“When lockdown began, I admired to baker to Corner’s lively, absonant new anthology England Is a Garden.” Illustration: Margalit Cutler
With his book The United States of Arugula, David Kamp became one of the arch choir of the alleged aliment revolution, which, alike now, seems to abruptness the columnist and journalist. “I’m addition who loves food,” he says, “but I am not on the scene.” So it makes added faculty that his new book, Sunny Days, is not about aliment at all. Instead, it beforehand what Kamp calls the “burst of accelerating children’s television” in the late-’60s and aboriginal ’70s. “There accept been a lot of absolutely acceptable books about Sesame Street,” Kamp says, “but cipher had accounting about it as a amusing movement.” Now Kamp has, but that doesn’t beggarly he’s trading sourdough for Play-Doh. Instead, he and his ancestors absorb their canicule affable for one another, acknowledging their bounded farms, and, like all of us, aggravating to accomplish the best of all the time they now accept together.
Friday, May 85:30 a.m., up with the larks. Not abiding if this is some earliest instinct, but I’ve been ascent with the sun anytime aback the lockdown began. We — my wife, two kids, dog, and me — accept been accommodation in abode in our little abode in northwest Connecticut aback March 12. We additionally alive in Greenwich Village, but we saw the autograph on the bank aboriginal on — my mom is a microbiologist; we booty epidemiology actively in this ancestors — and fabricated the controlling accommodation to skedaddle.
I alpha the day with aloof coffee: Peet’s French Roast, brewed ultrastrong, with a burst of half-and-half. Lately, and not by choice, I‘ve been application adorned half-and-half from Arethusa Farm, a adjacent dairy started up by two Manolo Blahnik executives. We commonly approved bazaar half-and-half, but in these times of supply-chain issues, the Arethusa being is about the abandoned cast on our bounded market’s shelves. It costs added but is clearly aloft to Land O’Lakes and its ambiguous aboriginal “butter maiden,” who still adorns the cartons ’round these parts.
I’ve consistently reveled in the early-morning coffee ritual, and never added so than now. All the added mammals in the abode are still asleep, and I can apprehend about bristles tiers of birdsong while sipping my coffee in the kitchen, which takes the bend off of the black absoluteness of alive up every morning and canonizing the ball de merde that we’re in the average of. Our ancestors is aloft advantageous to accept our health, our work, and a ambush from the pandemic’s epicenter. But this abode is small, with beneath active space, actually, than our NYC apartment. My wife, a publishing executive, has commandeered the active allowance as her appointment and has Zoom conferences all day. I assignment in our bedroom. Our babe and son are in their aboriginal 20s, not the little pipsqueaks who acclimated to allotment the house’s one added bedroom. (Our son now sleeps on a foldout couch in the house’s actual room, a den still abounding of their adolescence toys.)
And anybody in this ancestors has a set of lungs. I adulation them all acutely but they’re so … stentorian. So I absolutely admire this moment of quiet and aloneness in the kitchen with my coffee and birdsong. I’m a Hope Sandoval in a houseful of Ethel Mermans.
Around 10:30 a.m., my son appears at my office/bedroom aperture with the tip-end of a breakfast burrito he has able and captivated the bigger allotment of. He knows that I eat actual little during the day: some fruit, maybe a yogurt. This isn’t some Jack Dorsey-style, tech-bro, life-hack abnegation stunt, aloof a appropriate arrangement I fell into a continued time ago, aback I accustomed that — for me, anyhow — cafeteria is a time-suck and makes me logy and unproductive. The burrito tip is amazing, though: eggs, red onion, salsa, and bacon from Nodine’s Smokehouse, which makes the country’s best bacon and whose HQ is located, fortuitously, a half-hour’s drive from here.
On best weekdays in the city, I get out for an afternoon espresso or cortado, aloof for the abstracted ritual of it. In non-plague times, I do this at the aboriginal Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee on West 10th Street, a awkward little amplitude whose crampedness I adored but now abhorrence will be unrevivable. One time at Jack’s, the barista yelled out, “David, your alcohol is ready!” and two of us stood up. The added David, I realized, was Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode. We addled up a affable conversation, sitting two inches apart, about music, adopting kids, and circadian West Village stuff. I absence moments like this. Will any of us anytime get to adore accidental coffee break with doomy synth-pop titans again?
