One of the many wonders of New York's Chinatown is the hotcake vendor. Like an endangered and exotic animal, it is hard to find her and she only appears when you are least expecting it. Contrary to capitalist common sense, she never stays in the same location to sell her tiny cakes. Instead you must wind your way through the bustling streets and hope you catch sight of her. During a recent jaunt down Catherine Street I was lucky enough to find her. I walked right past her stand when the delicious scent of sweet batter turned me around. Fifteen miniature puffy cakes for a dollar is ridiculously cheap. I always want to give her more. The cakes are warm and golden smell like waffles. Truly worth the effort.
This is a personal post for a new reader named John D. from Northampton, England who wrote us an email yesterday after he and a colleague surfed their way to our blog while at work, and while the UK's economy continued to drift ever closer to the rocky shores of recession. It is also holds a rather delayed thank you to our friend Karen who has made a dream come true. Much like the linguistic lottery that is a Google search, today's tenuous and common threads will be, Northampton, footie and footwear. So read on if you wish to get mired in the minutiae and frivolity of my personal correspondence.
Although we get a fair number of people coming through Nova Clutch by purpose or by chance, we don't seem to get a lot of comments. Therefore when someone does take the time out of their busy, or not so busy work schedule to write us, we feel somewhat obliged to answer. Without further ado, here is an ever so brief follow up to John D's questions.
Q: Who is the talent and how do you keep the blog looking so crisp?
A: Nova Clutch was founded by Natasha, Sweetu and myself as a natural extension of those parts of our lives that we hold to be important and meaningful. We have since asked a number of like-minded people such as Melissa and Therese to join us. Although I can't fully account for the crispness, I have a feeling it's because we use lard instead of vegetable shorting. Or perhaps that's why it's light and flakey.
Q: Why don't you have a section on the beautiful game, are you sure you are a true Brit?
A: Like you, Sweetu hails from Northampton, but supports Manchester United. As you pointed out, there is not a lot to cheer about in Northampton these days. Natasha grew up in Birmingham, but thankfully she is devoid of that particular accent and a need to support Villa or City. In fact, she does't really fancy the game or even a pint, therefore I often question her "Englishness" as well. Although I am American, I have been a Liverpool supporter since I was a kid. I also have a soft spot in my heart for Crystal Palace. I am one of the few people within my circle who can actually remember the day when they fielded a side to be reckon with (78/79). No disrespect to the skills of Dougie Freeman. As for Liverpool, I was young, impressionable and loved The Beatles. What can I say? What better way is there to pick your team when everyone else around you is playing and watching American football, baseball and basketball?
Dear Karen, thank you for getting me the Church's from your hometown. Do you know our new friend John D? No? Anyway, I'm sorry I didn't say thank you earlier. Since I have shown myself to be an ungrateful friend, I thought a public apology would help in set things right. I love them, they fit, they are a dream come true. I hope that someday, when they are well worn in, they can burn with me on my funeral pyre. Perhaps my deathbed post can be about how wonderful there were, and how well their quality construction and distinctive style served me throughout the years. Maybe a little something about the handcrafted workmanship, the considered and beautiful detailing. Perhaps a quip about the smell of "new" that wafted from the "keeper" box as I looked upon these classic beauties. Or maybe a cleverly-crafted line about the stiffness of the leather soles and uppers that would eventually take to the shape of my foot and particulars of my stride to become something of a first-rate second skin. Something to think about, something to be remembered. Thank you.
For the rest of you that have made your way through this self-indulgent post; well done, you have shown yourselves to be more patient and dedicated to this blog than I could ever be.
We got to Red Hook later than we expected. The day was blazing hot. Natasha was hobbling, I didn't have enough sunblock, and the lines were so so long. But we had such a hankering for huaraches, tamarind juice, and tacos and we had driven all the way there in the heat that we just decided to stay. We decided to divide and conquer, each taking one line. Drinks are much faster than food. After nearly forty minutes in line (Who waits forty minutes for food? Okay, me. Frequently. But not in 97 degree heat!) and we finally ordered. Minutes later my arms were filled with amazing looking food. Huaraches made with oversized handmade tortillas filled with zucchini, mushrooms, onions, beans, queso fresco, and mouth-blistering hot sauce. Washed down with hibiscus tea and tamarindo, it was easily worth the wait.
