I was feeling a bit bushed last weekend. I knew that I had things that I needed to get done, but just couldn’t seem to get myself moving. Every time I thought of doing something, it seemed a little too hard. As a result, I spent more than my fair share of time sitting on the couch, watching TV and nattering away to the kids.
I know it’s not a bad thing to have a little downtime on the weekends, but I do feel a little remiss if I don’t get any reading done, so I allowed myself a middle ground. I took a nice leisurely look at Monica Trapaga and Lil Tulloch’s A Bite of the Big Apple (Penguin).
As many of you know by now, I’m a massive fan of all things New York, so this reading task was no chore. The fascinating images, recipes and descriptions of NY neighbourhoods made it no effort at all to spend a good hour strolling through Monica and Lil’s compilation…
It’s Ella and Louis. It’s Seinfeld and Woody Allen. It’s the bright lights of Broadway, it’s hot dogs at 2 a.m., it’s bagels and doughnuts and pastrami on rye. It’s also Mexican, Jamaican, Filipino, Puerto Rican and Chinese food, all thrown together in a cultural cacophony quite unlike anywhere else in the world. All of these influences come together when Monica Trápaga, one of Australia’s most-loved entertainers, escapes to New York – and realises she has come home.
A Bite of the Big Apple is a bit like a hipster’s scrapbook, its collages are childlike but edgy, at times even a little bit gritty. Monica spends her time in the less-than-glamorous neighbourhood of Bedford Stuyversant, melting into the close-knit, slightly volatile community.
The taxi makes a left into Hancock Avenue and I feel as if we’ve just turned in to Sesame Street. In the pit of my stomach I’m feeling nervous but excited – I wouldn’t be surprised if Oscar the Grouch stuck his head out of a trash can and waved an old sardine in my direction. I pay the cab driver and he is out of there faster than Speedy Gonzales as I hug my luggage and look for the house number.
She and her daughter Lil travel on trains, taking full advantage of the NY subway in order to explore the culinary corners of the Big Apple – Ms Dahlias in Nostrand Avenue, Union Square and its organic markets, Russ and Daughters. What they find in delis and markets across the city is the inspiration for their fresher than fresh food, soulful, rustic combinations of produce and spice. Their Mojitos will knock your socks off and their Potato and Leek Soup will warm your heart.
This is a visually stunning book, and a fabulous story. Monica successfully captures and shares the feeling of New York, the sights and smells of both the high-end of town and the crumbling corners. Once again, I find myself longing to return, to explore New York more fully. But for now, I’ll flick through books like A Bite of the Big Apple and make plans for the future.
If you’d like to find out more about A Bite of the Big Apple you can visit here…
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