The Great NYC Deli Dichotomy

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In a case outside the deli, healthy vegan meals to go. Pick what you like, open the fridge (there’s no attendant and there are no locks) and then take it inside to pay at the register. It’s the healthiest “street” food I’ve ever seen

The healthiest "street" food I've ever seen

A closer look…

Once you’ve been lured inside by the prospect of an innocent, guilt-free meal, you’ll find yourself ambushed by the largest variety of chips (that’s crisps for my British friends out there) you’ve ever seen. Temptation! Get thee behind me!

From yellow to blue, from salt-'n'-vinegar to Sriracha, this aisle had more colors and flavors of chips than I'd ever dreamed could exist

From yellow to blue, from red to purple, from plain potato to sweet potato to corn and more, from salt-‘n’-vinegar to Sriracha and from mesquite to that horrible American imposter called “parmesan,” this aisle had more types, colors and flavors of chips than I’d ever dreamed could exist (not to mention pretzels, popcorn and cheese puffs galore).

Of course, New York City is full of such paradoxical delis. No East Coast city embraced organic food or the vegan movement as early or as whole-heartedly as NYC but, at the same time, ask any Midwesterner what they know about NY cuisine and the first thing that pops into their heads will be the famous New York pizza slice (which no Italian in their right mind would equate with pizza as they know it). Ask most Europeans, and pretty much all they’ll know about eating in New York will boil down to cheesecake and the dubious offerings of those iconic hot dog carts. Anyone who’s spent any amount of time in the Big Apple knows better. In New York you can find pretty much any kind of food imaginable: the very best… and the absolute worst.

For more on this same Lower East Side deli of infinite variety, you can check out my two previous posts about the incredible shelf of Spam and what might be Manhattan’s largest assortment of hot sauces.

More NYC images and adventures coming soon.

Thanks for stopping by!

– Jennifer

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Not a Parisian Thrift Shop

How to make your thrift shop window display as attractive as possible for all those ugly-sweater-party aficionados:

First: hang up your ugliest, most improbable sweater at the very center of your display (and, since we’re going for that run-down, super-cheap, down-on-its-luck-second-hand-store look, be sure not to wash your window first).

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Ee-ai-ee-ai… oooohhhh noooooo

Second: Take a display dummy, your second-ugliest sweater and… need I say more?

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Not even in his worst nightmares did Bart dream of such an ignominious fate…

One thing’s for sure, no one will ever be able to accuse this shop keeper of pretentious window design. Indeed, I doff my hat to him, so to speak. When the warehouse gives you lemons…

Hope that cheered up your day without offending you taste sensibilities tooooo much…

See you next time,

– Jennifer

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Some Like It Hot

I think the contents of these two shelves are not so much inventory as they are arsenal. There’s enough hot sauce here to burn the last taste buds off of a vindaloo addict, to break the fifth alarm on the five-alarm-chili machine, to permanently disable the noses of an entire K9 unit. Looking more closely, I think we could probably find the proper hot sauce to fit any recipe in any ethnic cookbook you could buy in New York City, which is where I found this shelf. Indeed, it is right next door to the shocking-variety-of-Spam shelf you might have seen featured here a couple of days ago.

Not enough spice in your life?

Not enough spice in your life? Sriracha, Tabasco, Red Devil, Cholula, Chili Sauce… this deli has got it all

Making a quick calculation and figuring that the bottles go back about 3 deep, I estimate there are a minimum of 18 varieties of hot sauce on these two shelves, for a total of approximately 54 bottles. I do believe that such a stock would keep my family happy for at least, say, 3 or 4 generations. That is, if no one accidentally knocked down the shelving in the interim. That might result in the destruction of the world as we know it – which, come to think of it, we might survive. After all, we would have the Spam shelf.

  • Here’s the hard science behind why people like hot sauce… and why, once they start, they want it hotter and hotter (and no, it’s not because they burn off all their tastebuds, although there must be some truth to that, too: The Science of Sriracha’s Good Burn (theatlantic.com)
  • Did this post make you hungry? Are you in need of a handy recipe? Then try this one out: How to cook the ultimate vindaloo (metro.co.uk)
  • And now for something completely different:” 12 Gifts For The Sriracha Addict (thoughtcatalog.com)

And if you survive all that, we’ll see you next time.

Thanks for dropping by!

Jennifer

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Not Your Usual Park Bench

Many of the benches in New York’s Central Park bear small metal plaques. Most are dedications to departed loved ones for whom the park was a special place. They are places to sit and remember those who have left us and recall the times spent there in their company. They are places of thoughtfulness and reminiscence.

Not so this bench:

Not your usual sentimental park-bench dedication

Not your usual sentimental park-bench dedication. If you feel like taking the plaque writers up on their advice, you’ll find this bench on the path leading to the entrance of the Central Park Zoo. 

