From Links

My 7 Links: Selective Best of Roving Gastronome

Ah, blog tagging! I’d forgotten about such a thing, paddling way over here in my little Queens tidal pool. But the excellent Conner of Here Is Havana just reached out and tagged me for this 7 Links round-robin. (Here are her selected links–all pretty great reading if you’re curious about Cuba.)

So hop into the way-back machine with me, and let’s check out some goodies:

1. Most beautiful post:
I’ve got 845 of the buggers. I can’t find the one that used to make my throat constrict and tears spring to my eyes. Can’t even remember what it was about. So instead: How I learned to cook, via Madhur Jaffrey.

2. Surprisingly successful post:
Just scrolled down to see what was charting as my most popular post. What?! New Mexico #4: All Aboard the Rail Runner? This warms my heart, because I guess this means I’m not alone in loving trains.

3. Most popular post:
Technically, second-most-popular: Car Insurance in Mexico: My Experience. This is my most straight-up, just-the-facts-ma’am post ever. So I just ignore the fact that it’s popular, because that might imply that my lyrical wordsmithing and my deep, deep thoughts might not be the reason people read this blog. La la la, I can’t hear you, stat counter.

4. Most controversial post:
My commentary on the flap around Thomas Kohnstamm’s book about his first gig as a Lonely Planet author. Stupid Yahoo killed my comments in that era, but eesh, I got an earful by email. I stand by it all, though I take even fewer freebies than I used to–not worth the trouble.

Runner-up: I complained mightily about Pistilli, Astoria’s worst developers, in Why Astoria Will Never Be Cool, and it pulled out all the love-it-or-leave-it Queensians who didn’t get the tone. Again, no comments thanks to Yahoo, but there were some gems. Years later, I’m channeling my Pistilli loathing into Astoria Ugly.

5. Most helpful post:
I set up this blog back in 2004 to record the details of our pig roast, because at the time, I couldn’t find anything similar online. Turned out the pig rocked, and we did a lamb for good measure. And in the course of writing the specs down, I also wrote a long story. And years later, that story got turned into a section of Forking Fantastic!, and then people read that and did their own. So by that definition, that single post has likely helped the most people.

Runner-up: Cancun bar bombing: not a tourist issue. I woke up one morning and was dismayed to see people freaking out on Twitter about an explosion in a bar in Cancun. I used Twitter then to spread the word about the bar’s real location. I hope I helped some people feel less freaked about traveling to Cancun.

6. Most underappreciated post:
A whole set of them, the ones I wrote about Robert Farrar Capon’s book The Supper of the Lamb. Rereading them (start here), I can’t say they’re really bursting with my best writing, but I feel like they’re underappreciated because not every. single. person. has written to say “Thank you thank you thank you for introducing me to this book!”

On the other hand, come to think of it, maybe these posts are how I came to know A Thinking Stomach? In which case, I’m completely satisfied.

7. Post that I’m most proud of:
I think this one about the Momofuku cookbook, line cooking and copy editing. After seven years of blogging, I think I’m finally getting better at controlling my urge for digression. This one is focused and doesn’t gallop off by itself.

Now time to pass the hot potato. I tag:

A Thinking Stomach: I live vicariously through her garden.
Killing Batteries: Fellow LP author, master of the miserable/hilarious trip diary.
Food Bridge: All the nuances of Israeli food. Which I have not yet eaten, and it kills me.
Hudson Line Rider: Beautiful smartphone pics of an NYC commute.
Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking: Kate the Great, bursting with tips and thoughtful words.

Carry on, and happy blog exploring!

The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking

A couple of days ago, I peered into the shelf where we keep the sheets and towels, and something looked odd. I couldn’t put my finger on it.

A tiny act of domestic order, courtesy of Kate Payne

And then I realized: That light-blue duvet cover was folded properly!

How could this have happened?! I searched back in my brain, back back back, till…last week, when Kate Payne was visiting. Yes.

Kate is the eponymous Hip Girl, and she’d been here for a couple of days in the early stages of her press tour for the magnificent new Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking, a splendid book that I’m just having the pleasure of getting to know.

Kate is one of the best things to come out of writing Forking Fantastic!, because she saw the book and decided Tamara and I were just her sort of people, and tracked us down, and she was completely right. The first time I went to her apartment, I realized I was in the presence of greatness, because she’d managed to make a basement in a Bed-Stuy row home look like a palace, and she’d only been living there a matter of months.

By contrast, when people come to our house, where Peter and I have lived for five years, they often say, “It’s so…lived-in!”, which is a euphemism for “It’s so…dusty, and why is this coffee table so sticky if you don’t even have any children?” Due to steady work and lots of travel, we’ve lost the thread on a lot of the domestic arts, so the HGGH couldn’t arrive at a better time.

Kate’s book is so full of tiny bits of wisdom (how to manage your compost, how to hem your pants, how to make bread) that I’m getting that feeling that everything is possible. Even folding my sheets properly, so they give me that sense of peace and order when I look at them, instead of a feeling of panic.

So I’m dog-earing pages and making lists and looking at my laundry with a fresh eye. And I’m completely loving Kate’s approach–that managing your home life is empowering and makes the whole rest of your life better. And while Kate may have more natural talent for rigging up ingenious things with clothespins, she’s also just a super-enthusiastic beginner who’s tenacious enough to stick with things until she learns how to do them. Or until she realizes that maybe perfect isn’t the goal, and that good enough is just fine.

Just at the moment, I don’t have free time to improve our whole house, I’m just briefly setting the book in the various trouble spots, ritualistically, hoping its magic will rub off and start to instill order. In our bedroom, which is a pit of organizational despair. Or over by the pile of half-finished sewing projects. Oh, or there, on that shelving that’s the catch-all for crap on the second floor.

So I heartily recommend this book, which is a joy to read. And this isn’t even because Kate gives a big shoutout to FF! in it. It’s because I realize how much I need this book, even though I thought I was reasonably domesticated. Which means pretty much anyone setting up a home anywhere needs this book.

If you’re in the NYC area tonight (May 9), you can nab your own copy at Greenlight Books. I’ll be there. Even though I probably should be home folding my sheets.

Cancun Is the New Tulum

Finally, all in one place, with photos, my thoughts on why Cancun is not a place for smart travelers to flee, but a place for them to challenge their ideas of authenticity, and what it means to have fun:

Cancun Is the New Tulum
, in this month’s issue of Perceptive Travel.

(And honestly, this has nothing to do with the climate change conference happening there now. For better or worse.)

Crap, and I didn’t even mention the shrimp tacos with the Doritos garnish! Well, you’ll just have to buy my Cool Cancun & Isla Mujeres iPhone app for that…

Conned in Cairo, and a Mexico connection

I’m just back from Mexico and catching up on a lot. Happened to read this truly excellent essay at Perceptive Travel about getting conned in Cairo–and the surprising value in it. Cairo is really a test of travel skills–if you keep your guard up too much, you miss the good stuff. In this situation, I think I probably would’ve missed out on the author’s experience.

And by happy accident, the author, Jim Johnston, lives and blogs in Mexico City, where I’m headed in January, and am all fired up to read more about. Thanks, internet, for hooking me up…

By the way, on this Mexico trip, I finally finished David Lida’s First Stop in the New World–it was slow to get into, but wound up covering all kinds of fascinating aspects of the city.

Stay tuned for more meaty posts and photos from the Yucatan in the next few weeks. I finally got myself a snazzy camera, so there’s a lot to sort through.