As most Americans turned their heads and hearts to the heavens this 4th of July weekend, I set my gaze downwards to enjoy bursts of color and spectacular displays put on by mother nature rather than those provided by Macy's (no offense Natasha). Attempting to escape the melodic phrases of "God Bless America" for those of crickets and birds, I walked through the fields and forests that grace our friend's farm Pennsylvania farm Saturday afternoon. Exercising my right to bear arms and to shoot everything in sight, I captured and brought home the bounty of the day. On bent knee or in prone position I would seek out the unknown, the unusual and unsuspecting. Some that fell within my sights were well camouflaged, some were in sharp contrast to their surroundings, easy targets for my eager trigger finger. Breathe in, focus, focus, shoot! I got one, two, three! What a country, one nation, under foot. What an opportunity to leave the synthesized noise and plastic distractions of our adopted life behind to consider and reflect upon what this nation was really founded upon; a natural world of beauty and wonder, void of light beer, computer generated fantasy, right wings, left wings, cheese filled hot dogs, manmade gods and manmade fireworks.
Founded in 1924 by immigrants longing for a taste of the homeland, Germack Pistachio Company knows how to process a nut.
Located in the heart (or rather, it is the heart) of Detroit's historic Eastern Market, the Germack Co. has been turning out perfectly roasted pistachios for over seventy-five years. Mild, salty, and crunchy they are the perfect companion to almost any drink, but their charm is especially apparent when paired with beer. Next time you are visiting the Motor City be sure to swing by their roasting plant and pick up a five pound bag. Or a ten pound one. You won't be disappointed.
I received another package this morning from England. From Charlie and Elly this time. I whipped the camera out as I just knew it would be worth photographing if it was from them. They hadn't even had time to see my Matryoshka dolls from earlier this week, but I guess the recent trip to Russia was a good clue. Shiny gold matryoshka doll candles that I will force myself to use, as I have a habit of keeping things intact.
Michele got me the most wonderful perfume for my birthday. I had never seen or heard of it before, and I didn't even realize what was in it, as I was completely transfixed by the box. Beautifully simple and white, tied with a white cotton ribbon and tiny twig, this impeccably made construction stands on little feet. It's amazing how this little detail sets this box apart from the fussiness of usual perfume boxes. Inside was also very pretty, with a little red ball floating in the liquid. And the perfume itself is an amazing mix of cloves, cinnamon, musk and floral notes. I love it, love it, love it! Thank you Michele.
You can buy Miller et Bertaux in Paris or in New York City at Takashamiya .
I had sent an email and hadn't had a reply. I tried another email and waited a few days. Then I thought I would do it the old-fashioned way, and picked up the phone.
Two people answered at once, and I was left to the male voice, that belonged to a man named John. I explained that I had seen his website and was calling to enquire about buying some spoons. He asked me who I was. I wasn't quite sure how to answer that question. Make up a story? Fabricate a wildly elaborate alter-ego? Sarcastically explain again that I am just some punter that wants to buy a spoon?
I went with the delicate, patient approach, explaining how much I like the way the spoons look. Which I really do. Half an hour later, I can tell you that these spoons are really made with love. John hand carves each piece of wood, and started making spoons when burning lumber in the fire one day. He turned the piece of wood over, and examined the grain, realizing how beautiful it was, perhaps too beautiful to burn. So he started making spoons. And hooks. And rings. He also makes honey, and of course, he doesn't use any pesticides on the flowers and doesn't do anything to the honey. It's all natural, like the spoons. And pretty damn yummy honey it is too.
By some spoons from John. It's not often you buy a wooden spoon that you would hand down to your children. And it's not often that you can picture someone making the product you buy, with as much care, attention and good ol' fashioned craft, as John.
Honey photograph by Livewire Farm