Bite This

  • Motherless Daughters on Mother’s Day

    Posted: May 16th 2014 @6:57 AM


    On Mother’s Day when we were kids, Dad would take us to a drugstore and buy hairbrushes, body lotion, athlete’s foot powder … you know, the sentimental stuff. He’d also pick up a Mother’s Day card and have us each scribble our names and affections on it. He always had leftover wrapping paper in the garage, and we’d take turns doing terrible wrapping jobs on the items. Each of us would claim one gift as our own. I tried to be glamorous and grab a lotion or a scented soap. If you didn’t move fast enough, you’d get the foot powder.

    It was clear that Dad had done the picking, but each year, Mom clasped her hands together and kvelled (kind of like beaming in love) all the same, then dragged her three children to her chest in delight. It was suffocating, but it went with the turf.

    By the time I was 10, I figured out a few things.
    1) Dad was a lousy gift giver.
    2) Mom didn’t care what the gifts were, as long we gave them.
    3) Mom loved lilacs.

    A neighbor’s tree exploded in fresh lilacs every year, right around Mother’s Day, and I decided to sneak over and acquire (steal) an armload of glorious, fresh lilacs to present to Mom. Our ragtag kitchen of cheap linoleum and paper plates took on the air of an eccentric garden with those pretty flowers sitting in a large glass apple sauce jar on our dinette set. I loved the smell, still do, but it may have something to do with the ecstasy of Mom’s face when I gave her the flowers. It became our annual mantra for five years:

    “Oh, I love lilacs!”
    “Yes, Mom, I know!”

    Things changed right around the time I discovered that even though I was 16, I looked old enough to get into bars without being carded. I didn’t give a hoot about my mother’s love after that; I wanted to party! I also wanted to paint, fly, have friends my mother hated, smoke, explore, and in short, leave the nest!

    By the time I was 17, I was living on my own, and Mother’s Day was a day when I called Mom and subjected myself to an hour of her prodding and digging about whether I would ever marry a nice Jewish boy. It was my gift to Mom, letting her eat my insides. It took me a few years to mention that not only would I not be marrying a nice Jewish boy, but if I did get married, it would probably be to a woman.

    Eventually we found our way to back to each other. Mom was a poet, I am a writer, and we started to talk about the creative process. It was an amazing thing to find out that my housewife, over-possessive, couponing, bargain-hunting mother was actually a spectacularly creative soul. She even won a local poetry contest and got her name in the newspaper.

    “Promise me, my Slovah (my Yiddish name), that you will write about me. I want you to immortalize me.”

    “Of course, Mom, how could I not? There’s so much material!”

    My parents were coming back from a trip to Florida, driving on 195 toward New Jersey when Mom went into cardiac arrest in North Carolina. She never made it home. I was 28 years old.

    For many years after that, I didn’t know what to do with myself on Mother’s Day. I felt that the whole world was celebrating a day that I was locked out of. The lilacs at the Korean deli sent me into tears.

    Then I decided I would spend Mother’s Day with her, death notwithstanding.

    I bought an armload of lilacs (bought!), hired a car service and rode from my apartment in Manhattan to her grave in Staten Island. It’s an old Jewish cemetery that houses most of Mom’s line of the family. My grandparents and great-grandparents are there.

    I laid out a towel next to Mom, and placed the flowers on her grave. FYI, this is a big no-no in Jewland. We don’t bring flowers; we place stones. But really, could we get any more depressing?!

    I slathered suntan lotion on my arms and legs and lay down next to Mom.

    Groups of mourners came by, horrified to find a woman in a hot pants and a tank top splayed out in the grass, but Mom would have liked it, and so did I.

    I told her about my life. Whom I was cooking for, what I was writing about, whom I was dating, what made me happy, what made me sad.

    She was a good listener.

    I’d like to say I still do this every year; I don’t. But it got me through the hardest Mother’s Days.

    Taking the car service back to Manhattan, I didn’t feel the cast-out sensation anymore. I looked out at the families coming back from brunch with Mom, happy and giddy. I spent the day with my mom, too! SO THERE!

    I still feel an incredible loss on Mother’s Day. I suppose having a baby would have helped. Then I’d be Mom, too.

    But it wasn’t my destiny to be a mom, maybe because I’m so busy mothering … EVERYONE!

    Happy Mother’s Day to all the motherless daughters out there. It’s our day, too! Make it a great one!

  • The Everyday Excellence Awards

    Posted: March 4th 2014 @11:44 PM

    Why do award shows mean so much to us?

    The Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild, the Grammys, the Oscars, it’s as if our world comes screeching to a halt once that red carpet rolls out. We sit awestruck, watching as the entertainment industry’s elite accept their many accolades.

    It’s easy to understand why folks in the music or entertainment biz get jazzed up. Their horse winning or even being in the running can mean beau coup dollars and loads of glory.

    But what about the rest of us? Millions and billions of the rest of us are not directly affected by these awards, so why do we get so excited?

    Why do we say things like, “I love Meryl Streep but for the love of God, don’t give her another award!”

    Why do have lengthy conversations about how brilliant Matthew McConaughey was in “Dallas Buyers Club,” but add, “The man doesn’t have a modest bone in his body!”

    OK, yes, I was projecting. I get sucked in, too!

    I got sucked into the Grammys, when Queen Latifah performed 33 straight and gay weddings after we were serenaded by Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert.

    But you totally lost me when the two men (Are they men? They are not DEVO.) dressed as robots raked it in. Yes, Kiss wore make-up, but this Daft Punk helmet thing is, well, daft.

    In this new world of entertainment ,where reality shows about fighting over storage units or rednecks (some with really big mouths) hunting ducks get as much play as shows with actors, why not go a step further?

    Why not have an awards show that celebrates everyday people excelling in everyday jobs, the Everyday Excellence Awards?

    Categories can include Mom of the Year, Dad of the Year, Most-Inspired Plumber, Doctor who Saved the Most Lives, Most Beloved Nurse, Manicurist with the Biggest Following, Most Creative Travel Agent, and Fastest Short-Order Cook.

    I’m talking about some real reality television!

