The airless train pulled into the 96th street station and a bitter conductor on a murky loudspeaker informed us the train would no longer be in service. We tumbled out of the station growling and cursing. And sweating. It had been a torturous beginning of September, blisteringly hot and humid, no fall foreplay to be found. This last sip of summer was all warm beer backwash and the temperament of us New York natives was becoming precarious.
Still 30 blocks from home and in no mood to walk, I boarded the Broadway bus- packed in so tightly that I had to close my eyes to regulate my breathing. A man in the front started screaming at another man about something that no one cared about and then a third man had to bellow louder than the first two, to tell them that no one cared. This was the third fight I’d seen on a bus or train that week. I held back my swirling emotions, not able to differentiate what was rising up. Was I too going to start yelling? Or crying? Or puking? Had the small basket of mental stability I try so delicately to balance, finally toppled over, rendering me permanently insane?
No. I would not let this city beat me, as it has tried so many times to do.
‘Uh oh’, I thought, ‘It’s never good news when people ask permission to ask you something.’
“Have you ever thought about leaving New York?”
Oh, THAT question. The question that no one who lives in New York doesn’t very seriously consider at least once or twice a year. The very question that had been on my mind all week through the heat and rudeness and confrontations and stink.
What I said was this…
For me, living in New York is like being in a very, very long term relationship. You have moments when you don’t see how you can stand it for another second. It’s clear your feelings aren’t being considered. New York doesn’t see you and never puts you first. New York only does what New York wants. New York is abusive to your patience, your health, and your wallet. You think to yourself ‘I absolutely cannot and will not put up with this one moment longer!’
But then there are days when no one gets you like this city does.
The next day was a perfect example. The swelter had broken and autumn had danced in. I can’t think of anything more inspiring than the crisp air of fall, especially in the city. It amplifies the smells, sounds, and tastes of the season, which have suddenly become soft and sweet. It was a clear day with little puffy clouds bouncing color and shadows all over the sky. On my way to work, I was staring out the window of the cross-town bus, dazzled by the city’s mutation of filth into grace, an astonishing transformation I’ve seen a million times, and I burst into tears. It was September 11th and I felt such a sudden deep connection with this city that the previous week’s struggles seemed to evaporate. The city embraced me and I leaned back into its arms.
Of course, I wasn’t the only one crying either. I walked home through the park and noticed many New Yorkers rekindling their romance with the city. We were kicking freshly fallen leaves and touching trees and gawking at the old buildings that stand guard on the borders of the park. We were talking to ourselves and smiling at strangers- everyone’s defenses softened by the ghosts of the day. There was a feeling of shared privacy. We could all just be how we are without judgment or criticism. We’re all insane. We live in New York.
So I guess I’m not calling a divorce attorney quite yet. I’ve got a few more rounds of this relationship left in me. My folks are thinking their time in the city is winding down. I get it of course. I think it’s one of the most challenging places to live on earth, but the battles make the rewards delicious.
And speaking of relationships (and deliciousness), two of my favorite waitstaff/ friends are tying the knot this weekend. They’ve asked me to contribute an apple pie for their dessert table. I am honored to be included in their special day- especially to share food.
This time of year, I often think I would make pie for a living if I could, as there are few things I find as rewarding. I would also be fine to eat pie for a living- so if you hear of anything…
This pie is a winner each and every time. The secret to great pie crust is simple, keep all the ingredients cold and work it as little as possible. Also, the magical use of a gallon size ziplock bag changes everything. The secret to great pie filling is using a medley of apples rather than just one kind and using tapioca as a thickener. I promise, these secrets make the difference between a good pie and a pie you cannot stop eating.
And let us all raise a glass to the union of Emily and Jared! Your love inspires us all.
- 3 cups all purpose flour, chilled in the freezer for a few hours
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/3 cup non-hydrogenated solid vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces, frozen
- 6 tablespoons (or more) ice water
- 2 1/4 pounds assorted apples (such as Pink Lady, Pippin, and Golden Delicious), peeled, quartered, cored, cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
- ½ cup fresh cranberries
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, combined
- 2 1/2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (packed) finely grated lemon peel
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into1/2-inch cubes
- Milk (for glaze)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and shortening; cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 3 tablespoons ice water and pulse just until moist clumps form. Dump mixture into a gallon size ziplock bag, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of water, and seal the bag. Knead the contents of the bag for 20-30 seconds or so, but do not overwork. There should still be clumps of butter visible, though all the flour should be incorporated. Gather dough into ball. Divide dough in half. Flatten each half into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 3 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Soften dough 15 minutes at room temperature before rolling out.
- Butter 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Roll out 1 dough disk on lightly floured work surface to 12- to 13-inch round. Transfer dough to prepared pie dish and press dough onto bottom and up sides of dish, allowing overhang to extend slightly over sides. Roll out second dough disk between sheets of parchment paper or waxed paper to 12- to 13-inch round; transfer dough to baking sheet. Refrigerate both crusts for at least 15 minutes..
- Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 425°F.
- Combine all apple wedges, cranberries, 1/3 cup sugar, quick-cooking tapioca, grated lemon peel, 1/4 teaspoon salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon in large bowl; toss to blend. Let stand at room temperature until some juices form, tossing occasionally, about 15 minutes.
- Place crust-lined pie dish on rimmed baking sheet. With the tines of a fork and place little indents in the bottom crust. Pre-bake bottom crust for 15 minutes.
- Transfer apple/ cranberry filling to crust, mounding filling slightly in center. Dot filling with butter cubes. Brush crust edges lightly with water. Remove top parchment sheet from second dough round. Invert dough round atop filling; remove second parchment sheet. Trim dough overhang on both crusts to 1/2 inch. Press crust edges together, then fold under. Using tines of fork, press on crust edge around rim of dish to seal decoratively. Using small sharp knife, cut six 1-inch slits in top crust, then cut out 1/2-inch circle from center of top crust to allow steam to escape. Brush top crust lightly with milk, then sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake pie 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and continue to bake pie until crust is golden, apples are tender when pierced, and juices are bubbling thickly through slits in crust, covering crust edges with foil collar if crust is browning too quickly, about 1 hour longer. Transfer pie to rack and cool to lukewarm or room temperature. Cut pie into wedges.