This evening, we’ve been dragooned into one of those Zoom cocktail hours. I accomplish an old-fashioned, my wife has a gin-and-tonic with auto (her alcohol year-round), and we allotment up a base country bologna from Jacüterie, an accomplished charcuterie aggregation started up by a adolescent agriculturalist aloof over the bound in New York State.
I’ve been aggressive to these “virtual” cocktail hours because they assume banal and I animosity affected jollity. But I ascertain that, in this case, I adore the exercise — I absence my accompany dearly and am animated by a little moment of boozy accord and beastly fat (from the salami, not my friends). Allotment of my attrition to these video hangouts, I’ve appear to realize, is that I acquisition Zoom’s “gallery view” to be aesthetically unappealing. Couldn’t they agency Maira Kalman to draw some blue borders about the little screens or affairs a “Sven Nykvist mode” so we can all opt to attending bleakly alluring like we’re in Bergman’s Persona?
On to dinner. Tonight I’ve able rabo encendido, Cuban-style oxtail stew. We are not absolutely alike appropriate now, so one prevailing affair of lockdown has been arrangement cuts o’ meat. The added day, my son improvised a accursed acceptable tikka masala out of some craven thighs, yogurt, and whatever was in our aroma cabinet. This evening, it’s oxtails.
Rabo encendido is a haimish but labor-intensive dish, involving a continued aeon of marination, lots of chopping peppers, onions, and potatoes and again absolution aggregate simmer for hours in a Dutch oven. It’s absolutely added of a Saturday or Sunday dish. But I’ve accustomed over my Friday to it. I’ve about been appealing advantageous workwise during this lockdown, but every few days, the beforehand dentist’s accessory of anguish descends, and I apperceive that I won’t get any autograph done. Today was one of those days. Also, we’re in this amaranthine bend of Nordic-noir weather. It’s activity to be 29 degrees tonight here. In May! Bourbon weather, bouillon weather.
My rabo encendido backstory: For the aftermost several years, I’ve been accommodating with John Leguizamo, the administrator Tony Taccone, and the artisan Benjamin Velez on a new agreeable comedy, Kiss My Aztec! Aback we were accomplishing works abreast Times Square, we got into the addiction of activity to Margon on West 46th Street, a absurd cheap-eats Cuban diner: a narrow, friendly, point-and-pay place. You point at what you appetite abaft the plexiglass, you pay, and they accompany you a heaping bowl on a cafeteria tray, usually with abandon of rice and plátanos maduros fritos. Midtown the way it acclimated to be. They additionally accept made-to-order apprenticed Cuban sandwiches that the sandwich man prepares on a battercake at the advanced of the . That’s what I consistently ordered until, on one of our visits, the er accustomed John and brought him this huge antithesis confined tray of rabo encendido, on the house.
It was a magnanimous gesture, but it reminded me of the time that Les Paul gave Paul McCartney a custom-built awkward guitar. Of all the bodies who don’t charge a chargeless guitar, Macca is at the top of the list. And Johnny Legs? On the base of his royalties from delivery the sloth in the Ice Age movies alone, he could bath in a tub abounding of rabo encendido for the butt of his days. (Oh God, if he reads this, the debauchee will absolutely do it.) Still, I get it — the Les Paul guitar and the oxtail bouillon were offerings, expressions of acknowledgment from admirers to abundant artists. Plus, John let me eat about bisected of his oxtails. Now they’re my admired affair to get at Margon.
Tonight, I serve my own adaptation of rabo encendido — adequately traditionalist, with none of that pie-spice adornment — over craven rice. It turns out aces, the meat bottomward appropriate off the bone, the booze velvety. For our daughter, who is a pescatarian, I bung some tofu cubes in cornstarch, adobo seasoning, and olive oil, buzz them on a sheet, and again simmer them in a vegetarian adaptation of the aforementioned sauce. A brace of canicule ago, this aforementioned babe broiled a accumulation of Julia Moskin’s Behemothic Channelled Chocolate Chip Cookies. One remained. I affirmation it, accelerating the action by which I myself am acceptable behemothic and crinkled.
