satiate.

Weekend WordBowl/Reprise

The high holidays are upon us, encouraging all manner of indulgences. And over-indulgences. Thus today’s word: SATIATE

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Our WordBowl Word of the Day comes from the twisted brain behind Henry’s Games — storytelling? satire? legend? — all I can confirm is (1) the word came from a UK e.mail address and (2) the author purports to be male. Though this may be a matter for debate as well.

satiate

Earliest food memory: gorging on pineapple, sticky sweet juice slicking down chin, mouth raw, the first conscious twining of pleasure and pain.

My mother, worrying I might hurt myself, attempting to lure my attention with promises of Cocoa Puffs. I was not dissuaded. If one bite proved scrumptious, surely gobbling the whole pineapple — a gift from my father, souvenir from his team’s annual exhibition game in Hawaii — would provide exponential happiness.

ELIZA'S STORY (who knew bourbon could be so refreshing?)

ELIZA’S STORY (a deceptively demure cocktail)

I munched, Mumu-clad — my mother had made us matching Mumus, a riot of red and white florals, the year she jetted off for the Luau Game, too — my own celebration of culinary and sartorial extravagance, those partners in crime.

At almost four years of age, I had not yet learned the law of diminishing returns, the irrefutable scientific facts: sugar-on-sugar becomes less sweet, salt-on-salt less satisfying. Of the tastes, only bitter becomes increasingly, more intensely of itself. Bitterer.

My father retired from baseball, we moved through familial lands in Texas, Louisiana, settled in Mississippi. Food, tightly regulated in our 1970s household — recession, sprawling family, father still hewing to preparatory extreme eating and exercise regimes as though his civilian professional performance depended upon it, mother wrestling her five-pregnancies-and-counting weight gain via the fashionable fasting plan du jour — there was no such thing as snacking between meals, desserts regulated to weekends, although my siblings and I snatched surreptitious chocolates from our mother’s hidden stash, all the more delicious for being forbidden fruit.

THIRSTY RABBIT craft cocktail at Grange

THIRSTY RABBIT craft cocktail at Grange

Our brown-bagged lunches featured Oscar Meyer Variety Pack deli meats, “Red Delicious” apples rarely either. Dinners, a parade of broiled chicken/buttered rice/frozen vegetable permutations or variations of noodles with canned sauces, this less sophisticated era, we ate noodles, we did not yet know from pasta. We did not dine in restaurants, McDonald’s a rare splurge, sign of an unexpected financial windfall, or a brother’s Little League triumph.

My siblings and I dreamed of the packaged food in our friends’ homes, envied their unrestricted access. My burgeoning babysitting business — leveraging my oldest child caretaking skills into actual cash — built upon my fascination with other people’s pantries. Covetous of what I had not experienced, craving tastes of my imagining.

The taste of summer: Thai Cold Brew Coffee

The taste of summer: Thai Cold Brew Coffee

As I verged on adolescence, my parents hit a rough patch, arguments burst from behind their bedroom door, tempers flaring dramatic throughout our home too modest to house hiding places, a spectacular one-upmanship of slammed cabinets, tossed tennis racquets, my mother grabbing car keys and me, gunning the Plymouth all the way to Pizza Hut for multiple trips to the sneeze-guarded salad bar and an array of Personal Pan Pizzas, furious munching before barreling to the Mall, plowing past the seasonal displays towards the clearance racks — even at her most enraged, my mother mindful of her role as keeper of the family finances, her calculator of a brain tick-tick-ticking discount percentages and layaway plans —sorting through those sad stragglers available at greater-than-fifty-percent discount, haughty tossing of the too-big oh-my-goodness-this-just-swallows-me attempting to rationalize the too-small as perfect-j-just-as-soon-as-I-lose-five-pounds. Pizza and salad topping torpor settling in, ambling over to the shoe section — score! — fit not an issue, as our feet remained the same size no matter how much we stuffed ourselves.

Full, but far from satisfied.

 

 Inspired, I set about satiating myself uptown-style at the farm-to-table The Grange Bar and Eatery (hamilton heights, harlem) where I sampled craft cocktails and admired the extensive list of local microbrews while scribbling the first draft of this story. Trundling back downtown, I hand-edited with a Thai Cold Brew Coffee at the light-drenched Greenwich Village outpost of Stumptown Coffee Roasters (greenwich village, manhattan).

