12 Sep

New York City is never more beautiful than when it’s seen from afar after dark.

Seeing its pulsing, sparkling lights, flowing and dancing at a languid, dreamlike pace from a plane coming in for a landing at JFK can bring tears to my eyes.  And the city is never more alluring than when seen from the Triboro Bridge or the BQE, as it plays a glittering game of hide-and-seek between the monolithic, brutalist shells that pass for housing along the highways of the outer boroughs.

Since I don’t love driving in the city after dark, Isaac has been pulling the return leg of our upstate forays, allowing me to sit and gaze out on the view of the city I love the most.  When the sun has set and the lights are on, all the hard edges and drab grayness fade away and New York becomes the city of dreams and possibility.

Each tiny apartment, lit up like a Russian egg, glowing golden with the light over the kitchen sink or silvery cool from the television, is a little bastion of hope and exertion, a refuge from the hurly burly that is daily life in New York.

Because, it is this daily life that makes New York so hard to crack.  Even once you’re inside the city, walking through its hallowed halls, standing upon its celestial corners, it’s still the dream city.  It isn’t until you live here, really live here, that the trials begin.  The scrimping of money, the oppressive noise and heat, the long, dark, cold winters, year upon year of toiling, hoping it’s enough and waiting for that big break or genius stroke of luck.  That’s when New York becomes the fabled she-lion that gobbles you up and spits you back onto the streets, naked, shivering and lost.

It’s a giant, heroic struggle, pushing against a Herculean tide of people, time and ambition, locked in constant battle with hope.  Life in New York is big and diffuse.

My yard is never more beautiful than when seen just before the sun sets.

In the country, I’m finding that my cares exist on a far more granular level.  I forget about work and ambition and our noisy neighbors, about the herds of NYU students that have invaded my favorite ramen joint, about the crazy lady who sits on the corner near my office and sings, about where the markets are going and why.

Up there, the little things are what I care about.  The tenths of inches my kale has grown in a week, the tenacity of the spiders to not be vacated from their cozy corners, the miracle of a day lily blooming before the deer decided to make it a delicious afternoon snack.  This is what occupies me when I’m 200 miles north of New York.

It’s like splitting my time between the two halves of my favorite New York treat, the black-and-white cookie.

Which brings us to food.  Shopping for dinner upstate is so much more fun than down here.  It’s the same farmers with the same produce as I see at the greenmarket in Union Square, but up there, they seem much happier, too.  There’s time to answer questions and chat about the weather, to swap recipes and discuss pest control.  The farmers seem less guarded, less tired.  Perhaps it’s because they’re not being stalked by magazine writers, chefs and foodies.

This past weekend we made our first foray to the Kinderhook farmer’s market. It was wonderful, despite the threat of rain.  I was seduced by gorgeous yellow beets and a sour cherry tart.  Isaac fell for potatoes and corn.  Rounded out with delicious chicken from Olde Hudson Gourmet, and we had ourselves an epic meal of locally grown and produced goodness.

We cooked the beets and potatoes together and then mashed them and stirred in some delicious garlic, local butter and the beet greens.  I roasted the chicken and made a sweet-sour Anaheim chile relish that was as good with the chicken as it was stirred into the mash. And we ate it all with a salad of the world’s pepperiest, most delicious arugula ever.

And while I love cooking simple food made from simple ingredients and padding about in the grass, I miss spending weekends in the asphalt jungle a little bit.  So I’m looking forward to next weekend when we’re going to stick around in the city.

Now, if only I could decide which side of the half-moon cookie New York is.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Beeten & Mashed.

Beeten & Mashed

prep time: 30 minutes ~ cooking time: 40 minutes or so

  • 6 medium-sized Golden Beets with their greens
  • 1 quart, about 1 1/2 lbs small-medium potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Butter

Set a large pot of water to boil.

Cut the greens off the beets, pick out any wilted or icky greens, wash, dry, chop and set aside.

Peel the beets and chop into small pieces.  Add to the boiling water.

Wash the potatoes and chop into small pieces.  Add to the boiling water.

(This sequence allows the beets to get the little head start on the potatoes that they need).

Finely chop some garlic, 3-4 cloves should do it, but adjust to your taste.

After 25 minutes, check the doneness of the potatoes and beets.  They should both be soft and mushy.

Drain.  Return to the pot and mash.  The potatoes will probably mash easier than the beets.  That’s okay.  The beets look cool when they’re left a bit chunky.

Add the beet greens and stir in using a little extra heat to wilt them into the mash and to cook off any extra water.

Add the garlic, a liberal shot of salt and a big dollop of butter.  Stir to combine and serve piping hot to your adoring fans.



18 Responses to “Macro-Micro”

  1. Sandie September 12, 2008 at 7:37 am #

    Love the contrast here between city/country. There’s so much to love in both.

  2. EB September 12, 2008 at 8:09 am #

    Both sides of New York really look amazing through your lens.

  3. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) September 12, 2008 at 6:56 pm #

    Ahhhh, balance — you’ll figure it out. I used to tell my husband that home is where the KitchenAid mixer ends up. Maybe that will be true for you, too.

  4. WillB September 12, 2008 at 7:29 pm #

    Getting pretty philosophical these days…must be the relaxing mood (not to mention the crisp air) of upstate! Don’t miss out on apple picking!!!

