Thoughts on Memorial Day
Destination: New York City – home
Mode of Transport: Fried Chicken
Outside of my own home, my favorite place to be is a restaurant named Peasant, located on Elizabeth Street in my neighborhood of NoLita, New York City. I like to think of it as my friend’s dining room that I am always invited to. The owners of the establishment, Dulcy and Frankie, have become good friends of ours through the years. In their space, we celebrated such touchstones as our wedding and our child’s christening. They employed both my wife and I during times of unemployment and fed us during some hard times. They are some of the most generous people one can meet, with swagger to boot. Frankie’s personality translates directly on the plate. Everything he serves is part CBGB and part Umbrian countryside. His wife Dulcy, has that infectious snarl you can’t get enough of. I’m proud to say that after over a dozen years; it still sets a standard, that I feel is unmatched and has all the comforts of home. It’s that last part that continues to bring people back.
During our trip to Italy this summer, I am looking forward to ordering and eating some of my favorite dishes that Frankie prepares at Peasant, in the regions which they originate. Dish Our Town endeavors to bring people to a site in the world by using food (a dish) as it’s vehicle. Transversely, sometimes, when one is travelling, a dish actually brings one home.
I’m writing this post on Memorial Day; and it just came to me that our brave men and women through the years, when fighting a battle somewhere in the world, must have and still dream constantly of the taste of home; and how a dish can bring them to their favorite place just by thinking of it. I’d like to think, that sometimes they are actually fortunate enough to get that dish. Being an American, I always picture the scenario including fried chicken and barbecue.
During this long weekend, we had a hankering for both. Living in the city, it’s not so easy to spark up a barbecue, so we went out for barbecue. Brenda has a great fried chicken recipe, but it only seemed right to go out for that as well.
Fried Chicken. I know that Scottish immigrants are often credited for bringing it into the American culture; and that ancient European and Asian cultures have been making fritters of all sorts for centuries. To me however, the one and only true fried chicken, is the one that originated from the American South. I’m not and won’t pretend to be a historian, so I am not going to discredit those who influenced the beginnings of this dish, but it would be hard to not acknowledge how the black community, starting from the slaves that cooked in the kitchens, singlehandedly made this a quintessential American dish. Jazz is to music as this is to food. It’s ours, and many chefs and home cooks alike have their secret family recipes they pride themselves upon. Brenda, Bailey and I decided to go to Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, and taste their take on this dish. I can talk about the seasoning and the batter, etc., but I’d rather you just take a look at these photos and see how long you can hold your mouth from watering.
Barbecue. Yes, we can talk about ancient ways of cooking with smoke and fire; and we all know that many cultures pride themselves in being grill masters. My Argentinian friend, Fabian, has grilled and smoked his share of goat and has photos to prove it. Frankie cooks in open fire at Peasant, so technically his grilled meats are a form of barbecue. I think we can all agree that it belongs to all cultures and that circling a fire and grilling food is one of the most celebrated communal acts. It brings family and friends together, to share stories, drink a tad, share recipes and techniques, but most of all just an excuse to be in each other’s company and eat good simply made food. Brenda, Bailey and I decided to enjoy our family day by having the now popular japanese rendition of barbecue at Yakitori Taisho.
Today, we commemorate those who lost their lives preserving our right to fry in freedom and feel secure when we sit around a smoke pit filled with meats. We also think of those who are far away thinking of coming home to join in these dishes.
I can’t wait to go to Italy, but I know that I will soon miss my own bed; and though I may have had my fill of Italian cuisine; one of my first stops when I get back will be that bar at Peasant. We love to travel, and pursuit of travel is what inspired Dish Our Town; but at the end there is simply nothing like returning to our town.