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Do you have a suggestion? Feel free to comment below. I look forward to your input!

fabulous.

WordBowl Wednesday/Reprise

It’s that fabulous time of the year! And look what I discovered in the WordBowl archives: FABULOUS.  So amidst celebrating the season with dear friends here in Manhattan, taking a moment to toast to Gal Pals across the globe…

Do you have a fabulous word for WordBowl? Click HERE.

Befitting the luxe-living GET SET,  JET SET  Sami Darling-Rock, today’s word is FABULOUS:

Resembling or suggesting a fable: of an incredible, astonishing, or exaggerated nature. 

1.1  Amazingly good; wonderful

1.2  Having no basis in reality; mythical

 

Once upon a time, a group of gal pals lived life in the Superlative Zone.

CarrotMargarita

Carrot Margarita with Star Anise: a superlative concotion

2005: We met cute, Caribbean island spa holiday, late summer, us solo single ladies. Bonded during group hikes, water aerobics, guided meditations as a major storm system surged, the impending hurricane loomed but spared our island. Each of us in the suspended moment just prior to transition, transformation, each fleeing our respective sweltering offices, flailing placeholder relationships, the stultifying wait for next.

Final evening, Samba Sunset Cruise, we toasted, vowed to stay in touch, made enthusiastic plans to convene in Manhattan. A convenient convening for the U.S. contingent, the last we saw of those who ensconced themselves in their colloquial (gratifying, surely) lives. The rest of us, we took our superlativeness global.

2006: We dined in TriBeCa lofts, cut swaths through SoHo boutiques, booked late night suppers in West End hotels that could afford after-hours liquor licenses, viewed Hockney at the National Portrait Gallery, Che Guevara tributes at the Victoria & Albert, wore formal gowns to the Snow Ball in Edinburgh where we danced with men in kilts, slurped oysters and clinked flutes to celebrate an unanticipated Manolo windfall in Boston, celebrated American Thanksgiving in old York, cheered Olympians at the Turin games, gasped at the gowns on display at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the Queen’s 80th Birthday, cajoled door jockeys into granting us gratis access, picked up men with significant timepieces and discrete credit cards.

High Tea Bubbly

High Tea Bubbly

2007. The Long Bar, London, a tipsy blonde teetering in her heels, are you millionairesses? We demurred, giggled behind our freshly manicured hands, ordered another bottle of champers, giddy, as of that night, one of us was. All dazzling, dizzying dreams seemingly within our grasp.

We purchased semi-precious “hand sets” — matched ring and bracelet baubles — as evidence we were not waiting for the One True Diamond. We justified each other’s fashion fixations, art fascinations, real estate acquisitions. We procured significant watches of our own. It’s an investment piece.

We swore allegiance over restorative beverages, soldiered on through late nights, ambitious daytime itineraries. We were generous with gifts, cocktails, hotel rooms, resort vouchers, theater tickets. We drank it all in, lapped it all up. Please sir, may we have some more! Boarded flights, returned to the careers that afforded our lifestyles. We were in our prime. The future did not merely shimmer ahead, it sparkled all around us.

seasonal, savory daiquiri

seasonal, savory daiquiri

2008: Our ringleader married in a fourteenth century castle, guests in Scottish kilts, African Kente cloths, Philip Treacy fascinators. Having captured the professional brass ring, she conquered domestic bliss with equal aplomb, traded Louboutins for Wellies, Channel lady bags for chic nappy totes. Impeccable timing, as always.

2009: Dominos dropped, a cascade of collapse nipping at the heels of those of us chasing ever-elusive dreams, country by country, proving the laws of nature would not be denied: what goes up must come down.

Stuck in a most sober era, in search of a fix. Grounded, the dawning recognition that a superlative moment, once had, bears no repeating, dragons chased rarely roar.

But the next, the next was sure to come. The future shimmering before us, still.

