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How to Eat a Mango

10 Jul

I’ve often wondered,

how to eat this fruit.

It has an odd shape,

kind of like an egg with a loop.

It’s sweet and the flesh is juicy,

and  good for you too.

But how do you eat it

without getting quite messy?

If the fruit is soft and pliant to grope,

like what you might find in a ripe cantaloupe.

That means it is ripe and ready to eat.

The problem is, how to do it neat?

I hear there are over 1,000 varieties of mangoes around.

But where I live only a few types are to be found.

What I see in stores and on street carts,

come from places like Mexico, Salvador, Peru and Brazil.

Warm, tropical lands,

where there is no chill.

They  have names like “champagne,”

“Ataulfo,” “Tommy Atkins,” “Kent,” and more.

I’m sure there is a difference,

though this mango novice can’t tell for sure.

Ataulfo mangoes

On an island far away,

I once ate a Julie,

mango that is.

It was sweet and luscious.

I still can’t believe,

something so delicious,

could come from a tree.

Once peeled, the nectar quickly

flowed from within.

That Julie made such a mess,

a beach towel was needed,

to clean up my chin.

Three Julies

The mangoes from Haiti

are long and light green.

This fruit’s flavor is special,

the taste, a mango fan’s dream.

But there are drawbacks, I’m afraid.

It costs a little more,

and eating it most certainly can be a chore.

The Haitian

You can peel the tough skin with a knife.

Pull it down and try to slice.

Be careful before you start chewing,

The juices might spurt.

Don’t be slow.

Stay alert.

Oh my, how the bright orange flesh stains so.

No doubt, your nice white shirt, will soon be aglow.

Put away the knife,

and give up on the slice.

Just suck through the flesh,

right to the big stone.

This chore is one, you need to handle alone.

The temptations are many.

You might want to bite.

You’ll soon learn, that won’t be right.

Like a thatch of thorns that have you entangled,

your teeth will be riddled with tough fibers at every angle.

To dislodge requires little cost.

All you’ll need is plenty of time,

and two packs of dental floss.

Some say the best way to eat a mango

is one where you cut into the flesh;

a criss cross pattern.

that looks like a mesh.

Turn the skin upside down,

with gentle firmness, you’ll press.

The pieces will fall into a bowl or dish.

Eat with a toothpick, fork or chopstick.

No fuss.

No mess.

The criss cross method.

Like the many varieties of mango,

the choices of how to eat one are plenty.

And while I waste my time,

with these ridiculous rhymes,

I’m sure the list will grow.

Suck, nibble, bite or chew?

Who am I to tell you what to do?

How to eat a mango.

really, is up to you.

Seven Fishes for Seven Dishes

22 Dec

The day before Christmas, it’s no meat for me,

Even though I’m a non-believer,

on Christmas Eve,

I only eat from the sea.

The feast should have seven dishes

of fishes that day.

No one really knows why,

it’s just what they say.

Here then are the fishes,

in no particular order.

For the feast,

I present to you.

On my own fingers I counted,

To make sure it’s true.

They call it squid, but it’s calamari we know.

Cook it fast or cook it slow.

Any other way,

and it’s a no go.

Stuff  with breadcrumbs, parsley and nuts.

Enjoy the stuffed squid,

but don’t eat too much.

There’s six more dishes to go,

before you bust.

scungilli

It comes from a snail, is what I’ve heard,

this thing called scungilli;

I know, it’s a funny word.

Italian Escargot?

The French shake their heads

and say, ‘oh no!”

Boil until it’s tender, and then chop it

real fine.

Add to a salad,

and maybe drizzle with lime.

Long and slithery,

it looks like a snake.

With dark beady eyes,

this fish is not for everyone’s taste.

We call it eel.

In Italian it’s  capitone.

Its flesh is oily,

its look surreal.

Be careful there are bones.

You don’t want to choke,

especially while giving the

Christmas Eve toast.

Chop into pieces,

then fry or grill.

With garlic and vinegar,

this eel will thrill.

When the faint of heart see it coming,

they shriek and wail,

‘cause it’s got a slimy body and a prickly tail.