    Our host? No celeb glory here. The nominees for Most Amazing Motivational Speaker will co-host. Presenters can include nominees for Most Charming Maître D’ and Funniest Taxi Driver.

    The trophy can be a golden vacuum cleaner that really works, cause you know everyday folks probably have to clean their own house.

    I’d like to kick things off right now and nominate Sarah and Di of Poor Richard’s Landing for being the best hostesses, Matty for being the most awesome dreadlock white dude radio producer, Tony for being the most talented lounge lizard restaurant owner chef….I mean hello the food at Terra Luna rocks…

    Whom would you nominate?

  • Women Roar, Even When They Cook

    Posted: January 29th 2014 @11:30 PM



    When I was 7, I thought I could rule the world. My mother, Harriet, had told me that we were from the tribe of Judah. How she knew this, thousands of years later, I don’t know; it’s amazing we even knew we were Jewish! But she said the tribe of Judah was the warrior tribe, and this I liked.


    I scoured the Bible looking for female role models. Ruth … pish-posh, she was loyal, so what! It seemed like women only made it into key roles in the Bible by seducing a king or giving birth to a prophet. Forgetaboutit! I wanted more.


    I chose the young David, not the old one who got a bit sexist for my taste, but the young boy slaying Goliath. Yes! Yes! I could slay the monster, too. I practiced throwing stones. I could be a hero! I could be a champion!


    But then I turned 8, and despite my best efforts to the contrary, started to look like a girl! With the threat of puberty just around the corner, my parents pushed me into a harsher double standard. I was sent to a private school that made me give up jeans and put on – YECH – maxi skirts!


    I had to stop digging in the dirt with the Christian boys down the street and learn to play with dolls like my sister. The only way I was able to get my folks to buy me G.I. Joe action figures was by telling them my sister’s Barbie dolls needed a date!


    I rallied against the double standard as best as I could, but growing up in an Orthodox Jewish family? Not so easy. My favorite form of rebellion was to lock myself in my room and write. That is, until I discovered pink hair dye.


    As I grew, I found my own way. I joined with artists and writers and actors who didn’t give a hoot about gender, so long as you liked The B52’s.


    I came to New York City to become Andy Warhol with a vagina. But there was something about living on $600 a month that wasn’t working for me.


    Luckily, I discovered that the part of my brain that danced when I finished a great painting also did quite a nice boogie when I made a killer sauce. I became a chef.


    Honey, I thought being a punk rocker on the Jersey Shore in the 1980s was hard! Being a woman in a pro kitchen back then? Oy vey!


    All men wanted to do was come home to their mother’s or their wife’s home cooking, so why the hell was it so hard for them to accept us as chefs? I had to jump through a lot of hoops to prove I was as good as a man. It was not easy, especially because I was actually trying to prove I was better.


    But I had two gifts that triumphed over those old-school misogynist chefs: I had great taste buds and a filthy mouth. Oh yeah, honey! Bring it!


    There were pioneers way braver than I who paved the way. Gloria Steinem comes to mind and Hillary Clinton, of course, but I’m talking about the cooking world and darling Julia Child, who was so cute and cuddly that nobody bothered to notice she was knocking down some very sexist culinary doors or Alice Waters who taught us that goat cheese was just as happy on top of a salad as it was on a cheese board.



    Forty years ago, I was an angry, frightened little girl about to enter the hardest battle of her life. It’s a battle that still rages to prove that I can slay Goliath. (Now you know where “Raging Skillet” came from.)


    So thank you, thank you, to the great pioneering babes who came before me for handing me the slingshot!




  • Merry Kitschmas to ALL

    Posted: December 23rd 2013 @10:18 AM

    I like to think of being Jewish as a marathon sport. I can dole out a soul-crushing guilt complex, shot-put-style, successfully match-make without meeting the intendeds and turn dinner for two into a fridge full of leftovers.

    I am Jewish Woman; hear me roarrrrrr.

    And sure, it comes with some issues, but I’m proud of each and every one of them. They were bequeathed to me by David. Yes, right after he slew Goliath, he said, “And now I shall pass down to all the future Jewish generations a strong dislike for plain butter on white bread. An olive, a pimento, maybe a smidgen of herring would be nice, but just butter?” (This is why Jews do not spend a huge amount of time in Connecticut.)

    I love being Jewish! Not that you cared or noticed or even sent a card or some flowers, but no matter … I’ll live.

    Eleven months out of the year, I celebrate, but then what I think of as goyim revenge creeps in. … It starts in November … the loneliest time of years for members of the tribes … the time we are reminded, yet again, that we are, in fact, different … the Christmas season. When Noel rolls around, I feel like the only one locked out of a sample sale.

    “Let me in! I’ve got credit!”

    Suuuuuure. We’ve got Chanukah, eight days of it. Eight days trapped in the living room while your parents discuss the time you were constipated for a week from too much egg salad. (Hey, eating 35 eggs in three days would block up the Hudson River.)

    Eight days when your gifts are doled out agonizingly, one per day to keep you coming back for more. It’s menorah blackmail! Speaking of presents … can I just interject here to say that SOCKS, SHAMPOO, SOAP, UNDERWEAR AND TOOTHPASTE SHOULD NEVER BE GIVEN AS A CHANUKAH PRESENT! These are, um, what parents are supposed to give their kids all year long. It’s just wrong to gift-wrap these things!

    It’s also wrong, by the way, to give your kid a Barbie doll missing one arm from the Grant’s Going Out of Business Sale. No wonder I have issues!

    Christmas always seemed much more merciful. You have a huge Christmas Eve dinner among your loved ones, eat massively, pass out, wake up, open gifts, eat some more and leave. Heaven.

    Sheesh, even when you try to ignore Christmas, it’s just impossible! If you decide to watch television, every single program has some spliced-in Santa element. The closest I’ve come to a Chanukah program on the holidays is a “Twilight Zone” marathon.

    So what’s a Jew to do on Christmas? Yeah, I know, we go to the movies. Last time I did that, I wound up watching “Titanic,” and honey, that didn’t exactly lift the downtrodden mood. I mean basically it was a movie about a whole bunch of rich Jews drowning in a big boat, and worse yet, nobody sued.

