I consider myself a good traveler. Whenever I venture forth into exotic lands, I try to learn at least a little of the language, enough to say "hello," "thank you," and "please" at the very least. And I always try to remember that "Dorothy isn’t in Kansas anymore," or in my geographic parlance, ‘Hey Doorahthee, not fuh nuthin but, you ain’t in New Yawk any mawh.” So when I went to France, I learned to say "bonjour," "merci," and "un pain au chocolat s'il vous plaît" like a native. In Italy, I schooled myself in when to use "buongiorno," "buona sera," or "buona note," and would never order a cappuccino after noon. And should I find myself in a biergarten in Bremen, "ein Bier und eine Brezel mit Senf bitte" rolls trippingly off my tongue (if anything in German could roll trippingly anywhere.) Of course, those are the easy ones, what with Rosetta Stone, Berlitz, and Google translate at virtual fingertips. But what about when traveling to lands were a driver’s license is the only ID necessary?
I happen to live in a city that people like to visit. A lot. And as many of my fellow New Yorkers will (or perhaps should) admit, we can be a pretty intimidating bunch. It’s not that we aren’t friendly, warm or kind. It’s just that when you live with one and a half million humans (and countless other creatures) on a two and a half mile wide, 13 and a half mile long island, you tend to move around with shields up. Conversing with strangers without a specific and pressing reason to, well, let’s just say this kind of activity might raise an eyebrow and inspire swift movement in an away direction. And yes, we can be are loud, and brash, and a tad opinionated. Believe me, you would be too if you had to compete with as many huddle masses yearning to breathe free as you order morning coffee and bagel with schmeer at the local deli. So imagine the Gothamite’s dilemma when venturing forth from the center of the universe. (I know, it’s neither nice nor accurate to feel that way, but we can’t help it so allow me to apologize in advance for my kind.) When we behave as we’ve been conditioned, we come off as the "typical New Yawkah," and let’s face it, no one really wants to be that. So what’s a Metropolitan Miss to do? Make a valiant attempt to try to blend. O.K., as soon as those words left my fingertips, the vision of Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny popped into your head, right? Yeah, you’re thinking, like you’d blend! I’m not suggesting putting on fake accents or mannerisms that just scream “I’m not from these parts.” Mocking the natives doesn’t exactly inspire the milk of human kindness in the locals. So skip the “y’alls,” “yah, you betchas” and “whoa, gnarly, dudes.” Just follow these few simple tips, and you’ll do just fine:
—Traveling south of the Mason-Dixon? Learn the proper use of the phrase "bless their heart." You can say damn near anything about anyone (and particularly the rather un-generous things) by post-scripting it with the phrase “bless her heart.” For example: “She’s a lovely girl, though bears a rather striking resemblance to Secretariat, bless her heart.”
—Dining in a Northern California restaurant? Don’t mention how much you prefer Argentinean Malbecs to Californian Cabernets, or rave over your love of fois gras. Remember that your glass of wine and meal is in Californian’s hands out of eyeshot before it reaches your table…
—Time travels differently the minute you exit NYC. It’s a fact that there's a wrinkle in the fabric of the time-space continuum as you cross over a bridge or crawl through a tunnel, causing the earth’s rotation to decrease as the skyline diminishes in your rear view. Plainly put, no amount of foot tapping, stance shifting, tsk-tsking or harrumphing will make your coffee order move faster at Starbucks. All it will do is make obvious to everyone standing around you that YOU are the "one of these things that's not like the others...."
— WE know bagels only come in a handful of varieties. Don’t assume everyone else does. Believe it or not, there are actually poor misguided folk who think blueberry, asiago, coffeecake and spinach cheddar are somehow not an affront to bageldom. And they've never even heard about a bialy, bless their hearts...
— Pizza outside of the Tri-State? Don’t. Just, don’t…
— All kidding aside, if you are lucky enough to live in my amazing city, you know you can be a New Yawker anytime. So just embrace getting out, getting away, and enjoying not being one every once in a while…
I just got back from a trip to my favorite place to not be a New Yorker — Jackson Hole, Wyoming. My brother and his kids moved there 16 years ago. During that time Paul has not only blended, he's become a native and hard-core river-rafting rat. And his place is assured on any raft provided he brings along his Elk Vindaloo. This recipe’s origins came from Madhur Jaffrey’s terrific book Quick & Easy Indian Cooking (Chronicle Books, 1996), but like any good cook, my brother has adapted it to his tastes and availability of ingredients, including whether he got an elk over the winter’s season. I’m sure venison would work as well as elk, but if neither is your bag, lamb, pork (or a combination) works well too. Give it a try. The river raft and rapids are optional, (except to Paul…)
Paul’s Elk (or Lamb or Pork) Vindaloo Makes 3-4 servings
From Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cooking:
“The essential ingredients for this Portuguese-inspired Indian dish are wine vinegar and garlic. Additions of mustard seeds, cumin, turmeric, and chilies make it specifically colonial Goan. Most recipes for vindaloo involve grinding seeds in vinegar. To save this step, I have used grainy French mustard, which already contains vinegar. It works beautifully. This dish may be made in the pressure cooker (20 minutes of simmering time), or in a frying pan (1 hour or so of simmering.) Either way, once the simmering starts, the cook can read a book, sleep, or have a drink!” (This is Madhur’s suggestion, written in the recipe…I always liked her!)
For 3-4 servings:
- 1 ½ TBSP grainy mustard
- 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¾ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ to 1 tsp cayenne pepper (depending upon how hot you like things)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 3 TBSP vegetable oil
- 1 small onion (about 4 oz.), peeled and cut into fine half rings
- 6 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed to a pulp
- 1-¼ lbs boned shoulder of pork, lamb or elk roast (if you are lucky enough to get it!)
- 2/3 cup canned coconut milk, well stirred
To make the spice paste: combine the mustard, cumin turmeric, cayenne, salt, and vinegar in a cup. Mix well. **
Put the oil in a large, nonstick frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the onion. Stir and fry until it is medium brown. Put in garlic. Sir and fry for 30 seconds. Put in the spice paste. Sir and fry for a minute. Put in the meat. Stir and fry for about 3 minutes. Now add the coconut milk and 2/3 cup water if you are going to cook in a pressure cooker, or 1-cup water if you are going to continue to cook in a frying pan. (Transfer to pressure cooker at this point if you are using one.) Cover and either bring up to pressure, or bring to a boil if you are using the frying pan. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook 20 minutes in pressure cooker, or 60-70 minutes in the frying pan.
Serve over basmati rice, or if you are on the river (or want to pretend you are) with flour tortillas or naan bread for sopping up the juices, alongside some cilantro leaves, and your favorite mango chutney.
** My brother makes up a big batch of vindaloo paste, since he is usually making this for a large group of hungry river rats after a day of rapids and rowing. His recipe of 5X Vindaloo Paste is below. What you don’t use for your recipe can be kept in an airtight jar in the fridge, and would be great as a marinade with chicken, shrimp, or even a thick meaty fish like cod or halibut.
*5X Vindaloo Paste:
- 7 ½ tsp grainy mustard
- 7 ½ tsp cumin
- 4 tsp turmeric
- 5 tsp salt
- 5 tsp red wine vinegar
- 4 tsp cayenne (He likes his vindaloo on the hotter side; you could use anywhere from 2-4 tsp depending on your tastes.)