Archive for February, 2009

The Savage Detectives

February 20, 2009

detectives

It took me almost one month to finish this monster of a book.  I hardly understood anything about The Savage Detectives.  I didn’t get the jokes, the endless literary references, the politics, or the poetry.  But I liked it.  I tend to overanalyze and over-think everything; but while reading this book, I resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to understand everything so I might as well keep reading and try to enjoy it.  And I did.  

 Every time I opened to the book to read it on the subway I was somewhere else.  The book takes place in Mexico, in Spain, France, Israel, Sierra Leone, California, Argentina, Guatemala, Austria, Liberia, Chile and a bunch other places. Every time I read it I met a different character and heard another story.  I won’t even try to summarize the book, but you can read excellent and insightful summaries here from the NY Times; and here from another book blogger.

Now I’m reading a book about bananas.

I spent my day off on Monday sitting in an ancient, abandoned volunteer firehouse in Passaic, New Jersey.  This is where Manny works, where he has his office.  The goal is turn this enormous, hollow, abandoned space into a community center for the growing Latino community that lives in this city.  Right now the building is sort of a wreck, it has not been occupied for 2 years.  But it has great potential; it has three floors of big open rooms with an entire gym on the top floor.   

I walked around the building taking pictures, playing with the different flash settings on my little point and shoot camera.  Here’s a few of them:

 

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In Search Of Crispiness

February 8, 2009

I’m still in the midist of The Savage Detectives, which is a very long novel.  The economy sucks, everyone is losing their jobs, every time I listen to the news I get depressed.  So let’s talk about cookies.    

I inherited my mom’s sweet tooth.  Her sweet tooth is like a legend in my family; I’ve had my cousins ask me “does your mom really eat nothing but donuts every day?”  (She doesn’t!)  My mom always has a box of Entenmann’s in one corner of the kitchen counter.  And no matter how full she is after dinner she will always have dessert, usually a small vanilla ice cream sundae.  Recently she’s started to eat “healthier” desserts, and it makes me sad to see boxes of 100 calorie pack cookies and cupcakes instead of the Entenmann’s.  (The concept of 100 calorie cupcakes really disturbs me, how in the world to they make those things?)  

Like my mom, I need a little sweet every day.  It is not just a craving or a desire, it’s a need that I do not question or try to ignore.  Despite my mom’s impressive appetite for sweets, she is a healthy woman.  She is a nurse, and to anyone who questioned her way of eating she always replied what is the golden rule of eating: you can eat anything in moderation.  My mom taught me to always enjoy my dessert but to never over indulge.

When I moved out of my mom’s house, I filled my cabinets with our usual standbys – Famous Amos cookies, Keebler Chips Delux, a box of Entemann’s every now and then (I have trouble with the moderation rule around those chocolate frosted donuts).  Then I realized that I like baking.  Living alone without cable can be lonely sometimes, so whenever I feel lonely or bored I bake something.  Now instead of packages of cookies, my cabinets are full of sugars, flours, different kinds of chips, extracts, nuts, powders, and all sorts of fun baking toys.  (But I always have room for a package of my beloved Mint Newman-O’s).  Since I live alone and cannot eat the dozens of cookies that come out of my oven, I usually bring in half of what I bake into work, which has increased my popularity among my coworkers by like, a lot.  

The problem is I hate chewy cookies and most cookie recipes are of this variety.  So I’ve started on a crispy cookie baking mission.  After two failed oatmeal cookie baking attempts, I’ve found the perfect crispy oatmeal cookies on one of my favorite cooking blogs, the Smitten Kitchen.  Deb’s Crispy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate cookies are OMG to die for.  Thin, buttery, crispy, just salty enough, melt in your mouth delicious.  If you bake these, you should really follow Deb’s advice on using real white chocolate (not the Nestle stuff).  

As for chocolate chip cookies, my crispy cookie standard comes from Tate’s Bakeshop in Southampton, NY.  You can buy their packaged cookies in gourmet delis and grocery stores around Manhattan.  I am lucky (and cursed) that the deli next door to my office sells these cookies in all of their delicious varieties.  

Tate’s cookies are thin and crisp but they are also very light and airy, you take one bite and they almost instantly melt in your mouth.  They are perfectly browned with the perfect amount of salt, they are simply the perfect cookie.  I wanted to try and recreate them in my own kitchen.  Before Googling the obvious “tate’s chocolate chip cookie recipe” I first Googled “crispy chocolate chip cookies” and found this Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from the folks at Chowhound, which I baked a few days ago, adding in 1 cup chopped pecans.

Now, these Chow cookies are very good.  You will noticed that there is only brown sugar in this recipe and none of the white granulated stuff.  The result is a very dense cookie with an intense molasses/toffee flavor.  These cookies are not a light, melt in your mouth crispy, instead they have a hard satisfying snap… if that makes sense. Anyway, my fellow crispy cookie fans at work really really liked these, as did I.  They are no Tates, but good in their own right.  My next mission is to locate the Tate’s recipe and and try recreate the magic cookie in my kitchen.  But now, I’m off to enjoy the warmest day we’ve had in like 3 months (it’s 50 degrees outside!)