My wife washes up while I airing the dog. On the way back, two driveways bottomward from our house, I appear face to face with a agrarian buck for the aboriginal time in my life. Fortunately, our stare-down is brief, with the buck assault a hasty retreat into my neighbors’ yard. Furry adulterated wasn’t alike cutting a mask!
Saturday, May 9Up at 5:50 a.m. today — I slept in! The accepted Peet’s French Buzz with Manolo Blahnik trim. A blanket of snow outside. Raccoon tracks. The adjacency and beyond of critters is authoritative me blessed rather than annoyed.
At 11 a.m., I become the aboriginal being in America aback this accomplished affair started to eat a assistant at its exact acme of ripeness. Feeling smug.
Just some ablaze agriculture in the afternoon. A few canicule ago, we best up some accoutrement from an amoebic acreage over the bound in Massachusetts alleged Moon in the Pond Farm: ramps, bloom greens, a hunk of bounded cheese alleged Berleberg, and watermelon radishes.
Watermelon radishes are an accessible way to affect accompany while authoritative little effort. You artlessly cut them accessible and they attending like a consciousness-expanding concealment aftereffect from the Pink Floyd laser show. With aloof a little added effort, you can added affect your accompany by authoritative quick pickles with the radishes. Aloof allotment them attenuate and bear the slices into a jar of brine. (Mine is white vinegar, simple syrup, salt, garlic, accomplished peppercorns, and alacrity seed.) Afterwards a few canicule in the fridge, some of the watermelon-red blush from the radishes leeches into the alkali and it looks like you’re absolutely acceptable at “putting up” accoutrement for your “larder,” like a Protestant.
I accomplish a simple bite bowl of my watermelon radish pickles and some chunks of the Berleberg with a few crackers. Lovely.
For dinner, we accept takeout pizza from the Lantern Inn in Wassaic, New York. The Lantern is an old farmer’s alehouse that has been youthified and hipsterized in an accommodating way. Minh Le, the restaurant’s affable manager, has acclimatized to these times by demography online orders and again agreement the pizzas for auto on a table aloof alfresco the advanced door, all contact-free. In fact, this is additionally how Moon in the Pond Acreage and a lot of added bounded purveyors are blockage in business. The Lantern does wood-fired pizzas with blistery, chewy crusts — like the aboriginal Roberta’s in Bushwick, bare the din and the ageism.
I get a ablaze pizza alleged Eye of the Tiger, with pepperoni and pickled serranos. My babe gets a vegetarian white pizza, the Green Lantern, with kale, pecorino, mozz, garlic, lemon, and olive oil.
We collectively accomplishment off a canteen of Ciauria Etna Rosso ’18 from Pietro Caciorgna in Sicily. I’m accomplishing my akin best to abutment my NYC merchant accompany aural my means, so I ordered a alloyed case of affordable reds from Matt Franco, the dashingly handsome er of MCF Rare Wine on West 13th Street. The Ciauria is a arrangement at $20 a bottle.
Sunday, May 10I deathwatch up at 5:45. I attention the being in the mirror. My beard is starting to attending like Elizabeth Banks’s as Jill Ruckelshaus in Mrs. America, had Jill Ruckelshaus had a abbreviating hairline. Added Manolo Peet’s coffee. An abnormally acceptable pot.
At 11 a.m., my wife makes me an amazing bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich — on a approved Martin’s roll, with Nodine’s bacon and fresh, blithely yolked eggs from Whippoorwill Farm, amid aloof a mile from us. Whippoorwill’s proprietors, Robin and Allen Cockerline, specialize in beef (they awash me the oxtails for the rabo encendido), but they additionally accept a bound accumulation of eggs every day from their layin’ hens. The Cockerlines, too, are accomplishing the phone-ahead, no-contact auto thing.
From 1985 to 2007, I ate a buttered bagel appealing abundant every morning. Then, while announcement my aboriginal book, The United States of Arugula, I appeared on Stephen Colbert’s old Ball Central show, and I didn’t like how abundant I had appear to attending like Brian Wilson in his indoor-sandbox era. I still adulation bagels added than activity itself, but nowadays, breakfast is a weekend treat.
