New Yorkers today had a laugh talking about yesterday’s blizzard. “Did you survive the blizzard?” we asked each other, kiddingly. Perhaps it all seemed so funny because the sun shined bright today like it’s been shining most of this winter. This is the least wintery winter of my life–and I say that having lived in Atlanta and Florida through many winters. At least those winters were typical for their locations. But this New York winter has been so tame that yesterday’s blizzard felt inevitable, if not downright welcome. “It’s the first snow of the season,” someone pointed out today. No kidding.
Here’s the snow from my window, yesterday morning:
It did, indeed, look wintery and blizzardy outside. Lucky for me, I’d done my homework, having gone the day before to Whole Foods to stock up on necessities. To see how I fed myself during the Blizzard of ’06, push da button.
My parents called me on Saturday: “Are you stocking up? Do you have enough food? Do you have batteries, flashlights, candles?” (My parents thrive in crisis situations.) “Yes, yes, yes,” I lied. After I hung up I walked an avenue over to Whole Foods where the lines were tremendous at 3 PM.
“Shoppers,” said a voice overhead. “Please bear with us on this very busy day. We’re doing our best.” Now when my mom described the pre-hurricane scene in Florida a few months ago (this was Katrina time) I pictured a Lord of the Flies like survival fest. “A woman grabbed a chicken right out of my hand!” told my mother on the phone after returning home.
This wasn’t like that. It was just busy and crowded and I loaded up a cart with all the necessities I needed: butter, baking chocolate, chocolate chips, flour, sugar, eggs. If a crisis happens, I’ll bake my way to salvation. That and I purchased milk and gourmet peanut butter. Oh and bread; white bread, pre-sliced. Nothing fancy here.
Cue the blizzard.
It is Sunday and I wake up to this:
Indeed, it is miserable but I’m cozy in my bed. I pulled out my winter spread the night before: that’s a down comforter stuffed inside a worn and battered duvet cover from years past. It makes it very hard to wake up in the morning because I’m so cozy.
But wake up I do and I make coffee. I grind the beans myself (Dr. Paulo’s beans, which are excellent) and prepare a mug which I take back to bed with me along with the Sunday times. There are few pleasures greater than waking up on Sunday morning in New York City during a blizzard and climbing back into bed with the Sunday Times and a cup of coffee. But that I did and I did it well.
When the Sunday Times was read (in this order: Cover, Arts, Style, Week in Review, Metro, City Life, Book Review, Magazine) I climbed back out of bed and set on making myself lunch. But not just any lunch: the ultimate comfort food lunch. We’re talking PBJ.
Of all the things I’ve made recently (and I’ve been doing lots of cooking this winter) few things fill me with the sort of mouthlust I experience looking at these pictures of yesterday’s PBJ. It was the best I ever had. The secret? The best ingredients possible. We started by toasting white bread:
I’m a PBJ on toast kind of guy. It makes it feel more substantial. Once toasted, I added Peanut Butter & Co. Crunch Time peanut butter to one half:
And the fresh as-of-yet unopened strawberry jam I made this summer to the other half:
Yielding these two not-yet-combined halves:
As you can see from that picture, each half looks wonderful and each half WAS wonderful as evidenced by the completed sandwich:
It may be lowbrow, but I don’t care: I loved every bite. In fact I loved every bite so much I made myself ANOTHER one right away. To restate: it was the best PBJ of my life. And I owe it all to Peanut Butter & Co. Peanut Butter, Martha Stewart’s jam recipe and the blizzard of ’06. Thank you mother nature!
After this extraordinary sandwich making experience, I set upon doing some serious tasks for school such as: (1) outlining a Law and Order episode; (2) continuing to write my Masters Thesis (which involves a man putting a five-course meal in a woman’s vagina. Yes, I’ve jumped the shark and I haven’t even had a production yet); and (3) working on an animated pilot for my animated pilot class. All of these may seem silly to you neurosurgeons and gastroentorologists, but to me they were work. And by 7 PM I was hungry for a reward.
The easiest choice would’ve been to make pasta one of the two old usual ways: (1) with fresh homemade tomato sauce a la Marcella Hazan; or (2) with butter, nutmeg and Parmesan as discussed in previous posts. But having had my gooey, candy-like lunch I wanted some substantial protein–something mature, some kind of brain food.
Cue the tuna. Here I set upon making a pasta with tuna, capers and lemon using a few recipes I read online. Essentially: I cooked some bowtie pasta, saved some of the pasta water, sauteed slivered garlic in olive oil and butter, zested a lemon over it, added capers, added the lemon juice and some pasta water. Then I added the cooked pasta, tossed everything around and poured the result on to a plate which you see here:
Does it look as wonderful as the world’s greatest PBJ that’s ever happened in the history of earth? No. But the pasta did have its fans:
That’s Lolita in her “Give Me Some! I Want Some of That!” pose. It involves shimmying her tail and meowing loudly. When I went into the other room to get the phone, I came back to find Lola snacking on my food. “Bad Lola!” I intoned. She didn’t seem very remorseful.
At this point, the blizzard had stopped. Word was out that more snow had fallen in the past couple of hours than had ever fallen in New York before. And to think I experienced the entire thing inside my apartment, eating comforting and fun-to-make food.
After watching David Chapelle on “Inside The Actor’s Studio” (which I thoroughly enjoyed, though not as much as Liza Minelli who had me cracking up–unintentionally–during her 5-minute improvisation which made absolutely no sense), I decided to be decadent and naughty by making myself a decadent and naughty hot chocolate.
Remember those chocolate bars I mentioned above? The ones I bought from Whole Foods? These were a smart buy: just a bunch of 4 oz Ghiardelli bittersweet chocolate bars. I used them for this hot chocolate and I used them tonight for a special Valentine’s Day surprise to bring to class tomorrow. (More on that tomorrow.)
To make this hot chocolate for one (like I did), just chop up 2 oz (half the bar)…
Add it to a pot with 1 cup of milk and melt the chocolate on low heat.
Once it’s melted, bring just to a boil, remove from the heat and whisk furiously. After whisking, return to the heat, bring to a boil again and take off and whisk again and repeat one more time, then pour it into a mug. I’m not sure what this does–it’s a frothing technique, I imagine–and it mirrors the technique they use at the City Bakery before charging you a million dollars for a mug. Here all you need is half a chocolate bar and some milk and you can have this:
It was terrific and the perfect way to cap off the most miserable, challenging, life-threatening blizzard I’ve ever survived. It took guts, initiative and peanut butter.