I always find shoe repair shops calming, despite the inevitably nefarious looks – slicked hair, gold teeth – of their proprietors. Perhaps it’s because I feel that, for the right price, they could smuggle me out of the country. They seem to feel the same way about me. Most customers are met with the same scowling “Vhat?” from the store owners. When the store owners greet me, it’s with a scowling “Vhat?” and twinkling eyes. Recently though, that’s changed. Now that I’ve been going to the same place for nearly two years, our relationship has progressed. When I walk into the shoe repair shop I’m greeted with a scowling “We haven’t seen you in a while.” After many years, and even more shops, I’ve found my shoe repairman.
As I’ve moved between neighborhoods, jobs, and offices, I’ve been to a lot of shoe repair shops. There was the one in midtown where they tried to sell me three tins of shoe polish. The east side one I wandered into one evening which charged me half as much as the normal rate for taps – and had a park bench inside the store. I’ve been to shoe repair shops where I had leather goods repaired, as well as watch shops where I had new taps nailed in.
From this, I’ve learned that there are three keys to picking a good store: old men, Russians, and price. Your repairman should be an old man or front for an old man. The age means that they’ve seen it all, know how to fix it, and don’t care to discuss it. Russian means that they will – as my Belorussian coworker once told me – do it best. Or, as I’ve learned, that they won’t turn down a job unless it’s a job that’s not worth your money. Which is why price-point must be part of your focus. Glitzy high-priced shoe repair shops are willing to do anything for money. Shoe repair shops which don’t appear to have been dusted for a minimum of two decades are not. They are willing to do any job that takes minimal effort in minimal time. And if that’s not why you went to the shoe repair shop then you are in the wrong place.
If you’re looking for the right place, this is it:
George’s Shoe Repair
109 Church Street
New York, NY 10007
Tell them you’re my friend. They’ll nod in approval and fix everything on the spot – even if there is someone else there first. They’ll do this all while scowling, and occasionally without acknowledging your presence. My shoe repairmen know how to multitask.
“It came out like out like it was a mix,” is the highest form of praise my family can offer. Nothing any of us makes turns out like it’s from a mix. Because none of us are capable of following a recipe.
My sister tried make latkes with her roommates. They removed her from frying-pan duty when she refused to put in the cup of oil they insisted was necessary for frying the potato pancakes to a crisp. She wasn’t capable of using that much oil – regardless of its hydrogenation. I wouldn’t have been able to do it either – which is why Special Correspondent Ellen was always in charge of making latkes while I took care of eating them.
My inability to follow cooking directions – my wanton disregard for using the mandated ingredients, my inability to use copious amounts of sugar – is well documented. Such as here, here, and here.
All of this came from some where. Rather, someone. My mom. Mom is a firm believer that recipes are meant as suggestions rather than instructions. This means that we’re asked, on a regular basis, why something mom made came out differently than it did when someone else made it. Such as the time she made Ellen’s Chicken Oreganata – chicken breaded with an oregano-based coating – and didn’t use breading and replaced the oregano with rosemary. It came out differently – but still good! Because, my mom explained, Ellen had provided such an excellent recipe. This ability to make something new out of something else also means that we’re never at a loss for new dishes. This is one such dish – with mom’s comments included. I made it too – added in 2 zuchinnis, replaced the vegetable stock with a quarter of that amount in black bean soup, made a few other tweaks. It came out great. Make it for yourself – any which way – and you’ll see that it’s a recipe that really can’t be beat.
AFRICAN GROUNDNUT STEW
6 servings Prep.: 30–40 mins.
2 T. (peanut) oil -I used olive or canola 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes -sometimes I chop into smaller pcs.
3 c. diced red onion – I used yellow, < 3 c. 4 c. veg. stock
2 cloves minced garlic 3/4 c. peanut butter -I used almond butter, and less.
3 T. minced ginger -I put a chunk in a coffee filter closed w/ twist tie to not overwhelm diners.
1/2–1 t. cayenne pepper -I used less 3/4 c. roasted peanut halves -I used 1/2 c.
1/2 t. cinnamon 1 c. chopped fresh spinach -I used arugula, can use > 1 c.
pinch salt and blk. pepper 3 c. diced sweet potato, 1/2 inch cubes -I used mostly butternut
Heat oil in lg. pot over med./high heat; add onion and saute 5 mins., then add sw. potato/squash, garlic, ginger, and spices and cook about 3 mins. Add diced tomatoes and stock, bring to a boil and simmer, covered, 15 mins. or until the potatoes/squash are soft. Stir in the peanut butter, peanuts, and spinach, season w/ salt and pepper, simmer to desired thickness and serve.
Suggestions: serve over rice or grain of choice. I added tempeh. For more ‘kick’: Harissa or sriracha sauce. Hotcha.
I was invited to two parties on my birthday; neither was for me.
The morning was set to start with a bridal shower. I declined.
The nighttime engagement party was supposed to cap off the day. I intended to decline, but something got the better of me. Rather, someone got the better of me. The hostess asked if I could bring someone sweet with me to the party. When I wavered, she told me that I should bring any sort of baked good at all, because everything I bake is great. I laughed. She didn’t.
She bribed me with flattery, and I caved like a fallen souffle. Having agreed to bake, I wanted to make something right for the occasion. Cookies were the obvious choice, since they’re perfect for parties – no need for utensils or being seated. But what kind of cookies would be appropriate for the Californian bride? Ones that had a zest for life, sweet, and were unexpected.
1 c unsalted margarine
2.5 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1.5 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp baking powder
4.5 cups flour
zest of two grapefruitsCream the margarine and sugars to a consistency of wet sand, then beat in eggs, vanilla, and zest. Combine all other dry ingredients, then add slowly to the creamed mixture. Drop cookies onto cookiesheets lined with parchment paper or oiled foil. Bake at 375 F for about 10 minutes.
Once the cookies have cooled, add Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
juice of 2 to 3 grapefruit segments (1 tbsp)
mix together. drizzle over cookies.
and if you’re me and making this for an engagement party, put sprinkles in the glaze before you begin the drizzling.
Perfect for a Californian.