    Some Jews get into the spirit, by adopting a sort of morph of both cultures, the old Cranukah spiel, but this year, Chanukah crashed into Thanksgiving and left us bupkis for Christmas!!

    There was something depressing about the Chanukah bush anyway. A Christmas tree adorned with dreidels, Moses statuettes and pictures of Barbra Streisand was never gonna cut it!

    No. To really beat the left-outta-Christmas blues, one must think bigger than Barbra, and I don’t mean Bette … ’cause let’s face it: Bette rocks, but Barbra is still the Streisand.

    No you have to think bigger then even Barbra … I know … the Lord’s name in vain … but I’m on a roll … on December 24th of this year, I will be instituting the first annual Kitschmas Eve.

    On this festive holiday, Jews in leisure wear will feast on a wide array of exotic dishes like kishka, schnitzel, kreplach, latkes and kugel and sip sparkling Manischewitz punch. Dessert will be babka, halvah, strudel, rugelach, hamantashen, a tall glass of seltzer and three Tums per customer.

    Then it’s off to caroling!

    On the first night of Kitschmas, my true love gave to meeeeeeeeeeeee …
    Intestinal gas from eating too much cheese.

    On the second night of Kitschmas, my true love gave to meeeeeeeeeeeee …
    Two Prilosecs, one tab of Advil, three ginger ales and Adam Sandler singing Chanukah songs.

    Well … anyway, you get the point dears. Make up your own Kitschmas carol; my kishkas are killing me.

    So what do we do on Kitschmas morning?

    Eat a pastrami omelet, followed by lox (Nova, only) on an everything bagel with a shmear, give everyone a gift certificate for online shopping because life is short, and spend the afternoon digesting. Heaven.

  • Hurricane Sandy One Year Ago

    Posted: October 29th 2013 @9:18 AM
    photos taken by Georoid Dolan of Scream Machine my neighbor

    photos taken by Georoid Dolan of Scream Machine
    my neighbor

    5D_G1137hi dears this was my post on
    a year ago…seemed fitting to repost it here one year later

    these days thank god, i am warm and safe but never going to take a hot shower, a warm bed and a dry home for granted again

    be well and be safe

    The Sandy Aftermath (one year ago)

    Greetings from zone A
    My dears I can’t even tell you what this girl has been through this last week
    I watched cars floating on my block, our basement took 15 feet of water, we had no heat, power, phone, internet, hot water for a week!
    We still don’t have hot water and honey this sh-t has been freezing!!
    Talk about a cold shower!
    Downtown, the east village, lower east side, everything below 39th street was dark. It was the strangest feeling looking uptown and seeing all the lights, looking downtown and seeing black.
    And my dears, I thought crossing the street in ROME was scary! Crossing the street in Manhattan with no traffic lights?!! Sh-t… at night, close to suicide!
    but we waved our flashlights, prayed and stepped off the curb.
    Today I am throwing away all my paintings, photographs, beloved possessions and so much more from my basement storage that I did not think would be affected because it sat on top of concrete slab that is nearly four feet high!
    15 feet of water!!! Still can’t believe it. I thought I would go down the stairs to see the basement with a few feet of water, but the water was over the top stairs and a foot high in the first floor too!!
    It’s been rough, but here are the good things…watching my neighbors (even one, who hasn’t exactly been friendly to any of us), band together to help each other, watching the entire hood share and help each other..watching people donate food to each other, lend generators, feeling more love and kind-ness then fear and anxiety all around me.
    New York City really does have a heart and you feel it when disasters strike.
    It reminded me of how kind everyone was after “911″
    We really needed a bright light at the end of this terrible tunnel and we got it Tuesday night.
    I couldn’t even get my TV to work until after the announcement, so I knew he won by the cheers in the street, but honeys, my dears, “Thank god OBAMA won!”
    It’s the first happy moment I have had since October 29th when the east river flowed over avenue C down our block and into our lobby!!!
    Please lord, heal our pains, save our basements, save our economy, keep our children warm, give us a hot shower one day soon and help OBAMA to be all that he can be.
    To the Republicans, take a lesson from the east village this week and put aside your partisan crap, step across the aisle and help the democrats help this country. You didn’t want to help OBAMA get re-elected by voting yes to anything he wanted to do to help our country, well now he got re-elected anyway, so vote f-king yes already, this country can not afford blue and red, just like my hood could not afford US and THEM!
    We are all in this together!!

  • Ode to Norma Holt

    Posted: October 5th 2013 @8:02 AM

    I met Norma many years ago when I rented the smallest apartment I’d ever stayed in. We are talking little! I once almost dis-located my shoulder trying to use the bathroom. But it had a view, wow what a view of the Provincetown bay. It felt a bit like a cocoon. I rented the little place for 8 years and wound up doing some of the best writing and painting of my life there.

    On the pier next to me a lot of folks rented by the week, some owned, some rented for the summer. There was a seasonal renter of several years, a woman named Norma Holt.

    On one my daily walks on the bay beach one afternoon, an old woman shouted at me, ”When you going in the water? Walking is fine but go in the water!”

    I tried to argue, I wanted to clear my thoughts on a walk, the water was cold, bla, bla. She wouldn’t hear any of it and simply demanded I go for a swim. Once she got me to agree she also demanded I hold her hand and help her in the water, then after she submerged help her out of the water, then help her to her chair, then help her up the path to her tiny apartment in the back.

    The next day I discovered that she had also enlisted her neighbors Andrew Sullivan and his boyfriend Aaron (now husband) as her dutiful solders to cart her here and there, feed her and entertain her.

    “One simply does not say no to Norma,” Andrew explained.

    For the rest of that summer, when Norma would catch site of me, she would wave me over to sit with her, swim with her, help her to and from the water. I have to admit there were days I hid behind the railing of my deck so I could have a little quiet time, but mostly I got a kick out of her.

    I had no idea who she was, that she was a talented photographer of many decades and had lived a life that should be written about in novels and film scripts. She never bragged. I had to find these things out from others.