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On a related note:

The lack of gravitas evident in this particular bench plaque put me in mind of a place I know from my travels, Romania’s famous Merry Cemetery, where the colorful grave markers bear epitaphs that are generally humorous. Some incorporate witty poems that poke not unkindly fun at those they commemorate, while others are a little less forgiving. The inhabitants of the little town of Săpânța take it all in good faith. This New York Times article, You’ll Die Laughing, if You’re Not Already Dead, tells its story quite nicely.

That’s all for today! Thanks for bringing your tush over to my blog and see you again soon!

– Jennifer

Spam, Glorious Spam!

Most people on the Continent have never heard of it. Still, every culture, even the most fine, produces some version of it: pressed meat in a can. Even the Italians have their own version: Simmenthal (which is shredded and encased in aspic rather than pressed, and tastes much better than it sounds). The British, of course, have their famous corned beef, which can be purchased in a can in a tin. Perhaps the French are above such things, but somehow I’m sure they have their own version as well (well, of course they have their tins of fine pâté that go for €50 a pop, but I’m talking about the kind of  tinned (or canned if you’re American) meat that makes the gourmands out there turn up their noses, so we can’t really include pâté in our list). No, I’m talking about the stuff we Americans know as SPAM. It’s the stuff that was used as rations during WWII (and, to this day, remains a kind of regional delicacy in Hawaii as a result… yes, there is such a thing as Spam salad, Spam pizza…). All these years I’ve been under the impression that Spam was, simply, Spam. Au contraire! However, I had to go to an NYC deli on the Lower East Side to discover that this historically  (and often affectionately) maligned American delicacy food item has branched out quite a bit since the 1940s. Who would have guessed? If you’ve been worrying that food might get boring after a hypothetical ice-age/nuclear/zombie/asteroid-provoked apocalypse, you can breathe a sigh of relief. The good old Spam company has ensured that we will not lack for variety for quite a few decades after the end of the world as we know it.

Can man live on Spam alone?

Can man live on Spam alone? Perhaps it’s not so far-fetched of an idea after all (well, provided the man in question isn’t a vegetarian).

Thanks for coming along to NYC! I saw a whole lot more than Spam on a shelf, but let’s take things one at a time. There will be more NY adventures coming soon.

Until next time, bon appétit!

– Jennifer

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Surprise Migration from Florida… (well, sort of)

What to do with a sudden overnight snowfall of over a foot? Walking through my neighborhood the day after our most recent catastrophic snowstorm (after some serious shoveling), I saw a variety of impromptu lawn decorations, from snow forts to snow people of all sorts. This, however, takes the blue ribbon for most original post-snowfall lawn decoration.

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For the delight of tacky lawn-ornament aficionados and tongue-in-cheek ornithologists: a flock of rare pink Arctic flamingos graces my neighbors’ lawn the morning after our last big snowstorm

We’re supposed to get another flash snowfall of a foot tonight. I can’t wait to see what they do next time…

And, for those of you interested in things even stranger than the common front-yard dwelling suburban flamingo:

Lastly, for those of you who just love flamingos (I know you’re out there):

See you after the blizzard and thanks for stopping by!

Jennifer

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A Monster Bridges the Gap to Help Save a Local Business

Shopzilla!

Salezilla does his part to bridge the gap in sales while the new bridge leading to McCoy’s Furniture is under construction

Driving back from a weekend trip this summer, we passed through the town of Waynesboro, Virginia, and I snapped this photo of a sales ploy that tickled my funny bone. Now that I’ve been back from the Italy – a.k.a. the land where advertising has to be soberly refined and sexy – for a good four months, I am still not tired of the unabashedly (and proudly) silly advertising ploys I often see here. Considering the post-Halloween atmosphere that still persists during this first week of November, it seemed like a good time to use this monstrous photo (ba-dum-bum-ching).

It’s been more than a couple of months since I took this photo so, before posting, I began to wonder if this monster sales ploy had done its job to keep the business in the picture afloat. A couple clicks took me to the McCoy’s Furniture Co. website. It turns out they’re a family-owned store and they’ve been around since 1946. Since their website said the sale was still ongoing, I wondered if perhaps they hadn’t made it through the hard times, after all. So, I went ahead and called them. It turns out the problem was that the Broad Street Bridge, which led to their store, had been closed for construction since last February. However, that bridge has just recently reopened, one month ahead of schedule, and McCoy’s made it through to the other side of the hard times. Did Salezilla threaten to eat a few of the construction workers if they didn’t speed things up? I don’t speak monster, so we will probably never know.

Speaking of which, I enquired about our friend, wondering if he’d been put out to pasture (although I can’t imagine any local sheep wanting to share with him) now that the monster sale was done. Happily, it turns out he’s still waiting at the front of the store, sale or no sale.

So, if any of my faithful readers live near Waynesboro or elsewhere in the Shenandoah Valley and want to support a local family business (or just want to pay a visit to Salezilla), now you know where to go. You could even buy an armchair from Salezilla to watch Godzilla (ba-dum-bum-ching).

Ok, I’m going to stop now, before this gets any sillier.

Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to seeing you again next time!

Jennifer