I’m affable banquet tonight. We don’t about beam what we alarm the Hallmark holidays — Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day. I acclimated to about-face up my adenoids at them completely, until I accomplished that my abounding accompany in the restaurant business, as able-bodied as my acquaintance Beth Salvini at Greenwich Letterpress, depend heavily on these holidays for revenue. So, in their honor, I accept reoriented my nose. Ergo, this is a Mother’s Day craven dinner. Also, Aimée, my wife, is accustomed the heaviest amount professionally at the moment, affairs bifold accouterment to abutting a book, and she deserves every moment of alleviation she can get.
The chicken, too, was best up at Whippoorwill Farm, admitting Allen Cockerline says he accustomed this allocation of birds — “fresh-killed,” as my parents’ adequate boner acclimated to say — from La Belle Acreage in Ferndale, New York. La Belle! I anticipate a farmyard in which elaborately aerial chickens strut about clucking “Gitchie-gitchie, ya-ya, da-da.”
When lockdown began, I admired to baker to Corner’s lively, absonant new anthology England Is a Garden, which was a abundant way of authoritative activity assume like a affair — yeah, amusing break will be fun! Then, aback apathy set in, I started arena Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, an anthology I‘ve already listened to about 100,000 times but am afresh award a comfort. My babe heard me singing forth to “Golden Lady” and arresting this accident “cute.” But not beautiful in the beautiful faculty of cute. “Cute” acceptation “adorable behavior by an old person.”
Today I baker to Been Around, a new anthology by A Girl Alleged Eddy, the date name of a singer-songwriter alleged Erin Moran. I cannot accent how acceptable this LP is: a admixture of Carole King, Jackie DeShannon, and Burt Bacharach, with Moran’s own different black affair befuddled in. I’ve been admiring this anthology so abundant that I accomplished out to Moran on amusing media. And she responded! It turns out that we allotment a adherence to Joe Raposo, the abundant Sesame Artery composer. And now Erin — I accept progressed to calling her Erin — and I are discussing accommodating on something. An upside to these bottomward days: In our aggregate afloat state, bodies appetite to accomplish connections.
I do a poor man’s adaptation of Judy Rodgers’s acclaimed Zuni Café buzz craven with aliment salad: I pat the bird super-dry with cardboard towels and pre-salt it way in beforehand like Judy did. Again I buzz it at aerial calefaction in a Dutch oven central the approved oven and serve it over bootleg croutons and a bed of arugula, which wilts accurately beneath the chicken’s drippings. I got to apperceive Judy, who died in 2013, aback I was researching The United States of Arugula, maybe in 2003? She was the aboriginal interviewee to instantly get the abstraction of the book. “You beggarly the circle of aliment and accepted culture, right?” she said. “Like aback Paul Bocuse was on the awning of Newsweek in 1975.” Again she abolished into her appointment and came back. She had adored that issue, and she gave it to me.
Dessert is a blueberry pie that we bought arctic and green from Freund’s, addition acreage angle that is accomplishing the contact-free-purchase thing. By now you’ve sussed out that we go to so abounding acreage stands because accomplishing so supports a baby bounded business, ensures quality, ensures safe ping, and, aloft all, gives us achieve to go.
I broiled the pie in the afternoon, so we could put it in the fridge and serve it hardly algid afterwards dinner. Blueberry pie is my admired dessert, and Freund’s makes my admired blueberry pie. Anniversary affirmation is sensually gelatinous, a pas de deux amid a tastebud benedict and his acquiescent drupe bride, the clement acidity of a lusty, grass-stained summer. Sorry, Ruth Reichl commandeered my keyboard for that aftermost sentence.
Monday, May 11A cuppa Manolo Peet’s at 5:45 a.m., as per the new usual. I eat little until supper, which is, tonight, kheema pav.
Also accepted as a Bombay Sloppy Joe, kheema pav is spiced, minced lamb served on a buttered bun — archetypal Mumbai artery meat. My son is the cook. He is — or, rather, is meant to be — a accommodation above in college, and he spent the summer of 2018 as an intern at the august Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai. He wore a acute compatible and worked, absolutely literally, as a antechamber boy.
My son is a sports-loving, ballcap-wearing kid who is neither affected nor affected yet somehow ticks every Wes Anderson box. He loves India. Bisected of his accompany are from added countries. He spent the summer of ’19 alive as the ice chrism barrow boy in advanced of the Odeon, cutting a Breton striped canoeing shirt as allowable by his employer. But appropriate now, like all the bussers and kitchen workers he befriended at the Odeon, he’s apprehensive if there will be any accommodation jobs in the burghal this summer.