Speaking of fabulous, the good folks at Flinder’s Lane (east village) are dishing up genre-bending Modern Australian cuisine and mind-altering seasonal libations. The Carrot Margarita with Star Anise deliciously defies both nature and description, and the current Seasonal Daiquiri is an herbaceous tipple topped with Tarragon. I was tempted to continue handwriting this piece with every cocktail on the menu, but the responsible me prevailed,decamped. Editing took place at Crosby Hotel (soho), where I discovered their lauded High Tea was more suitable for a few than a one, so I opted for a bit of bubbly.

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jocularity.

Back-to-School season is upon us (where oh where did the summer fly off to?) and although NYC remains summer sultry, I find myself reminiscing about southern school days…

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Our word today, which means “given to jesting” (“jest” is a playful or amusing act; a prank), courtesy of D. Nudo: word advocate and champion of all the news that’s fit to print. 

jocularity

School buses, from the first days of kindergarten, raucous, an unsupervised no-man’s land between home and homeroom, given to mobile adaptations of backyard games, Freeze Tag, Red Rover. But the Junior High bus, with its eighth graders looming larger and more worldly than us just out of grade school, had a rambunctiousness that could careen into cruelty as social hierarchy classifications codified, a subtle, specific process to which I, a transplanted non-Southerner — initially invited out of curiosity or hospitality to join the cheerleaders while also grouped with the so-called smart kids who were subjected to all manner of 1970’s educational experimentation — was attuned, acute. I once negotiated the borderlands between the two if not with ease, with naïveté.

portal to secreted cocktailing adventures

portal to secreted cocktailing adventures

That was grade school. This new land, the Junior High bus, trickier.

I sat shriveled small in the denim pants painstakingly sewn by my mother to mimic the ragingly popular Calvin Klein jeans — down to a label she swore was included in the Butterwick pattern — embarrassed by this public sign of my family’s slide along the recession’s razor’s edge just as girls discarded ponies for fashion. I avoided the obvious troublemakers, found some seats chillier than others, the cheerleaders still scooted over but only smiled with their mouths, the smart kids nodded without making full eye contact.

And then there was Boo.

through the phone booth...

through the phone booth…

Boo, eighth grade football hero, blonde, sunny, punching shoulders and guffawing his way towards a successful high school career. He was friendly to all, unlike other kids less secure in their popularity, who knew their precarious status could be cemented by a well-timed barb or a well-aimed spitball.

PDT's PADDINGTON cocktail

PDT’s PADDINGTON cocktail

Boo and I got off the bus at the same bus stop, if I was willing to trudge up the hill to my house afterwards. Boo, assumptive of accolades, attention, happiness. Sports fields existed for his Friday night glory, he did not know of the shifting tides of fame, fortune, the ramifications of a bobbled ball. He found me funny — funny haha, not funny weird — and in his presence I could pretend to be.

sunshine daydreams at Mud Coffee

sunshine daydreams at Mud Coffee

 

We acquired 10-speeds the same weekend — his a gift from his parents, mine a long-held babysitting money layaway goal — we raced down Dead Man’s Hill, flinging arms overhead for brief seconds before grasping curved handlebars to keep from veering into each other, ducked the occasional car with a wave and a grin, spun around cul-de-sacs. Boo crashed through the woods, rode further than I had ever gone, past the tree Baby Brother once fell out of, past the abandoned neighborhood fort, and I followed him, laughing as his front tire jammed against a fallen pine, laughing as he rammed his bike into mine — our faces close, shoulders closer — laughing even as he flung a clump of wet red clay at my head to stop me from laughing.

We walked our bikes back as the sun set — the universal Bat Signal to head home — mud-spattered, mosquito-bitten, proclaimed we would ride like this every day. But baseball season started that week, Boo every bit as necessary at bat as he was on the scrimmage line, there was no reprise of the Dynamic Duo Ride and in the fall he took a different bus, off to high school, we never rode together again.

Inspired by the back-to-school spirit, I went Old School while working on this piece: one of the original East Village cocktail speakeasy spots, PDT (please don’t tell), which is nestled within perennial late night snack destination Crif Dog. And yes, you can order hot dogs at the bar, try a “Chang Dog” created in partnership with Chef David Chang, while working your way through the carefully calibrated PDT cocktail list. I chose the PADDINGTON cocktail, as it was named for the childhood literary character (and because I’m a sucker for Lillet Blanc). 