    As the summer went on I took her out to dinner to The Squealing Pig and she told me what it was like to be in an inter-race marriage, I think it was in the 60’s or possibly 50’s I don’t recall, but certainly during a time that making that choice was dangerous. She felt she had much in common with the gay community trying to march to their own drum and not fit the norm and she was right.

    I would escort her, by trotting along side her electric scooter, as she cruised down commercial street to T.J. Walton’s gallery for T.J.s artist’s brunch, which really was just an excuse to sit around and worship Norma.
    On the way there, she would ride in the middle of the street holding up traffic and when they would beep, sweet little old lady looking Norma, would turn around in her chair and give the finger, with both hands!

    Then she would spin off laughing at the shocked tourists.

    I went with her to the Schoolhouse gallery in town and looked through the collection of her photographs. Michael the gallery owner knew I was Norma’s pal so suggested I ask her if she wanted to give me a discount.

    I held up a darling photograph she’s taken of a sweet little old lady sipping a cup of tea totally naked and asked, “Norma can I get a discount on this?”

    After a summer of buying her groceries, taking her to dinner, helping her to and from the water, I was kinda thinking she might make a gift of it to me.

    Norma looked up at me sheepishly with her beautiful eyes and said, “Why on earth would I do that?”

    You gottta love her.

  • Today 12 years ago, September 11th

    Posted: September 11th 2013 @2:03 PM
    Hi everyone
    on this sad  anniversary
    as i watch the news footage at ground zero
    and think of where i was that terrible morning 12 years ago
    it is hard to smile
    but I feel maybe, maybe I am ready  to try and embrace this date as a date that might be filled with some joy
     and some new-ness too
    shana tovah
    i hear the bells ringing for the first tower  and now the bag pipes and now the reading of the names once again
    and i realize that nothing, nothing should be taken for granted ever
    My first wedding that I catered after 911, were considering canceling, but then the groom, a wonderful provincetown painter, looked up an ancient rule in the Talmuda and it said when a funeral procession and a wedding procession meet at an intersection, the wedding procession has the right of way
    love and new-birth and new joy is meant to prevail over sorrow

    peace to us all

    this was today’s post on huffington post


    Chef Rossi

    9/11 and the Days of Awe

    A lot of folks I meet seem to be under the delusion that being a caterer is a glamorous way to make a living. “Oh you must meet so many famous people!” they exclaim!


    “Uh huh” I reply thinking of the bussing tray that came back into the kitchen with a crostini half bitten and lipstick on the bitten part. “Cher ate that!” screamed one of my waiters.


    Catering is rarely glamorous. After days of marinating hundreds of pounds of meat and simmering vats of sauce it’s then the main event and high adrenalin, high stress, in the trenches, get it done and get it done deliciously and gorgeously and on time for 200 impatient hungry guests and don’t forget to sprinkle the chives on the way out of the kitchen.


    It’s not easy, but its also anything but boring.


    I took the adrenalin rush for granted, then 911 happened and I realized that the crazy way we caterers make a living, can actually make us pretty darn good to have around when the world feels like it’s coming apart.


    I have taken very little for granted since that terrible morning.


    As Rosh Hashanah ends and Yom Kippur awaits I think back to those dark days of September 12 years ago


    On September 16th 2001 after spending every day since the 11th walking up and down the West Side Highway, trying to volunteer but finding no one who would take me, a woman whose wedding I was supposed to cater called to tell me it was canceled because the city had turned her party space, Seamen’s Church Institute, from a maritime museum and party location near the South Street Seaport into a home for hundreds of rescue crews. There was no electricity, no plumbing and no running water, and they were trying to feed, clothe and give counsel to anyone who could get to them.

    By the time I showed up at Seamen’s, Billy and Dominic were already there, unloading trucks filled with supplies. Billy and Dominic are the security guards at the Institute, sweet men whom I’ve gotten to be pals with over many years of catering events there. Dominic’s head was wrapped in a flag, and he hadn’t shaved in days. They were both wide-eyed and pale.

    “We were trapped in the tunnel when it happened,” Billy said. “I had to walk out and leave Dominic. He told me just go, go.”

    The best man at Dominic’s wedding is among the missing. “There’s no way! He was on the 76th floor!” Dominic said. “I can’t think about it…. Just keep moving! I’ve been here since Day One, haven’t been home in a week.”

    It didn’t take much to get me on board. “She’s a chef,” Dominic told the man in charge. The man in charge gave me a volunteer pass, a hard hat, and a ventilator mask, and I was put on a pick-up truck en route to ground zero.

    “She’s going to St. Paul’s!” someone said.

    “Where’s St. Paul’s?” I asked the driver.

    “Next door to the Millennium Hotel. They say it’s stable.”

    We were led through police barricades and armed guards until the truck finally dropped us off at the church.

    What I saw was an old brown church, with a row of port-a-johns to the right and a long stretch of tables to the left. The tables were covered with everything from hot dogs to thermoses filled with coffee. There were boxes of doughnuts, eye solution, Band-Aids, hundreds of apples, and thousands of bottles of Gatorade on ice. Dozens of firefighters, cops and construction workers were in line to eat, and a small group of women were doing their best to keep up with the hot dog requests on two small backyard barbecue grills.

    I added coals to the dying fires, threw on a few more packs of hot dogs and looked for anything resembling a pair of tongs.

    St. Paul’s dated back to 1762. It had been the place George Washington prayed, and here it stood still, covered in dust and dirty but unharmed. Each step leading into the chapel held a different box of clothing or supplies: socks, flannel shirts, work gloves, second-hand hard-hats. Inside, on some of the wooden pews, policemen sat collecting their thoughts. Soldiers napped in the back rows.

    My grills were set up in front of the church’s cemetery. Two-hundred-year-old tombstones, so old their inscriptions had long since eroded, poked out from piles of burnt and charred papers from the World Trade Center. I looked at one piece of paper, a bit of banking business of some kind, a cover letter from a fax.

    “Have you been given the drill yet?” a woman asked me. She was stuffing the hot dogs into buns.


