The Cool Down

New Yorkers, I’m not sure if you noticed, but it was 100 degrees today. Apparently the heat index made it feel like 115, and as I made my way home from West 4th Street up 6th Ave. at 3 PM I suddenly felt myself flushing and growing slightly faint. In my defense, there was a large computer in my backpack. Also in my defense, the only liquids I had consumed thus far were: (1) Watermelonade from Rickshaw (a perfect summer drink), and (2) an iced latte. I needed a liquid fix and that liquid fix needed to be water and suddenly I found myself on 18th Street. What’s on 18th Street? Of course: City Bakery.

So I mozied across 18th Street and entered City Bakery and though the air conditioning wasn’t blasting the way that it does when you walk past Old Navy, it was certainly cooler than the microwave oven of a city outside. Unlike the 12 to 2 o’clock rush, City Bakery was quiet at 3 and I grabbed a tepid bottle of water (their refrigeration unit is never working for bottled drinks; I’m not even sure why they even have that unit, it’s never working) and I ordered myself a pretzel croissant.

A pretzel croissant may not be the best thing to eat on a hot day: after all, salt dehydrates you. But, one might argue, that salty things make you thirsty and being thirsty makes you drink more so it’s actually a healthy choice. Either way, I plopped myself down on a banquette, pulled out a book (I’m reading M.F.K. Fisher’s “The Gastronomical Me” and really enjoying it), and nibbled and sipped as I felt my spirit restore itself.

Next to me was a woman knitting, across the way a man sipped an iced tea. It suddenly dawned on me that this is a ritual smart people partake of: the afternoon Cool Down. In Spain, I know, it’s called a Siesta; and the Brits have their tea. New Yorkers, at 3 PM, let’s all eat croissants and drink bottled water. We have a right to not melt on city sidewalks, we have a right not to suffer from heat stroke. The Europeans have it right, it’s time we caught up.

Or, maybe we should all move to Alaska?

10 comments

  1. Actually, it’s good to have something salty on very hot days because it helps to retain water in your body. At least that’s what we’re told here in Greece. They suggest we eat olives, anchovies or any salted kind of make your mouth really pucker up fish. By the way, i find your blog very yummy and you are a very likeable kind of guy. Oh, it’s siesta time for me! Yawn.

  2. Yes, I think Goldielox is right. When you sweat, your sweat is salty, and if you’re drinking gallons of fresh water you’re liable to get salt-deprived. Pretzels are probably exactly the right thing to eat on a hot day! I had a craving yesterday for Chinese black beans, preserved in salt. Stir-fried those up with some lettuce and a nice salty sauce… Mmmm, salt…

    I dunno about Alaska. Lots of nasty biting flies and mosquitos all summer. At least here in NYC they spray so intensively you can leave your windows open all summer without screens and never see a bug… Actually, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing…

  3. There really must be something to the eat-salty-foods-on-hot-days theory, as I heard on the radio yesterday that some members of the Philadelphia Eagles were drinking *gasp* PICKLE BRINE to beat the heat at their training camp!

    I loved the siesta, among other elements of the Spanish lifestyle, while studying in Spain years ago. Let’s write our congresspeople for the institution of the afternoon Cool Down!

  4. Are you loving the Gastronomical Me? MFK is kinda cryptic, but it’s best to leave her that way, I think. I recently read the “definitive” biography (Poet of the Appetites) which reveals all warts, secrets and underlying whatever else, and honestly, I wish I hadn’t. IMHO, better to read her journals if you become a devotee and have to have more info.

    As for siesta/mid-aft break, I heard a bit on NPR saying as how people in countries that do that are WAY more productive. I believe it. It’s just that I would probably have to have the very very dark chocolate custard tart instead of the pretzel croissant if my break were to take place at City Bakery…

  5. Harlan, I just got back from Alaska’s inside passage, and I never even saw a fly or mosquito. The weather was lovely–sunny, 60s, and no humidity. I highly recommend it. As a matter of fact, stop by my blog and read about it and see some pictures. Adam, you may find that you WANT to move there, but you’d better love salmon!

  6. I think a mid-afternoon pit stop should be a year round thing. Think of it. Summer time it’s cool water and a plate of lightly salted watermelon. In the winter, it’s a warming mug of spiced water to keep your skin hysrated in the dry heat with some spicy nuts. Americans just don’t know how to relax.

  7. Actually, salt REhydrates you. Or at least keeps you from loosing so much water due to sweating. Pretty sure. Because salt (or to be chemist-like “sodium”) makes you retain the water already in your body.

    but, of course, drinking water is best.

  8. I’ve heard eating really hot food in hot weather will cool you down. So why not try eating some extremely hot chile peppers , like habanero next time. Just make sure you dont rub your eyes or testicles afterward.

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