 Caffeinated editing took place at the original Mud Coffee (NYCers have likely spotted one of their bright orange coffee trucks roaming downtown), where the soundtrack has not changed in all the years of operation. 

Do you have a suggestion for WordBowl? Would love to hear from you, comments link at the top of this story (or if you are on a phone, scroll to bottom).

Do you have a word for WordBowl? Terrific! Use the form below.

patience.

On my annual Southern Sojourn (states visited: Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi), my siblings and I are telling childhood tales to my 15 nieces and nephews still young enough to find the notion of us as children fascinating.  “The Happy Willow” featured in more than one story, which sent me scurrying through the WordBowl archives for this piece, PATIENCE:

Our Word-of-the-Day is one of the very first suggestions submitted to WordBowl, delighted I drew it at last.  From the indomitable (and patient!) Amy Willstatter, media-maven, Moxie-Mom, early-edge entrepreneur.

patience

My mother gave birth to two boys as we idled in Houston waiting for my father — retired from MLB at twenty-seven, in need of a new vocation — to plow through pharmacy school; she gave birth twice again as we settled in Mississippi, waiting for my father to inherit a family business.

Great Uncle Ted and Great Aunt Myrtle instigated this scheme for their retirement, for my father to assume his “rightful” role.  They oversaw the construction of our new home, a symbol of our no-longer-peripatetic, now rooted life.

Weighing options at The Wayland (went with Sazerac)

Weighing options at The Wayland

My parent were no BabyBoomHippieCommuners, but the virgin backyard evoked some dormant bucolic dream, they drew up plans, tilled vegetable beds, planted snap bean bushes instead of hedges along the chain link fence. They selected saplings to supplement the towering, spindly pines, these new trees would grow, they claimed, to shade the bay window in the kitchen, Japanese Maples and Magnolias would in time cast dappled shadows on the terraced walkway, a willow would one day weep majestic in the back yard.

Between gardening sessions, my father taught me to throw a baseball, insisting I throw from the shoulder, like a boy, none of this girly from-the-wrist business. Hours we spent throwing, pitching balls to imaginary batters, or, one season, to knock slugs off the tomatoes, the year of an infestation no pesticide proved powerful enough to kill. We planted watermelons that year, too, which grew round as bowling balls and tasted just as sweet.

Healthy snap bean plants (in no way indicative of ours)

Healthy snap bean plants (in no way indicative of ours)

One year begat a bumper crop of snap beans, our family jammed around the kitchen table, snapping beans until our fingers reddened, an endless parade of beans at dinner, beans swimming in stewed tomatoes, beans glistening with butter and Morton’s salt, beans slathered with cream of mushroom soup, beans with diced frozen carrots, their uniform color and symmetry in sharp contrast to the beans snapped by fingers of varying sizes and strengths, beans boiled, frozen in plastic bags, thawed, cooked limp.

Trees grow more slowly than children, my city-bred parents discovered, and in order to weep, willows must be planted near water. We had maples only slightly taller than the snap beans or my young brothers, magnolias that bore a single blossom, and what we forever dubbed The Happy Willow, branches reaching uproarious to the sky.

The passion for gardening faded, beans supplanted by proper hedges, tomato beds replaced with flowers, sapling-sprouted trees watered and pruned with more prayerful hope than confidence.

PatienceEditGreat Uncle Ted staved off retirement for another year, and then another, my father his second-in-command. My brothers grew, eager for their presumptive baseball birthright, my father taught them to throw, to hit, to catch, the proper way to slide into third, games in which they took turns as pitcher, batter, catcher, shortstop, The Happy Willow serving as second base.

I graduated from college before my father assumed ownership of the family business, inherited the family home with its stoic, stately trees shading the bay windows, just as my parents once envisioned growing for themselves.

“patience” was handwritten with a Deep South-evoking Sazerac at The Wayland (east village, nyc) and was edited at the NYU branch of Think Coffee (nyc)

Do YOU have a word you think could be a story? Feel free to drop it into WordBowl!

deracinate.

It all started with a word. Specifically, “deracinate”, a word submitted by documentarian Cyndee Readdean which resulted in a post picked by WordPress editors for promotion, which resulted in all sorts of amazing, provocative, heady words from you!

