Spring fever, I've got it bad, people. I was enjoying all this winter hibernation until, suddenly, I wasn't. I've got restless leg, restless soul syndrome. I can't seem to sit still long enough to boil pasta water, let alone read the food sections. I'm taking a break from this self-imposed blog structure. Lately, all it's been doing is making me feel guilty. And something tells me my readers probably care less about it than I think.
I took a walk yesterday, a four-hour walk through the streets of Manhattan. I stood in line at DiPalo's, fingering my ticket and chatting with one of the counter ladies who kindly let me try a few young pecorino cheeses before I could settle on a wedge of one. I browsed the sleek black counters at Despana and bought a few mind-blowingly expensive slices of jamon Iberico. Luckily, there's no minimum order - you're free to buy just one gossamer slice, which is good to know for these strapped times in which our sad little dollar continues to decline. I read through Casa Moro at McNally-Robinson and found at least four recipes that would make the purchase of the book worthwhile. (Has anyone tried the carrot puree that's sprinkled with parsley and feta and served with pita?)
I saw New York City through that pure, shiny, clear light that filters down on the first days of spring. On the more secluded streets of the East Village, I could hear birds chattering over the nearby din of traffic. There were pussy willows at the farmer's market, though most people carried cherry branches, the buds still tightly closed. There were vendors there I'd not seen before, one selling buttermilk, the other selling bread. I bought six Chioggia beets, small enough to palm in one hand. I kept walking, and through the whir of cars on Broadway, got staccato glimpses of a tall, limp man being gathered up by a blue-suited policeman and gently laid on a stretcher. I noticed a green sign pointing the way to the East River and though I must have seen that sign before, yesterday it was as if it was the first time, improbably clean and optimistic. I sat at the counter alone at Ramen Setagaya, eating my noodles and snatching glances at the men, heads wrapped elegantly in white towels, working the stoves.
I passed so many people, all of us living in these same streets. A lot of days, most, I'd say, I don't even bother to look up, so focused am I on getting to my points of destination. Who isn't? But yesterday, it felt like a small crime to let things go unnoticed. So I took notice. The Italians walking through the flower district, the Africans at the flea market on 25th Street, the construction workers in SoHo, the little girl in the stroller watching a hand-held video game, the bearded guy my father's age dressed in skater clothes walking past the Strand, pretty girls at Union Square, I saw them all.
On days like that, New York is so good it hurts.