It’s a small fish, the little anchovy,

but the flavor it packs,

makes up for any good looks it lacks.

Dissolve in hot olive oil with garlic, of course.

Add some peperoncini,

and a little broth.

Pour over spaghettini

and you’ll be one of the first,

to line up at the trough.

Four dishes done, three more to go.

The feast of seven fishes,

can become quite a show.

Along the way,

things could get bumpy,

causing anxiety and stress;

a chef could get jumpy.

Time to bring out the fish,

the one that no one complains.

The reliable flounder,

it causes no pain.

Bake it with butter or oil, some

lemon and herbs.

Its mild mellow flavor,

will take the edge off,

will ease the nerves.

It comes in all sizes, this mollusk of grey.

But I like the small ones;

what they call vongole.

Clean them and make sure the sand is all gone.

Add to a pot with oil, garlic and white wine.

When they open just a bit,

they will release their magical brine.

Eat them from the shell or over

linguini.

Either way, you can’t go wrong,

with a clam this teeny.

Oh it smells something fierce,

this fish called baccala,

Just wait till you see it;

it looks even worse.

In a pot or bathtub,

soak it for days.

Change the water

a few times or more.

Yes it’s hard work;

it can be a chore.

Do it until that fish;

the one that smells,

grows larger,

until it swells.

Steam or bake,

soon the tender flesh will flake.

With onions and garlic,

what a delicious dish

this hideous monster makes.

Its appeal is so huge,

There’s even a poem called,

baccala-blues.

The feast over;

all seven fishes you’ve tried.

But now your mercury level is high.

No fear, everything will be okay,

because Christmas comes the very next day.

There will be more food.

Another big feast.

And this one, I’m sure,

will include juicy red meat.

Black and White Fantasy

11 Mar

I can see them from outside the shop.

They’ve just come from the oven

and now spread out on a sheet.

Rows of round cookies

with shiny frosting on top.

Half black.

Half white.

No need to compete.

Equal partners in sweet sin.

The yang

and the yin.

Ebony

and ivory

existing as one.

Equal partners

in blissful harmony.

I’ll buy one for sure

and save it for later

I say every time.

But I have no control.

I have no restraint.

And my hand is in the bag

before I’m even out the door.

Inside the bag, my hand gropes the warm moist mound.

What am I searching for?

What will be found?

Determined fingers break off a piece.

Will it be white?

Will it be black?

I have no preference.

I play no favors.

I want to be fair.

I want to do what’s right.

I pull it out

and look at what I hold in my finger.

My heart sinks a bit.

And then I get mad.

I’m not happy.

I don’t like the sight.

Because in my finger,

I hold the white.

Harmony broken,

I pull out the cracked cookie.

Black is better,

There’s no denying.

If I said any different,

I’d just be lying.

Still it wouldn’t make sense,

to throw the white away.

So I’ll eat it first and get

that out of the way.

One sweet brother gone

half a cookie remains.

So much for togetherness.

Nothing stays the same.

I’ll eat the black

until nothing is left.

I’ll enjoy every bite,

I’ll have no regrets.

My belly full now,

remorse sets in.

My mind is in conflict.

Because I favored the yin,

when in my heart,

I know I’ve panged,

to give equal respect to the yang.

Some say it’s a fantasy;

that there’s no such thing

as cookie equality.

But peace can exist

in one perfect round.

A place where sweet truths

can often be found.

It’s not hard to discover

the secret of black and white.

It’s easy really.

All it takes is one bite.

The cookie crumbles.

Obsession Confession

4 Feb

I see the sign.

It says 17 Mott

I should move on.

I should not stop.

But how can I,

when the sign also says,

Wo Hop?

I look around,

I keep my head down.

No one must see me.

No one must know.

There’s still time,

I don’t have to go.

Down into the dark.

The steep stairs are in front of me.

I know what lies below.

I hesitate, for just a moment

before starting down.

One step, two,

I move very slow.

Three and four

Just a few more,

and I’m through the door.

My heart races at what I’ve done,

but I no longer care,

because soon

I’ll be eating chow fun.

I’m inside now, where the neon is bright.

The walls covered with pictures of celebrities,

some real, some slight.