Reposting “deracinate” as tonight Cyndee Readdean will be honored for producing FREEDOM SUMMER (click for trailer), which was broadcast on PBS’s American Masters and garnered a prestigious Peabody. The Peabody Awards are airing this this evening (6/21) — watch the video trailer HERE  in the U.S. on Pivot broadcast network (check their digital platforms for streaming in other territories).

WordBowl Word of the Day “deracinate” — which I did not know essentially means “to uproot” until I Googled it — is courtesy of Cyndee Readdean. Filmmaker. Culture Creature. Twin. 

deracinateA few weeks after the birth of my baby brother — disappointing, as I specifically requested an OLDER brother, not this red-faced mewling thing taking up residence in my mother’s lap —I greeted the arrival of my road-weary father with suitcase in hand, assuming this Houston apartment was as temporary as the others, Phoenix for Spring Training, Tacoma in the off-season, San Francisco or San Mateo for games played in Candlestick Park, Evansville for dips down to Triple-A ball.

A travel savvy almost-five-year-old, I packed my own case, a miniature replica of my mother’s (hard-sided, top-stitched), with a few of my favorite outfits and matching socks (we dressed to the nines, my mother and I), a swimsuit (swimming pool hopes, often the case), paper and crayons (if we flew, stewardesses cooed and gave out coloring books, but I liked to be prepared for any travel situation), an assortment of books (of course) and my Giants jersey (adult-sized, doubling as security blanket). All set, ready to Hit the Road.

imgres-1We — Mom, Dad, me — may not have had a home, but our lives had a rhythm, bound to the tides of baseball fortunes, the ebbing minor leagues, the crests and swells of the majors. Shifts in destination and timing, the little dramas woven into the cycle of arrival, unpacking, practice, game, celebration or consolation, re-packing, waiting, departure, freeway or airport, motel or apartment, arrival.Vagabond days marked by gas station treats and airport gifts and occasional exotic meals cooked by one of the other ballplayer’s homesick wives.

Vesper Martini at Raoul's: a classic at a classic

Vesper Martini at Raoul’s: a classic at a classic

Ballparks, with their enormity of noise, swells of sound, announcements crackling, great waves of people, anticipatory, asserting statistical knowledge. Cries for beer, hotdogs, yes, even peanuts, better seats. The players loping onto the field, scattered shouts from the fans, weak clapping gaining strength as the crowds turn from their dissertations on the team’s chances for the season and acknowledge the actual talent hitting the field. Lazy balls arcing through the air, belying the precision with which they are thrown, even during warm up, the nonchalant preening of players on display but not yet at work, playing. Me, near the dugout, in uniform, an indulged team mascot.

Are not all fathers applauded by thousands upon arrival at their office?

wayside coffee bar, east village

wayside coffee bar, east village

Now, Houston, this apartment without a swimming pool, was to be our home for the next few years as my father — retiring at 27 from the only job he had ever known — attended pharmacy school.

I did not share my parents’ enthusiasm for kindergarten, the opportunity to play with kids my own age. I enjoyed my solo status, my books and my crayons, the company of grown-up players — Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, Mansori Murakami, Willie Mays — and their wives. In Houston, all the adults looked alike, the kids had known each other since birth, and everyone spoke with a singular syrup-drenched accent.

Adrift in this sea of sameness, I began plotting my escape.

Today’s WordBowl Word of the Day was handwritten at the SoHo institution Raoul’s and edited at the latest jewel in the East Village artisanal coffee crown, Wayside. 

conundrum.

This week, spring bloomed here on the East Coast (at last!) and I had a flurry of conference calls with Hollywood folks (new project!). With Southern California and movies on my mind, I scrolled through the WordBowl archives to revisit a flash fiction piece inspired by a word suggestion from Los Angeleno(a?) Jan Ostergard, which I share with you below. 

Do you have a favorite word? I would love to see it! Drop it to WordBowl HERE

“conundrum” is from the brain of Jan Ostegard who profiles musicians/actors/authors/filmmakers, writes about all manner of creators/creation, and is a “Phantom Creations” co-conspirator. 

conundrum

These executives were presented as important, but none wear ties. Confusing, business-makers dressing same as artists. Do they want to be artists? No one handed him a business card, which prevents him from addressing anyone by name. None of them have been to Japan, one says he has not left California except for tripping a road to Mexicali.