    “If you hear the alarm, you’ve got to run around and out of the gate. Then run as fast as you can, that way toward the Seaport.”

    “Ok,” I said.

    – – – –

    On my second day grilling for the workers, I was taken on a cold drink-run to the place called the Hole. I went with one of the guys, pushing a wheelbarrow filled with ice and Gatorade. The Hole is the deep, collapsed area at ground zero. The Hole is adjacent to the Pile, where the debris is piled more than seven stories high.


    Soldiers guarding the Hole let us by, allowing us to go to the tent set up less than 100 feet from the debris of the second tower. Smoke and steam rose out of the wreckage as firefighters on their fresh-air breaks sat unfazed a few feet away. Nothing I’d seen on the news had prepared me for this. Sharp burnt bits of metal stuck up 50 feet or a hundred feet — I have no idea how high. I had to crane my neck to find the top of the debris. Shards of bent, broken metal rose up over my head. The background was total destruction.


    “I’ll take one of those!” a silver-haired firefighter said, and I handed him a Gatorade.


    “Where you from?” he asked.


    “I live here,” I said.


    He took off his helmet and ran his fingers along his scalp. “I’m sorry what they did to your city. We just flew in from California to help out.”


    I said thanks and felt dizzy from the sight I was still catching in my peripheral vision.

    The tent was full of firefighters, and they cheered when we poured ice into their cooler of warm sodas and energy drinks. We handed around the cold Gatorades.


    “I haven’t had something cold to drink since 6 a.m.,” one of the guys said. It was sometime after noon.


    – – – –

    Later that day, Seamen’s delivered two hunks of steel they’d welded into grills. They were four-foot-long pits filled with charcoal that sent up smoke and fire so intense I had to throw down a burger and then jump back. The legs were too tall, causing Hector, the tallest griller among us, to stand on milk crates just to flip the burgers. I kept up on the backyard grills.


    When shifts changed, fifty rescue workers at a time showed up hungry for burgers. They settled for hot dogs only when we ran out of burgers. Someone said we fed a thousand people on my second day.


    “You guys are the best,” said a carpenter from Queens.


    “No. You’re the hero,” I said.


    “Nah. We’re all in this together. It’s you guys feeding us and the people who run up with eye wash the second you rub your eyes, and the people cheering you on as you drive in. That’s the reason I can do what I do, because you all do what you do.”


    “Thank you,” I said.


    “Do you know how many times I’ve heard that since I’ve been out here? I can’t even count them.” He walked away shaking his head.


    There was an air about ground zero that was not filled with sadness so much as something like love. No one looked as though they had slept.


    Steve, an out-of-work actor, had been there for a week. He threw foil-wrapped hot dogs directly into the Hole. The men working down there caught them.


    “More! More! I need at least a hundred hot dogs,” Steve said. He was wired and pushy, but none of us took it to heart.


    Scott supervised the many drug store and clothing donations. He slept on a blanket on the floor of the church for a week.


    “Are you with the church?” I asked him.


    “Nah, I just found my way out here.”


    A pastor from another church came once to deliver ice and stayed for a week. His job was simple. He ran to Costco six times a day and bought all the burgers and dogs he could carry then drove them back to ground zero.


    – – – –

    Things changed on my third day. There had been no official statement, but everyone knew the rescue mission had become a clean-up mission. The pace of the workers slowed. There were no more news crews and no hurry in the air. People started to break down.


    The dogs sent out to sniff for survivors had become depressed from only finding bodies. The crews took turns hiding, so the shepherds and labs could find them. When the dog sniffed out the guy who was hiding, they received hearty praise and hugs.


    I went with a relief run to the Hole and handed out packets of trail mix to the crews. They loved the chance to eat something healthy and took handfuls of the packets. A sign on a nearby dumpster read, “Airplane parts, FBI.”


    The men have a look on their faces that reads, “It’s over.”


    The Board of Health sent inspectors to make sure we wore plastic gloves. They asked us to wrap the apples in foil and cover the grills. The dust, they felt, was a health hazard.


    “We’re pretty sanitary over here,” I said. “Are you worried we might be creating a health problem?”


    “More like we’re worried about your health,” the inspector said.


    One of the girls said they think the bodies might be creating a biohazard.

    We were told that they would shut us down soon.


    “These guys are going to be down here for months,” the inspector said. “We want to come up with a long-term way to deal with this, working with the local restaurants that have been closed.”


    The inspectors told us not to use the huge steel grills, as they have no covers, so we added a third backyard barbecue grill, and I ran back and forth, turning hot dogs and replacing the covers on each of the grills.


    A truckload of replacement volunteers arrived to give us a break, but no one wanted to go.

    “I think tomorrow might be the last day they let us do this,” Scott said, instructing the new crew on how to sort clothes and supplies. “I’ll be here for as long as they’ll let me stay.”


    I stayed until my eyes were blurry from smoke and then caught a pick-up truck back to the Seaport. Crowds of people took snapshots of us as we drove past, this motley crew in the bed of a truck with the American flag flying off a makeshift flagpole.


    – – – –

    On my last day at ground zero, I skipped Rosh Hashanah services and got out to the site early, but I was delivering food to a gloomy crew. The Board of Health had shut down our grills and any food production. We were allowed only to dole out pre-cooked burgers and sandwiches.


    The trucks from Seamen’s Church brought over a thousand peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. None of the rescue workers was interested in peanut butter and jelly.


    “No more burgers,” a cop said. His hands were raw, beaten. He said he’d been digging out nothing but body parts all day.


    “They just want us to pack up,” said Roger, the volunteer who seemed the most like our leader. He wore a hard hat with an American flag taped to it.


    I stepped into the church in search of serving utensils and found a dozen rescue workers sitting in the pews, most of them with tears in their eyes.


    I took my last walk to ground zero. I delivered a bag of a hundred peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the guards at the Pile. We were no longer allowed in to deliver them ourselves.


    Back at the long row of donation tables set in front of the burnt-out shell of 5 World Trade Center, Brian, one of the guys who works for my catering company, sorted through boxes of underwear and t-shirts. He was organizing things to be sent elsewhere, perhaps to the Salvation Army.


