I took a tumble outside of Joe on Waverly, the coffee shop that was a second home to me all those years that I lived in the big city. It was kind of embarrassing: rain was beating down, Craig ran inside the front door, and as I approached the first step, I totally slipped on the wet pavement and crashed down on my knee, slicing my jeans open and tearing the skin. I got myself up as quickly as I could but it was one of those disorienting experiences that made me feel like I was a stranger on my old turf: only a tourist slips on a wet New York City sidewalk.
Speaking of Chinese food (what is this, a stand-up act?) the other night we had the unique opportunity to dine with Craig’s cousin Dave, a senior at Georgetown, and several of the friends he met while studying abroad in Beijing last year at our favorite New York City Chinese restaurant, Grand Sichuan in the East Village.
Three factors made dining there with Dave and his friends special: (1) they all speak Mandarin Chinese; (2) having lived in China, they turned us on to a new dish; and (3) they could tell us if the food we love at Grand Sichuan tastes like the food tastes in China.
Dear Craig Claiborne,
I am greatly enjoying your somewhat notorious autobiography, “A Feast Made For Laughter.” Sure, it’s a little creepy when you talk about touching your dad’s erect penis while sharing a bed, but I appreciate your zeal for people and food. Case in point: early in the book, you tell a story involving Parker House rolls. Your brother passes you a basket of them and instead of taking the basket from him, you start to reach your hand in and take one out and your brother, appalled, drops the basket to the floor saying: “When anyone passes you a basket of bread, you take the basket. Or at least you touch it as a gesture of thoughtfulness.”
This passage amused me because it’s a good story, but mostly it made me hungry–hungry for Parker House rolls. I cracked open “The Joy of Cooking” and found the most basic recipe in the world; a recipe that required only yeast, butter, flour, sugar, salt and milk. I’d write out the recipe here, but it’s so standard any internet search will suffice. And those rolls–which took a few hours to rise–were quaint and comforting, the kind of food you want an American food icon to eat. Thank you for inspiring me to make them; I look forward to the rest of your book.
Do you have a favorite restaurant where you go again and again and always order the same things? We do. That restaurant is Grand Sichuan on St. Mark’s and I can’t believe I’ve never written about it.
Our meal always begins with the dish you see above: pork soup dumplings. “Can’t we try something else?” I ask Craig each time we go but Craig is adament, especially about his soup dumplings. “Nu uh,” he says. “We’re getting soup dumplings.”