Rhythmic, mexxxxicaaallleeee, a word for Satoshi to stretch-beat-pulse into a fight sequence soundtrack. He wishes Satoshi was here. His producer only agreed to send him, alone, after many requests from the film festival — hinting, awards — and calls from studios.

Conundrum 2013-12-02 at 7.27.04 PMHe wants to ask these movie executives why interest in his film. Hollywood is big movies, big explosions, big stars for global audience. Japanese film is for Japanese. They discuss remake, “Americanize”, colonial word, to make something not from America into an American thing. The conversation whirls, smiles stretch across faces, English whips through his head before he can fully translate, they interrupt, overlap, agree, agree, agree.

He struggles with the order of the words, multiple negatives, questions within a question. Any answer may offend his hosts.

Perhaps he misunderstands, his many years of English inadequate preparation. He has not slept on this side of the globe, the elastic hours snap him awake.

They keep turning to his film festival escort— Reena, difficult for him to pronounce — who speaks a bit of Japanese. His English is much more, but she is native-speaker so they are reassured.

Mizubasho Sake at Wasan (east village)

Mizubasho Sake at Wasan (east village)

Important he does not make a mistake. Making a U.S. film changes everything. He looks around at expectant faces, laughs a moment after everyone else. The room nods. Smiles, handshakes, laughing bows. Exit. Reena hugs him, says they never meet with anyone that long, ever. Time for drinks with naked women at hotel pool. Did she say this? She says, this is just the beginning, of the night or his U.S. career, uncertain.

Their arrival greeted by an aquarium-lounging, bare-breasted mermaid blowing kisses through scarlet lips; they join a parade of ropey women in flimsy dresses, led by the trajectory of their impossible breasts. Hollywood, hard masquerading as soft, or the inverse. Poolside, everyone smiling at their barely-sipped drinks, scanning potentially prettier parties, whispering names of spotted celebrities.  Thumping music impairs his hearing, he surfs waves of laughter more easily with every florescent cocktail.

imagesSushi appears, the rice is wrong. A man as indiscernible as any American waves over a Taiwanese Toy Tycoon who orders shochu, which this bar does not stock, settles for a bottle of premium tequila. They converse in English, their common language.

No one is attending the festival, but all are impressed Scorsese is introducing his film. Their party swells, lights shimmer, bright-haired, big-teethed girls spill across laps, mermaids all.

Reena is with him again, skin glowing, her American breasts inviting his admiration, as big and welcoming and possibly insurmountable as America itself. He asks, again, if Scorsese-san watched his film before agreeing to introduce to American audience. Reena laughs, what did you say?

“conundrum” (which started out as a much longer story and required considerable whittling before it was suitable for you to read here) was written with a gorgeous sake and perfectly pickled vegetables at Wasan (east village, nyc)

Do you have a word just begging for a story? Send it in! 

salubrious.

Your words power WordBowl! Click here to share a word: WordBowlWord

Salubrious: Favorable to or promoting health (for the record, WordBowl is all about the health)

salubrious

.

 “Salubrious” comes courtesy of Warren Bobrow, aka the cocktail whisperer and, fittingly, the author of (among other lauded tomes)   Apothecary Cocktails Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and TodayHe can be found @WarrenBobrow1

Photo: Buzzfeed

Photo: Buzzfeed

Morning ritual, double espresso with a sidecar shot of Fernet Branca, a combination my Italian bosses assured was a most balanced breakfast: Fernet to settle the stomach, espresso to jumpstart the brain. It was my post-collegiate job, the stopgap job to cover rent while stuck in the interview loop for the dream job newly minted graduates presume awaits, I assumed all sophisticated big-city grown-ups — unlike my parents, or those of the kids I babysat in high school — kicked off their professional days in some analogous spirit, an unspoken rite of passage into the secreted world of professional adulthood.