Like me, they all succumb

to 17 Mott’s guilty pleasures,

like wor shu duck,

and vegetables subgum.

Someday I hope to have my picture on the wall.

The man in the blue shirt is there with water and tea.

Two clear glasses, brought only for me.

“You ready?” he asks as soon as I sit.

I’m too nervous to answer.

I don’t know what to say.

Disgusted, he leaves in a fit.

The men in the blue shirts.

The menu is so vast, I need my specs.

Why did I do it?

Why did I make the trek?

The food is no good,

at least that’s what they say.

Much better for sure, just a few blocks up the way.

Maybe there’s something wrong with me?

Maybe I’m a little insane?

But how can I resist,

the 3D lo mein?

He brings the soup

with the wontons and egg drop.

I look at him.

He knows I have no control

“Fried noodles?”

My head lowers in shame.

He knows I can’t stop.

The noodles, moist with fat,

come with mustard,

and duck sauce too.

The grease coats my fingers.

I want to lick them.

Oh, Lord, what am I to do?

The soup is gone.

My eyes droop

and my jaw goes numb.

I know what it is.

I know what makes it that way.

It’s supposed to be bad for you.

Yet I come anyway.

Now there’s more on the table.

A mound of chicken kew,

sweet and pungent,

and roast pork fried rice too.

I dig through the cornstarch-thickened glaze.

Shoveling it down,

eating it all,

despite my MSG-induced daze.

Many dirty napkins later,

he brings the little paper

with writing I do not understand.

And on top,

one plastic-wrapped fortune cookie.

I tear and I claw.

I bite and I chew.

It should be easy,

but it’s no use.

My fortune goes unread,

my fingers too greasy.

I’ve paid now.

It’s time to leave.

I walk up the stairs,

keeping my hat low.

Quicker now,

I’m almost out.

No one must see me.

No one must know.

I walk quickly away

from 17 Mott.

Never to return,

I say every time.

But then I’m on Mott Street.

And I see the sign.

Back up into the light.

Happy Chinese New Year to all my friends.  See you again on Tuesday for another installment of Adventures in Chow City.

Baccala Blues

17 Dec

Baccala Blues

baccala-005

When I was a little boy,

‘bout the age of five.

I’d get real excited,

when Christmas was soon to arrive.

But one year, I’ll never forget,

Something happened that still makes me sweat.

 

It was a few days before Christmas,

We were by the fireplace, putting up our socks,

When my Granny came to the house carrying an

old wooden box.

I crinkled my nose.

From the box there came a smell.

An odor so strong and so bad,

it was enough to curl my toes.

What was in that box even smelled worse

than that fish they call lox.

Baccala

I had to know.

“Tell me, Granny, what’s in that box,”  I cried.

“Never you mind,” Granny said.

“Go outside,

go enjoy the snow.”

 

But now I knew I just had to see.

What was in that box,

that was such a mystery.

I knew I shouldn’t, but I looked anyway,

And what I saw, is why I never forget that day.

There was salt, skin and bones.

It was some kind of a fish,

but this fish was as hard as a stone.

It even had what looked like a tail.

And a dead mouth that let out a silent wail.

baccala

Then Granny came back

and took the box to the bathroom.

I could hear her filling the tub,

and then a splash,

followed by a sickening thud.

When she left, I opened the door.

The smell was so smelly, I almost fell on the floor.

 

But  soon I forgot what was in the tub.

Christmas was coming.

I was distracted by joy.

I couldn’t wait for Santa to bring me my toys.

Then on Christmas Eve morning, when my

Granny appeared.

The moment had come,

the one that I feared.

I remembered that thing in the bathroom,

the fish that was no trout.

I knew that today, was the day it would come out.

 

I watched from a distance as Granny took it from the tub.

The sight of that hideous fish,

was making my little left eye twitch.

She put it in a pot

covered it with water,

and then on the fire to get it hot.

What would happen to Christmas, I wondered.

Would it still go on?

Would Santa come to a house that smelled of rot?

 

Santa please,

I cried and moaned.

Please hear my plea.

Don’t let that funky fish,

keep you from bringing my toys to me.

Please, Santa, no baccala.

Please, Santa, no baccala.

