recipe from Italy in the early 1900s. That version was a little fancier. In addition to the vegetables she’d add some bite-sized, cubed pieces of mortadella. Back then mortadella wasn’t so easy to find in America but frankfurters were, so she used them instead. If you think about it, they’re not so very different. My family still makes it the same way. It may seem like a strange combination of ingredients but to me it’s comfort food.
Lightly brown the potatoes in oil in a pot large enough to hold all of the ingredients. Remove the potatoes. Add the onions and cook until soft and transparent but not brown. Add the pepper slices and cook until soft. Add the zucchini and frankfurters and stir and simmer for a few minutes.
Then the tomato puree and basil – you might have to add some water if it’s too thick. Return the potatoes, taste for seasoning and simmer covered on low for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are done. Serve it then and it’s even better left-over.
I never gave much thought to the cheeseburger’s history. I always assumed that they’d been around forever. But they haven’t.
Here’s a New York Times article from 1947 when cheeseburgers were considered something new and exotic. The author says the beef and cheese combination “may seem bizarre.” I wonder what she would have thought of bacon. She includes a recipe too, for some very small burgers.
This is a take on a Croatian recipe – na buzaru means stew. It’s typically made with langoustines in their shells. I found them difficult to eat so I used shelled shrimp instead.
Heat a tablespoon of the oil in pan over medium heat and toast the bread crumbs. Remove the bread crumbs and in the same pan heat the remaining oil over medium heat and sauté the onion. When the onion is translucent add the tomato paste, and mix until the onion is coated.
Add the garlic and cook for another few minutes but don’t brown the garlic. Add the wine and tomatoes. Taste for seasoning and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the shrimp and simmer, covered until done – about 5 minutes. Stir in the toasted bread crumbs, the parsley, and give it a good squeeze of lemon. Serve with pasta, rice or bread.
In Spanish, bodega can mean food warehouse, wine cellar or grocery store. In New York City, a bodega is a Latino run grocery/convenience store/neighborhood meeting place. (Maybe not exclusively Latino run anymore, sometimes Middle-Eastern now.) Even Taylor Swift weighed in on them – see below.
Beyond those red on yellow signs, besides groceries, you can get cigarettes, coffee, beer, sandwiches, local news, productos tropicales, and sometimes, nutcracker and a loose joint.
Lately, The New York City Bodega has become news. Some West Coast techies think they have a better idea. There was a recent NY Daily News article by the president of the Bodega Assn, of the United States dealing with them:
As New York’s Welcome Ambassador (?), Taylor Swift told the world about our bodegas.
Eggplant and Squash – Lots of people say they don’t like eggplant and squash after only having tasted them in their school cafeteria. If they tried it made with care and the right ingredients they might change their mind.
Eggplant with Mint
This same recipe works for both eggplant and squash (use zucchini). It’s good on sandwiches or in antipasto. If you leave out the mint and vinegar and do everything else the same you can also serve it on pasta with tomato sauce. This isn’t something you’d see in a restaurant but it’s not uncommon in Napolitano home cooking.
The ingredients are approximate. So don’t worry if you have to add some or have any left over. (if you have left over mint make a mint julep)
– only fresh mint works with this recipe –
Cut into 1/2 inch rounds. Lightly brown in oil, don’t drain it, and then layer in a container.
Start with some salt, a few pieces of garlic, some mint and a sprinkle of vinegar in a Tupperware container. Then the first layer of eggplant. Between layers of eggplant add a sprinkle of salt, a dash of vinegar, some mint and a little garlic. When it cools, cover and shake the container so it settles. It should be ready after a couple of days in the fridge. The mint leaves will darken but it will keep refrigerated for a few weeks.
Wash, cut off both ends, cut squash lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Use a spoon or melon-baller.
Cut into half round slices – about 3/4 inch. Toss with oil, salt, black pepper, chopped parsley and minced garlic. Make sure it’s coated completely with oil.
Put in a baking pan and cook for 30-35 min. in a 375 degree oven. Turn them after 15 minutes. The skin is edible.