IMG_2813

This is what greets you at      The Happiest Hour

Rude awakening, my first magazine job, expected to fetch and pay for my own Americano, and no restorative amaro in sight. Not that a little alcohol was foreign to this work environment, either. Our tight-knit crew — in the time honored tradition of journalism melding with the emerging ethos of tech startups — decamped from office to bar, debating the fates of technologies and companies spotlighted in our pages, or arguing over sales tactics or angling for attention from higher-ups at the competing publications we consorted with after hours in a succession of favored watering holes who courted us with complimentary shots but unfailing failed to fill our water glasses. Mornings, we were left to our own devices, groping through the ritualistic San Francisco fog, attempting to placate our churning stomachs with socially acceptable foodstuffs, deadening bagels slathered with spread, chocolate muffins, egg-and-cheese sandwiches. Breakfast breads thudding in our guts like daily dread.

Although I admittedly had an affinity for all things Italianate after spending my fifteenth birthday getting drunk with a monk en route to Rome, my first immersion into cultures not my own, I suspected the Italians were on to something with their appreciation for the inherent powers of food, beverages to heal, nourish with none of the associated guilts.

HappyHappyJoyJoy

HappyHappyJoyJoy

My own dietary habits distinctly American, shaped by 1970s childhood convenience foods, uniformly-sized Bird’s Eye vegetables, Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks, Pillsbury biscuits popped out of a refrigerated tube. Upon turning teen, I graduated to my mother’s diet of skinless chicken breasts and Fresca, SlimFast shakes and grapefruit, sugar free gum to stave off food cravings. Years of mother-daughter trips to sneeze-guarded fast food salad bars for insipid vegetables we drowned in Ranch dressing and sprinkled with cheddar cheese confetti as we congratulated ourselves for passing on French fries, weeks of cabbage soup and liquid fasts interspersed with Pizza Hut and Girl Scout cookie binges, a cycle as predictable as the seasons.

A Bloody Mary makes any hour happy...

A Bloody Mary makes any hour happy…

“Healthy” equated with substances consumed, a state to attain, a moral badge of courage. Something to be soldiered through. Clever corporations divorced “health” and “diet” from their original meanings, leaving a national trail of bitterness and regret in their wake, marketed foodstuffs to ameliorate the pain. Dazzling scientific breakthroughs — we can have our cake and eat it too! — SweetnLow-Aspertame-Stevia, Tab-DietCoke-CokeZero, Snackwells, Lite Beer. When it comes to diet, even the most fervent religious practioners ascribe to science as salvation. Science, who would deliver us from moderation.

Coffee + Amaro = Amor y Amargo

Coffee + Amaro = Amor y Amargo

I grew up, the years sped by, our Information Age boomed, insatiable. Nutritional science — once the domain of prim HomeEc teachers — conscripted by Big Food, Pharma and co-opted by telegenic physicians, lifestyle gurus. Every day, hour, breathless news cycle, another pundit, talking head touting the latest controversial findings — controversy, the Holy Grail of Clicks — the magic bullet of health (re: thin, beautiful) or it’s second cousin, longevity. Breakfast, the most important meal of the day, or not, the contradictory research persuasive enough to support an individual’s preference. Coffee, red wine, salt — Himalayan Pink, specifically — re-labled, fat-free falls from fashion. Bullet Coffee! Cold Press Juice Fasts! Goji Berries! ChiaSeedsTigerNutsCoconutOil. The incredible, edible egg.

Data whiplash.

A sneaking, subversive suspicion snaking through overwrought brains: our grandparents might have had it right all along. Know where the food comes from (better yet, know who grows it). Eat your vegetables (preferably, in season). Indulge in moderation. Take a brisk walk, allow a moment of meditation or giving grace. And raise a toast, with loved ones, in celebration of this one life we have to savor.

Whipsawed by the fickle East Coast weather this “spring”, I ducked into The Happiest Hour (west village, nyc) to scribble notes for this “salubrious” story. And what a happy hour it was! Familiar cocktails with unexpected (yet accessible) twists, AND complimentary French fries to rival the McDonald’s of my youth. Scrumpdillyicious. 

Crafting this piece took several tries (some days, the muse plays coy), so I popped into Amor y Amargo (east village, nyc) for a taste of inspiration during their weekends-only Double Buzz (coffee cocktails, genius) for an iced-coffee and Amaro pairing. Breakfast of Champions, my friends.  

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