    As we commiserated on how this was a strange place to spend Rosh Hashanah, an amazing thing happened.


    An army soldier with a long white beard stacked several Styrofoam crates one on top of another and placed a plastic shelf used to transport bread on top the crates, forming a table. He covered the table with a blue velvet cloth on which was embroidered the Star of David.


    Then he set down a prayer book for the days of awe and a shofar.


    As he began to recite the prayers, a group of Jewish soldiers gathered around him. Brian, some Jewish volunteers, and I heard the prayers and joined in.


    Then, in front of the worst vision of death and ruin any of us will probably ever see, he blew the shofar. The sweet-sour mournful sound of the ram’s horn pierced the air and resonated into the distance.


    The women began to cry. We kissed each other. “La Shanah Tovah!” we said, holding each other. We were all strangers. We probably would never see each other again, but we kissed and hugged like family.


    The soldier with the shofar wore a tallis made of camouflage. “Thank you so much,” I said to him.


    “Ah, it’s nothing,” he said, laughing and taking my hand in his. “This is the army. I do this all the time.”


  • The Journey or the Destination

    Posted: September 3rd 2013 @5:42 PM

    The Journey or the Destination

    Today I am feeling inspired by Diana Nyad. This 64-year-old babe has accomplished her more then 3 decade long dream, by finally on her 5th attempt, swimming from Cuba to Florida. We are talking about 110 miles chock full of sharks and jelly fish!!

    Honey I just turned 49 and I am feeling it. Lately I have noticed that my knees hurt after a long day of cooking, that my feet fall asleep when I sit at my desk too long, that no matter how much I work out and watch what I eat, I put on weight in seconds! Part of me says, “50 is just a year away! Then its down-hill on roller skates!”

    But I look at Diana, at Diana who says she is stronger now then she was at 28 when she first tried the swim, at Diana who goes back into the water knowing what it felt like to be stung by jelly fish to have large predators swimming below her, knowing exactly what she is getting into; brave, stoic, humble and patient Diana. Imagine if she had given up at age 50.

    She added 14 years to that 50 and kicked it in the butt!

    On ABC today in her interview with Robin Roberts, (a woman who knows a lot about survival herself) Diana talked about the journey. She said the journey was thrilling, meeting the people, looking inside yourself and finding out what you are made of.

    Painful yes, but she lived the thrill of the journey.

    It got me thinking about this thing called journey.

    How often do I get so caught up in finishing and hopefully (please lord!!) publishing a book that I forget to feel the experience of writing?

    How often do I get so caught up in hanging my artwork in a show that I forget to inhabit the process of putting brush to canvas?

    In reaching the end of a hard day of catering, I often forget to savor that perfect sauce I just finished simmering, or that marinade that came together like magic when I added just a drizzle of fresh lime juice.

    Celebrating the journey, is a lesson I should have learned growing up.

    My parents carted my sister, brother and myself in our white-trash motel on wheels; the camper, from South Jersey to North Florida every year. I guess some folks can do this trip on I-95 in 3 days, some folks can drive straight through in less, but it took my family a week.

    This was a week of stopping at amusement parks, petting zoos, pecan pie stands, the South-of-the-border Mexican souvenir joint, the Thunderbird Inn all-you-can-eat Southern buffet and as many rest stops as my constantly having-to-go-to-the-bathroom family needed which owing to an ample supply of 3-liter diet soda was A LOT!

    Arriving in Panama City Florida, was anti-climactic. A summer on the redneck Riviera? 120 degrees in the shade and all the water bugs we could chase out of our bungalow? Not exactly a thrill ride!

    But the journey, had offered us an adventure!

    Sadly my family as role models offered a mixed message in celebrating the journey in life. No one except for me indulged in this thing called chewing. We could be served the best pasta with the most sublime marinara and it might as well have been corn in a pig’s trough. My brother would suck the whole thing down without using his teeth once. Ditto for my mom and dad. My sister just pushed her food around and asked for money.

    I was the only one who took a moment to say, “Wow that tomato sauce was really tasty!” Guess I was destined to become a chef.

    I am certainly not saying Diana’s journey was a pleasant one by any means or anything to savor or enjoy. It was more excruciating then most humans could endure but she was living every moment of it.

    She was truly living.
    “Find a way!” was the motto she used to get thru the hard moments.

    Diana said she was faster in her 20’s but stronger now in her 60’s. It’s another tale of the tortoise and the hair and slow and steady wins the race once again.

    When she climbed out of the water to the cheering crowd, she said, “You’re never too old to chase your dreams!”

    Thank you Diana for reminding us that dreams are ageless and that journey tromps destination!

    Now if only I could get my family to chew.

    Hmmm Find a way, find a way.

  • Birth of a Chef Part Two

    Posted: August 25th 2013 @1:55 PM

    Hey love bugs, hope you’ve been listening to “BIte This” Mondays at 12:45 and also the pod casts.. (more…)

  • My first blog post on WOMR and the Birth of a Chef

    Posted: August 15th 2013 @4:48 PM

    leo and flowers ptown 2011 DSCN0658Hey folks welcome to my blog on WOMR!

    Some of you listen to Bite This my weekly show on WOMR and WFMR and I’d like to say right now THANKS MUCHO! If you haven’t tuned in yet, it comes on every Monday at 12:45 in the afternoon.

    For you folks that haven’t tuned in yet or even if you have, I thought it was time to let loose with some of the best shows in written form.

    They make for great bathroom, or um bathtub reading. Okay yes I read in the bathroom! So sue me!

    Anyway, in answer to the question I get asked more then “What’s a bad girl like you doing in a nice place like this?” Here is a recent Bite This show on how I became a chef. It will also be a chapter in my edible memoir “The Devil and Mrs. Goldstein” which is nearly complete. Oh just a quick aside here forgive me..

    Hey publishers! Call me!!

    now then..on to the show…

    Birth of a chef

    By Rossi


    In the ’80s I paid my rent by bartending at various joints around Manhattan. After the dump where I bartended on 73rd and York called “Humpty’s” fell (the owners stopped paying the bills, and all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t get Humpty’s out of an eviction again.), my roommate Michael, a hard-core alcoholic, landed me a job at a bar and grill in the Flatiron area called Trivia. They pretty much had to give a chance to anyone Michael referred, since he was single-handedly responsible for about the half the nightshift revenue.