 

Finally we all sat, for the Christmas Eve feast.

On the table were clams and chestnuts,

spaghetti and shrimp.

And there was that thing, that fish,

the one that reeks.

Granny made sure I had a piece on my plate.

I stared at it in horror,

and silently prayed that that piece would disintegrate.

 

What’s it called, I wanted to be told.

“Baccala,” she said, “now eat it, before it gets cold!”

I put it on my fork and slowly brought it to my lips.

I opened my mouth, and took a tiny nip.

I hurriedly reached for my water,

forcing it down.

I drank so much, I hoped I wouldn’t drown.

Everyone at the table laughed and made fun of me.

Even my old Gramps was full of glee.

I felt silly and sad.

I didn’t want to make Granny mad.

That’s when Gramps hugged me tight and looked me in the eyes.

“It’s okay, boy, you just paid your dues,” he said

“‘cause now you’re hooked,

you got the baccala blues.”

baccala

Now that I’m a man,

I’ve learned that Gramps was right.

When it comes to baccala, I’ve seen the light.

It smells and it’s fishy.

It’s got salt by the pound.

But these days I like it so much,

it doesn’t have to be Christmas

to keep it around.

I’ll eat it fried or baked,

in a salad or made into cakes.

The taste of that salty fish is one

I never want to lose.

And that’s what happens,

when a man gets the baccala blues.

Buon Natale

Buon Natale

 

La Pavoni Love Call

12 Nov

La Pavoni Love Call

Espresso, expresso, call it what you will.

It beckons me each afternoon,

until I’ve had my fill

One shot, two,

No more or I’ll quake, but

without the bittersweet brew,

I would surely ache.

 

Grind it long or short,

careful, not too fine.

I would not want my La Pavoni to

ever cry or whine.

Stamp it down, fit it in tight,

twist it on until it’s just right.

With your thumb, you press the button.

Hear the  hum and feel the warm flush.

But wait, it’s not time, there’s no rush.

 

Listen for the gurgle, and then the hiss.

In just a few moments, you’ll find bliss.

Soon you’ll hear her low earthy call.

Now’s the time for you to really stand tall.

Pull the handle down hard and fast.

No need to be gentle, La Pavoni is built

to last.

 

Hear her sing and watch the nectar

flow.

Sometimes fast.

Sometimes slow.

See the crema on top, so frothy and rich.

What is that stuff anyway?

How does it come out that way?

 

Sugar? No that’s for tea.

I like my espresso pure.

But that’s just me.

 

In the tradition of Don Fanucci,

I suck it down with zest.

You know who I mean,

the Godfather guy,

the one with the white vest.

Don Fanucci: Espresso Lover

And then it’s over,

my cup drained and done.

La Pavoni sighs,

her song sung.

And all that is left,

is a faint pungent flavor

on the tip of my tongue.

 

Ode to Whoopie (Pie)

15 Oct

Ode to Whoopie (Pie)

Two moist little round mounds of cake,

usually chocolate in make.

Stuffed with white stuff, I know not what.

Maybe cream, maybe butter,

maybe corn syrup the bad.

So sweet, so delicious, it’s a pleasure to be had.

Press tenderly on those pliant brown mounds,

one above, one below.

Press firmer and the cream will flow.

Catch it quick, with tongue or finger,

don’t dare miss a bit.

Their likeness uncanny,

the pretenders are many.

There’s Ring Ding, Yodel, Oreo and Suzy Q.

None of them give the magnificent Whoopie its due.

I’ve had Whoopies in pumpkin, in chocolate chip, mint and

vanilla too,

but for me only the chocolate with the white stuff will do.

From Maine to Cape Cod,

Whoopie’s legend is secure.

In the Big Apple, they’re just not so sure.

Whoopie’s humble appearance—no

glaze, no sprinkles, no frosting adorns it—is

surely a deception.

This pie is simply pure perfection.

So eat your silky mousse,

your dark ganache, your sweet red velvet cupcakes.

For me, I’ll feast on the Pie of Whoopie

…until my jaw aches.

Whoopie!

Have a great weekend everyone.  Look for a new Adventures in Chow City on Tuesday.

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