Bus Life (featuring Fresh Cherry and Tomato Vinaigrette)
“Ow” said a tiny, ancient lady with beauty parlor blue hair and a shiny patent leather purse. I instantly recognized her voice. It was a dispassionate and nasal “ow”, like a whine but loud enough for everyone to hear. I didn’t slow down. I just kept walking to the back. Nobody stopped me either. Everyone on this bus knows the deal.
Many months before, I had heard that “ow” and, certain that I had hit the old woman with one of my packages, turned and begged for forgiveness. Her eyes lit up and she scolded me with shrill delight, “You have to be more careful!!! You should be ashamed of yourself!”
I was mortified and moved leper-style to the back row.
But then it happened again the next week.
And then again, a few days later.
And I’m certain that my bags didn’t make contact with her those times. I was very careful after that first incident and you can tell when things you’re holding hit someone else. You can feel it. Come to think of it, I didn’t feel that connection the first time either.
I started to realize that this is her thing, this is her game. Every morning, she rides in an aisle seat on the uptown Broadway M104 bus, and pretends to be hit by passengers carrying large loads. I’ve seen her do it a million times now. More people don’t stop to apologize than do these days. They either don’t realize or don’t care. But when they do stop, her day is made.
The bus is certainly not the fastest way to get around New York, but it lets me out a half block from my kitchen and I’m always carrying more than I would like to take on the train. It’s convenient, but more importantly, it’s a strange microcosm of old New York. It’s not quick, it’s not cool, it’s not high class. It’s everything that’s being drained from this city and I kind of love it. For people watching, there is no better observatory.
There’s a man in chinos and a wrinkly button-down shirt, who either works the night shift or is a young, urban professional junkie. He nods in and out of consciousness during his bus ride, often with his mouth wide open.
There is a middle aged woman with long, unkempt frizzy hair in tie dyes and yoga pants who likes to talk obsessively to the youngest people on the bus. She asks them what they’re learning about in school or what kind of music they like. They grunt but don’t really reply. If there aren’t any kids on the bus, she talks to herself quietly and rings the bell for 5 stops before she disembarks.
There is a round, Miss-Clairol-blonde woman who will yammer on and on about the multiple surgeries she’s had if she’s not offered a seat as soon as she boards the bus. She seems pretty sprightly for a person so wounded, but I keep that opinion to myself.
There’s another driver who tells us what the next stop is, what the subway connections are nearby, and sometimes local events that are taking place that day.
And there are the kids– so many kids; having good days and bad days, with their disinterested nannies or their over-tired moms. They all want things too: food and toys and projects and plans for the rest of the day. They smell like kids and they sound like kids and everything changes when they get off the bus.
I go all the way in the back, where I know I can usually find a seat. I am normally reviewing my shopping and prep lists and nibbling on whatever I’ve grabbed for breakfast. This is often the only slow moment of my day, and I breathe it in deeply. I think about food, about life, about these people. I know this bus so well. I used to take this bus to school 35 years ago. Broadway has changed plenty, but the Broadway bus seems exactly the same.
The other day, I was gleefully watching the bus show while snacking on some cherries and thought that I should focus more attention on them than just shoving them in my mouth. I LOVE cherries and I feel they need to be celebrated better than they are when mixed with a ton of sugar in a pie.
I got to work on a salad dressing that would showcase them better. This time of year, I often make a fresh tomato vinaigrette, grating tomatoes with a box grater or a microplane and mixing the juice with oil and vinegar. I thought, hey, why not add some fresh cherries to the vinaigrette. What I got was a fantastic surprise.
- 1 small shallot, diced
- 10 cherry tomatoes
- 10 fresh cherries
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2-3 leaves of basil or fresh mint
- Cut the tomatoes in half. Using the smallest grate on a box grater, or a microplane grater, gently juice the tomatoes over a bowl until you’ve got nothing but the skin. Cut the cherries in half, take the pits out and grate them over the same bowl. Toss the tomato and cherry skins (or eat them).
- Stir the shallots, the vinegars, the mustard into the bowl with the tomatoes and cherries. Stir in the oil and then season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Right before you make your salad, chop a few fresh basil or mint leaves and add them to the dressing.
- Toss with baby greens, arugula, spinach, olives, cheese (I used a lovely manchego and goat cheese), cherry tomatoes, and of course, more cherries.