    There was a time slot nobody wanted that started at 5 and ended at midnight, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Trivia really only had two busy times: weekday lunches at which Mark the Brit with the dazzling sense of humor held court at the bar, and weekends, during which loads of tourists who didn’t know any better wandered in. The weekday evenings were reserved pretty much for Michael, a handful of regulars and a few people who had been clubbing on 21st Street at a place called Private Eyes and needed a place to use the bathroom, do a line of coke, or both.


    The food was pretty lousy at Trivia, unless you think frozen mozzarella sticks and cheap burgers are anything to rave about, but the drinks were strong, and Mark set the pace by buying back the third round for all the regulars. The tips flowed nicely. Plus there was the entertainment. Every hour the bartender would scream a Trivia question out to the crowd, and anyone who knew the answer would get a free drink.


    The grill cook picked up his shift drink and left around 10 p.m., taking with him any patrons who might actually have gone to Trivia looking for food, so I had nothing but drunks to look at for the last two hours of my shift. A little food soaked them up a bit, so I started going into the kitchen, digging through the leftovers and creating free hors d’oeuvres. I wanted to sober them up just enough to hold a conversation. A girl can dream can’t she?! I made an array of nachos topping the chips with chili, or mozzarella or both then I got experimental and started topping my nachos with stir-fried vegetables, cut up buffalo-wing meat, whatever I could find in the walk-in fridge.


    The regulars loved it, and I realized that I was having far more fun making hors d’oeuvres than I was bartending. Sometimes my creations got a little out there, like when I tried to put hard-boiled eggs and mustard on the nachos, but nobody complained. After all the main ingredient was sublime — FREE!


    When I wasn’t at Trivia, I bartended on a ship that did 90-minute rock’n’roll cruises out of South Street Seaport. It was there that I started meeting folks in the catering industry. Sometimes a private party would book the boat, and they’d hire out from a local staffing company for waiters. We’d still bartend, but it didn’t take me long to figure out the cater waiters were making 15 to 17 bucks an hour to pass out hors d’oeuvres while we were busting our butts to make about 10. I often stuck my nose in the kitchen to watch our perpetually fed-up cook pull roast beefs out of the oven.


    “How do you know when they’re done?” I’d ask.


    “F off!” I quickly learned the language of professional cooks. It was much like the language of our ship’s captain and first mate.


    “F off! To you, too, twice, but then how do you know when they’re done?”


    “Stick the thermometer in and kiss my ass!”


    “Got it!’


    I lost my job on the ship. They called it a layoff, but it really meant they wanted to hire employees who fit the corporate mold (white and uptight we called it). I had the white part covered, but the uptight was anything but me. So are khakis, yech!


    I met a catering captain (sort of like a maître d or head waiter) on the ship named Jake. He was super savvy about all the best ways to make an extra buck, so we called him Jake the Snake. He took me under his wing or, um, scale and taught me the basics of cater waitering. I took to it like a cat to water. I just don’t have a submissive bone in my body, so serving other people didn’t jibe with me. I kept getting offended when they’d ask me to clean up their dirty plates. Jake noticed that not only did I have a knack for cooking but I had a wild creative streak. He started to hook me up with odd catering opportunities, like the guys in Brooklyn who wanted an pro-wrestling cold cut party. I made a mountain out of salami and topped it with pro-wrestling figurines. After I did a few oddball parties for Jake, I figured it was time for me to really learn how to cook.


    During one of my attempts to be a waiter, I’d met up with a super nasty chef at Avery Fisher Hall. Let’s call him Jim. Jim was part of that old school of chefs who hated the front of the house. I’d made the mistake of asking him the ingredients of a dip he’d made. It was like watching someone’s head prepare to explode. I think he turned purple.


    There was only one thing Jim hated more then waiters, and that was a woman in the kitchen. This was 1987. Women were about as welcome in professional kitchens as they are today on baseball fields. My decision to become a chef was not meant with enormous waves of enthusiasm. Jim worked for a big company, a big company that didn’t want a class-action lawsuit, so they said yes to my job application and might as well have stamped me “TOKEN.” When I got hired as a prep catering cook, the best thing Jim could do was to try to make me quit.


    I think he had a bet going with his what you call career sous chefs, guys who are putting in 20-30 years as the number two or three guy, never aspiring to be the top gun. I used to wonder why they didn’t climb the ladder but after a few years cooking I realized the sous chefs had job security. It was the executive chefs who got fired every time sales were down. I’m pretty sure he had bet that I wouldn’t last a day. My first shift at Avery Fisher Hall, he led me down a long hallway past cooking equipment big enough to live in. Seriously I think I saw a pasta boiler that was as big as a studio apartment I’d spent a few years in, in Chelsea. At the end of the hallway was a table pushed up against a wall on which sat a mountain of strawberry crates. My job was to dip 3,000 strawberries in chocolate. I don’t recall anyone checking up on me to see if I wanted a lunch break, a glass of water, a bathroom break or any such thing, but I do recall going into some sort of hallucinogenic zone as I dipped each strawberry in hot melted chocolate laid it on a sheet pan covered in parchment paper and went on to the next. I realized that the whopping 17 bucks an hour I’d been offered to be a prep cook was really to be a factory worker. I think everyone in the kitchen just forgot I was in the corner. They went home. I dipped my last strawberry in chocolate and went to find Jim.


    He was sitting in his office drinking Jack Daniels.


    “You still here?” He asked shocked. I thought you left hours ago!”


    I took off my apron and threw it at him.


    “Listen, you ugly bastard. I finished your last *#&(@()@)@ insert a variety of curses here) strawberry. Now why don’t you take them all, and shove them up your ass!”


    I turned around and started to talk away.


    “Wait!” Jim yelled. Then smiled wide. “Be back tomorrow morning. I got a big dinner I need help on!”