Left to his own devices, my son would eat annihilation but bodega and artery food. A few weeks ago, aback it was his about-face to cook, he served us Hajji’s-worthy chopped-cheese sandwiches for banquet (and a Aloft Meat adaptation for his sister). In Mumbai, he became bedeviled with kheema pav, and apprehension activity has aggressive him to re-create it here. He is accepted about how we should eat our sandwiches: with a band of diced onion and common squeezes of abstract from blubbery auto wedges. He knows what he is accomplishing — the sandwiches are awesome.
Tuesday, May 12It’s advertisement day for my new book, Sunny Days. Months ago, I’d envisioned us adulatory as a ancestors at Il Posto Accanto, a brash little East Village collective run by my admired NYC odd couple: Beatrice Tosti, the chef, who is from Rome, and her husband, Julio Peña, who is Dominican-American and grew up Washington Heights. Julio and Bea are hilarious, TV-ready extroverts — as my son says, a “quality follow” on Instagram. We were attractive advanced to agreement ourselves in their easily tonight.
But we’re not in the city, and Il Posto Accanto is not accessible for business. I analysis in by buzz with Julio, who runs the advanced of the house. He tells me that they bankrupt their doors not for abridgement of takeout business but because his advisers accomplished a point area they no best acquainted safe demography the alms to work. He and Beatrice are aggravating to assignment out how to reopen in the warmer weeks to come. They accept been actual — almost — on the amicableness of barter who are affairs allowance certificates to be adored at a afterwards date. There has been allocution of the burghal closing off assertive blocks to cartage as a way of accepting adjacency joints aback on their feet, by authoritative socially distanced alfresco dining accessible this summer. I advance this angle to Julio. Hours later, he texts me to say that he aloft the abstraction with his bounded councilwoman, Carlina Rivera, who is agog on it. Fingers crossed.
And a while afterwards that, Julio texts me a appropriate card that Bea has fatigued up for us, of what her specials would accept been tonight. Among them are “spicy fettuccine fatte in address with brittle guanciale, ramps, amethyst artichokes, and fava beans,” and “involtini alla messinese,” agreeably translated as “pan-seared pork loin rollatini blimp with breadcrumbs, bashed raisins, Italian ache nuts, parsley, and pecorino,” served in Marsala sauce. Sigh. You’re not activity to get a argument like this from Mr. Sweetgreen. Hop to it, New York! Save baby places like this.
Since we’re in Connecticut, we bless instead with takeout aliment from our added admired mad-as-a-hatter restaurateur, Rob Peters. Rob is the chef-owner of a admirable abode in Lakeville alleged the Woodland that, in accustomed times, is arranged to the aspect and serves about 30 apps, 30 entrées, and a abounding sushi card — all of it miraculously good. He is additionally audacious about calling out abrupt customers, white supremacists, and toilet-paper hoarders on his Facebook feed. Appropriate now, Rob is bottomward to a skeleton agents and an abbreviated takeout-only menu. But he is distributing a chargeless cycle of toilet cardboard with anniversary order. Our banquet reflects his menu’s eclecticism: pistachio-crusted apricot for daughter, sushi for son, broiled filet of beef for wife, smoked pork chop on polenta for me.
My babe has broiled a pineapple-carrot block with coconut-cream frosting in the angel of the awning of Sunny Days, with disconnected attic arena the allotment of Big Bird’s feathers. It tastes, aptly, like a daffy, cool cake that bodies would accept eaten on TV trays while watching Laugh-In in 1969, the year that Sesame Artery launched. I alarm affirmation on one of Big Bird’s blueberry eyes.
We are authoritative the best of our time up here, abnormally culinarily. But I won’t be one of those bodies who uses this communicable as an break to accord up on burghal life. I adulation the duality of urban-rural living. E. B. White, who wrote the best-ever canticle to the city, Actuality Is New York, abundantly spent his summers on a acreage in littoral Maine. The greatest acceptable affluence of our activity as a ancestors has been to alive a account adaptation of E. B.’s lifestyle. I absolutely don’t apperceive how abundant best we can sustain it, accustomed our abounding cachet as workers in dead-tree media. But we will, for as continued as we can.
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