  5. Katie in Berkeley September 13, 2008 at 9:58 am #

    You’re living my dream. And I didn’t even realize it was my dream until I saw you living it. Thanks for sharing the beauty.

  6. Irene September 13, 2008 at 11:25 am #

    What a lovely post. Having lived in and out of NY, your observations really struck a chord. It’s the complicated love/hate relationship where love wins out, but sometimes just barely, that makes New York a city that is such a personality in its own right.

  7. Dea Anne September 13, 2008 at 12:09 pm #

    What a gorgeous piece of writing this, and what beautiful photographs. Good luck in your country adventures…it sounds like paradise to me.

  8. Helen September 14, 2008 at 4:54 am #

    Fabulous. I love reading about your love of NY. It has always been an ambition of mine to visit one day. You feel the same way about NY as I do about London.

  9. Christina September 14, 2008 at 7:02 am #

    I love that beautiful, sunlit shot of the dandelion head. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    I hope your weekend in the city has turned out to be a nice one–how wonderful to be able to have both parts of the state regularly available to you!

  10. izzy's mama September 14, 2008 at 9:42 pm #

    What lovely metaphors. Both places sound so inviting.

  11. Toni September 15, 2008 at 9:50 am #

    What a great post, Ann! I understand completely what you’ve been writing about. New York was my city until I left for New Mexico. Now, in San Diego, I find myself going to New Mexico for my retreats. When I was a kid, I always dreamed of having a house in the city and a house in the country. I just never dreamed that they’d be in 2 different states!

  12. Marusya September 15, 2008 at 3:13 pm #

    Beautiful photos. How lucky you are! You are inspiring me to indulge my own city/country half-and-half dreams.

  13. ann September 16, 2008 at 1:08 pm #

    Sandie — Thank! There really is. Its nice to have so many places to be happy in.

    EB — Thanks, that’s a lovely compliment!!

    Lydia — Funny you mention that.. I’ve been contemplate moving mine Upstate… I mean, its very nearly bread season!

    Will — I’d pay for some nice crisp air! It’s been so ooooooo humid and hot!

    Katie — You’re so nice! Happy to share, there’s more than enough to go around :-)

    Irene — I know. When I’m writing about the City, I sometimes feel like I’m writing about a person. It’s very strange.

    Dea Anne — Thanks! I’ll be sure to not stop!

    Helen — Maybe we could work out a trade, because I miss London more than anyplace I’ve ever visited in my whole life. Its been years since I’ve been there. Far too many years…

    Christina — Oh my I love that shot too! I got so many bug bites on my arms and legs taking it, but it was totally worth it. I really want to have it enlarged and framed. I’m enamored with it.

    Izzy’s Mama — Thanks :-)

    Toni — Ooooh boy, two states would be difficult! I wouldn’t know which driver’s license to have ;-)

    Marusya — Go for it!!! Half and half is the best with coffee, why shouldn’t it be the best for life too!

  14. Terry B September 17, 2008 at 12:57 pm #

    Okay, this will probably get long winded. I apologize in advance, Ann. First, the beets and potatoes sound delicious. Have you tried adding the garlic [lots of it, four cloves or more] to the beets and potatoes as they boil? I find this infuses potatoes with a wonderful garlic taste without having any little overpowering bites, because even the little chunks you get when you mash the garlic with the potatoes and beets is toned down by the cooking.

    And now, as to your ruminations on the city at night. Beautiful and thoughtful, as always. Here in Chicago, city life offers the same trials, although on a smaller scale. And it offers the same beauty. I love seeing glowing lights in apartment buildings—or even in office buildings where people are working late. The former represents the sanctuary you describe, the latter the pulse and energy of the city. Sometimes the city can indeed be absolutely overwhelming. I remember when we lived in St. Louis and I came up to interview for a job, I was riding the el in from the airport. It was evening and as we approached downtown, I thought to myself, “Here I go, into the belly of the beast.”

    I haven’t congratulated you yet on your new house. It sounds perfect, Ann! Even more so because you don’t have to choose between city and country, but can have both, each for its own pleasures.

  15. michelle September 18, 2008 at 9:27 am #

    that’s why i live in jersey city – all the beautiful night time views, none of the gobbbling she-lion (although you do make the gobbling she-lion beautiful).

    also, NYC is that first bite of the black and white cookie where you get a little bit of each.

  16. Anne September 18, 2008 at 10:06 am #

    I agree with Michelle’s take on the Black and White Cookie!

    Love hearing about your life in the country. Keep it comin’.

  17. ann September 19, 2008 at 7:03 am #

    Terry — Oh, that might be even prettier and more thoughtful than what I wrote!

    Michelle — You’re so right. I had a friend who lived in Hoboken many years ago and the views were worth the stupid PATH train. And like Anne, I love your analogy, so true!!

    Anne — Thanks, I’m glad I’m not boring you guys yet, that would make me sad!

  18. Julie September 19, 2008 at 11:07 am #

    Last weekend I drove from New England to Maryland and I came thru New York after dark. It was beautiful, and I was disappointed that I was driving because I would have loved to have been in the passenger seat taking pictures.

    This is an outstanding batch of pictures and, uncharacteristically for me, it’s the flower pictures (such beautiful light in all of them) rather than the city pictures that really captured my eye this time.

    And finally, that description of each “tiny apartment, lit up like a Russian egg, glowing golden with the light over the kitchen sink or silvery cool from the television” is perfect and so poignant..

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