    From that point on Jim called me in as a ringer. When a big party came in he would keep his regular cooks working on the foods for the various restaurants and smaller parties and put me on the big ones. I would still be given not-so-glorious jobs, like making 3,000 shish-kabobs, but I would also be given an assistant, a lunch break, a coffee break, a pat on the back and a cocktail or three after work. After a few months of this rather mundane work, I was promoted and allowed to make salad dressings, dips, and sauces and even go to the party itself and plate food.


    It was at one of these events that I met Ser-gggggge. Think Serge but said in a French accent with the g way over-pronounced and a bit of spit on the final E. It took a lot of practice saying this guy’s name. Jim was the head-chef at Avery Fisher Hall for a company called Restaurant Associates, RA for short, but Serge was the head chef of all of RA’s places in NYC, which included the Metropolitan Opera, The United Nations, the U.S. Open, and Lord knows what else. It seemed that Serge’s main mission in life was to make sure that everyone he met understood that French people were better than American people, and more importantly, a French chef would always be far superior to any attempt by an American chef. Jim was a rough-and-tumble, all-American cowboy sort of guy, and once I broke him in, we became good buddies. But Serge never recuperated from the horror of seeing a woman in the kitchen. Bad enough to have to work with Americans but women?! Sacre bleuuuuuu! I soon discovered that Serge also had a strong dislike for minorities, as well, including Jews. So as a full fledged American Jewish woman in the kitchen, I was batting a thousand.


    We were doing a party for Racial Equality. I remember David Dinkins was one of the guests. Serge had planned the menu, and it was downright offensive. Fried chicken, mini ribs. Not that these aren’t great things to eat, but honey, this menu was two steps from serving pigs’ feet.


    I was embarrassed about the entire soul food menu to the black elite and had taken time to do beautiful decorations on the passing trays with flowers and vines. Serge walked over to my work table, grabbed the garnish off the trays and threw them into the trash.


    “Zey are only black, anyway!” he screamed!


    Serge smoked like a fiend. We all did in kitchens back then. We kept a glass with an inch or two of water in it to ash our cigarettes into.


    “Go get me a gin and tonic!” he demanded. Generally in the heat of an event, he would demand I fetch him a coffee or a cocktail. You know, just to prove I was a lowly female.


    On my way to the bar, I grabbed the cigarette butt glass and had the bartender fill it with gin and tonic.


    Serge grabbed the glass from my hand and slugged down half of it before erupting into hacking fits.


    “Qu’est-ce que c’est?!”


    I screamed at him in my attempt at a French accent, “You are only French, anyway!”

    Then I stormed off, thus ending my career at Avery.


    I missed Jim, but I gotta say to this day, not a moment do I regret one little bit. It had a certain “je ne sais quoi.”


    I don’t really know what happened to Seeerrrrgggee, but if there is a thing called karma, I gotta prey he was demoted and given a female boss, who was, preferably, black, Jewish and a nonsmoker.


    One thing I have to say about my days at Avery: After making 3,000 of anything, you really do get pretty darn good at it. I was a crabcake, shish kabob, chocolate strawberry and veggie nori roll demon, which really helped in my early catering years. But the first thing I did the moment I opened my own company was promptly never do any of those things again.


    Success is being able to say, you make the crabcakes!


    Jim didn’t fit in with management at Avery, either. They were a sea of yellow neckties with black polka dots, and he was a cowboy who hadn’t washed his hair since 1972. He wound up working in a tourist restaurant in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where all the waiters wore colonial-era garb. I went to visit him once, but it broke my heart. Guys like Jim would be better off working in prison kitchens than working in theme restaurants.


    In the ’80s, chefs were hard-core. They drank, smoke, snorted coke and grabbed hot pans with their bare hands. They weren’t the squeaky clean, celebrity chefs you see on the Food Network. Most of the chefs I worked with in the ’80s couldn’t say a complete sentence without dropping the F bomb. Hard rock was the music of choice for ’80s kitchens. Anything else was an abomination. Times have changed, but personally I still think cooking at any kind of speed should be done to the backbeat of Led Zeppelin, Patti Smith or the Clash. Exception to this rule: Johnny Cash of course.


    A couple years after I quit Avery, I became a head chef myself, and I used the lessons I’d learned working for the big boys. Rule number one: If Jim only knew what the waiters he mistreated did to his food, he would drop dead. So my first rule was to be nice to the front of house. I fed my staff, paid them well and never yelled at them. They in turn smiled at the guests and didn’t spit in the food.


    Rule number two: Never try to cook what you hate. The moment someone calls asking for chicken cordon bleu, I just hang up. A Creole, white-trash, Jamaican, Jewish dinner party? Yeah, honey, that’s something I can roll with! Jambalaya, bacon and peanut butter sandwiches, jerk chicken and latkes, here I come!


    Rule number three: Have fun. Kitchen life can be excruciating, 12 hours on your feet, sweating and cooking. A smile and any opportunity to show just how many food items really do look like genitalia can really make the day flow a little easier.


    I mean have you ever taken a good look at a papaya, downright pornographic! But hmmm, how do you think it would work on a plate of nachos?



    Nacho-mama the basics

    All my nacho plates start the same with a nice layer of good tortilla chips laid out on a baking platter. I like restaurant quality yellow tortilla chips myself but all work.

    Over the chips, you can put a thousand combinations, but I’m partial to a handful of black beans. You can use canned beans darlings. I won’t tell. Then I throw a handful of grated cheddar cheese and a handful of grated monteray jack cheese. If I have pepper jack cheese, I like that even more. Then I throw on a handful of pickled jalapenos sliced.

    Throw the whole shebang in the oven at about 350 until the cheese has melted, then take out and top with a heaping handful of tomato salsa and a big dollop of sour cream.


    Macho Nachos

    For a meatier nacho, you can top the chips with beef chili, turkey chili or vegetarian chili, instead of the black beans, then cover with cheese and proceed with the rest.


    Breakfast Nachos

    Try following the basic nacho-mama recipe but then topping after you take out of the oven with fried eggs, one fried egg for everyone who’s eating. Over this put your salsa and sour cream.